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At Morgan & Morgan, our admiralty and maritime lawyers understand that offshore workers often face dangerous work conditions and the constant threat of injury. Injuries sustained offshore or aboard a vessel can be severe and place tremendous emotional and financial burdens on the injured party and their family.
Our attorneys are dedicated to helping ease this burden by pursuing all possible avenues for compensation. We handle claims involving the following: violations of the Jones Act, violations of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), denial of rightful compensation, denial of benefits for injuries, maintenance and cure issues, and wrongful death.
If you or a loved one was injured while at sea or aboard a vessel, you may have legal recourse to collect compensation for your losses under state, federal, or international waters law. If you believe you may have a maritime injury claim or if you are ready to pursue another personal injury claim, please fill out our free case evaluation form today. We will review your claim at no cost and with no obligation to you to see if our attorneys can help.
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Who Can File a Claim for Maritime Injuries?
An individual who suffers an injury while working offshore or aboard a vessel may be able to file a workers’ compensation or negligence claim.
Workers' Compensation Claims: An injured individual can file a workers’ compensation claim under state or federal law to receive benefits, including medical treatment.
Negligence Claims: Alternatively, the aggrieved can file a claim against an employer, third party or boating insurance company. To prevail, the plaintiff has to prove a negligent act of another led to their injuries. In certain states, to prove negligence, the plaintiff must show that:
- The accused owed the plaintiff a duty of care
- That duty of care was breached
- The accused person’s negligence was the cause of the accident
- Injuries were sustained as a result
Evidence that may be helpful in proving negligence include: photographs of the injury or property damage; videos or photographs of the scene of the accident; eyewitness statements or testimony; and police reports. Contacting an experienced maritime and admiralty attorney can help individuals understand their rights under federal, state, and international waters laws, and collect the documentation needed to file a successful claim.
What Is the Jones Act, and How Can a Lawyer Help Me File a Claim?
Before the Jones Act was enacted, sailors and seamen had limited avenues of recourse for injuries sustained at sea. In response to national concern about the health of sailors and crew members, the Jones Act expanded on existing protective clauses under maritime law. It now provides a cause of action in negligence for "any seaman" injured "in the course of his employment," so long as the vessel was in navigation at the time of injury.
Under the Jones Act, seamen are entitled to immediate medical treatment as a result of injury or disease, as well as maintenance and cure, regardless of fault. Relief and benefits under the Jones Act are available to any seamen who spend at least 30% of their time aboard a Merchant Marine vessel.
Under the Jones Act, seamen are entitled to immediate medical treatment as a result of injury or disease.
Workers are permitted to file a claim against a negligent employer or the vessel's owner alleging that the vessel was not seaworthy. Claims that may not be covered by the Jones Act can be brought against a third party who may have contributed to an injury or disease.
By law, claims filed under the Jones Act must be brought within a certain amount of time after the injury, and the injured party must prove that the other party was at fault for the injury. Damages for both past and future economic and noneconomic losses may be recovered as a result of the vessel’s unseaworthiness.
Enlisting the help of an experienced attorney who is well versed in the Jones Act may make the process of filing a claim less stressful, especially when the injury requires a substantial amount of the claimant’s time and attention. Collecting evidence, taking witness statements and preparing a claim can be a difficult task, and having an attorney who is familiar with admiralty and maritime law can make a difference in the final outcome of the case.
Defense Base Act
The Defense Base Act provides compensation protection to civilian employees working outside the U.S. on military bases. The act subjects overseas military and contractors to the same worker's compensation rules, insurance requirements, and benefits as the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.
Under the Defense Base Act, the following employees are covered:
- Employees who work on U.S. military, air or naval bases outside of the United States, including bases located in U.S. territories
- Employees who work on public works projects outside the United States under contract to any federal agency
- Employees who work outside the U.S. on projects funded by the federal government under the provisions of the Mutual Security Act of 1954, which provides for the sale of military equipment or services to American allies
- Employees who work for American firms providing morale, welfare, or similar services to the armed forces outside of the United States
Cruise Ship Injury Claim
No one expects to suffer an injury while on a cruise ship; however, accidents can and do occur. In general, cruise ships are considered “common carriers,” which means they are obligated to exercise a “special duty” beyond reasonable care to their passengers. Cruise liners must exercise the highest degree of care to protect their passengers from physical harm.
They also have an obligation to ensure their passengers arrive at the port safely. When the cruise liner fails to live up to this duty and a passenger is injured as a result, they may be liable for any resulting damages. If you were injured on a cruise ship, a claim can be filed against the owner of the ship or the cruise ship's company.
What Is Unseaworthiness?
The owner of a vessel has an absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel for use. A vessel is seaworthy if “it is reasonably fit for its intended use, is equipped with appropriate equipment and safety gear, has a competent crew, and is a safe place to live and work.” A seaworthy vessel can become unseaworthy should a dangerous situation develop offshore. The vessel's owners may be held liable for any injuries resulting from the ship's unseaworthiness.
Maintenance and Cure
Maintenance and cure is legally available to seamen injured on vessels during the scope of their employment.
Maintenance requires the employer to provide a daily allowance covering living expenses incurred while the seaman is ashore and unable to work. Courts have stated that the allotment must be sufficient to cover the costs of basic necessities for survival, including “rent, utilities, transportation cost, food, and more.” It is the duty of employers to provide this allowance until the worker is fit for duty or has reached maximum medical improvement. If an employer fails to provide an adequate allowance, the injured seaman may have legal recourse.
Cure requires the employer to provide payment for appropriate medical care such as hospitalization, medication, diagnostic tests, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and all other reasonable and necessary medical needs until the seaman fully recovers. Employers who fail to provide medical treatment may be held liable if an injury or disease worsens.
Maintenance-and-cure claims are often brought in conjunction with Jones Act claims.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal workers’ compensation program that provides employment injury and occupational disease protection to all qualified longshoremen and harbor workers. If a maritime worker is injured on the job or if the injuries had a “traditional relationship to maritime employment,” they may be eligible for relief.
- Maritime workers engaged in the longshore operations, harbor work, loading and unloading vessels, building or repairing vessels ,or general maritime construction are protected under the act.
- Maritime workers engaged in loading, unloading, or repairing a vessel less than 18 tons, government employees, clerical staff, and marina employees who are not involved in the construction or expansion of the marina are not covered by the act.
- Medical Care: Injured employees are entitled to medical treatment, supplies and services related to the injury, vocational rehabilitation, and travel expenses incurred by such treatment. Under the LHWCA, injured workers may receive treatment at the physician of their choice.
- Disability Compensation: The compensation awarded to a disabled worker is determined by a number of factors. The disability must be classified into: permanent total and temporary total disability, permanent total and temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, temporary partial and nonscheduled permanent partial disability, and permanent partial disability for retirees. Each classification has its own regulations regarding compensation.
- Death Benefits: Family members can receive funeral costs up to $3,000. Widows can receive 50% of the employee’s weekly wages until death or remarriage. If the sole survivor, the firstborn child may receive 50% of the employee’s weekly wages. Other children will receive 66 and two-thirds percent of the worker’s weekly wages divided equally.
How Can an Attorney Help Me File a Longshore Claim?
Determining your rights under the LHWCA can be a difficult process. Our experienced maritime injury attorneys may be able to help by investigating the incident, collecting witness statements and collecting any documents or relevant reports to help substantiate your claim.
Additionally, there are mandatory steps that an injured maritime worker must take in the beginning stages of filing a claim. Our attorneys can help streamline the process and help with any paperwork that needs to be completed.
Steps to Take if You’re Injured on the Job
- Notify the employer of the injury immediately and request a Form LS-1 if medical treatment is necessary.
- Visit a physician of your choice and have the injury evaluated.
- Give written notice of the injury or death within 30 days of the accident or injury. Additional time is permitted in cases of certain types of hearing loss and occupational disease claims.
- The worker or beneficiary must file a written claim for compensation within one year after the date of injury or last payment of compensation, whichever is later. Claims for occupational diseases may be filed within two years.
If you are a maritime worker and have been injured on the job, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, and our maritime attorneys may be able to help. We're here to help with a variety of practice area claims, including car accidents, medical malpractice, workers' compensation, and more. Fill out our no-cost, no-obligation form today to learn more.
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