Maritime Attorney in Chicago332 South Michigan Avenue, Suite 900
Chicago, IL 60603
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Chicago Maritime Lawyers
The Chicago River is one of the city's finest natural resources. It meanders through the heart of the city, serving as a means for transportation and recreational and industrial boating. Tourists who flock to the city may use the river to enjoy guided architectural cruises, while Chicagoans may enjoy paddle craft trips on canoes, kayaks, and rowing skimmers. Industrial boating operations on the river are an important aspect of Chicago's economy.
You may need the help of Chicago maritime lawyers for a variety of reasons. Morgan & Morgan’s maritime lawyers specialize in injuries and accidents that occur during recreational and commercial boating activities. We work to protect the rights of seamen who are injured on the job and also private individuals engaged in recreation that find themselves or their property harmed by the negligence of another party.
If you’ve been injured in the water, contact Morgan & Morgan for a free case evaluation.
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Why Do I Need a Maritime Lawyer for a Recreational Boating Accident?
When you're on open waterways, you're typically subject to maritime law, a collection of local and international laws regulating maritime activities. Working with a maritime lawyer can ensure you understand your rights under these laws and help secure a fair settlement for your losses. Often, these cases end up in confusion because of jurisdiction issues. For instance, do local state or federal laws have jurisdiction, or are you subject to international maritime law?
Additional confusion can come if you were injured near the water. For example, suppose a boat crashed into the dock at the marina, causing you injury as a pedestrian. In that case, it may fall under maritime laws instead or regular tort laws for personal injury. Likewise, the claim may also fall under maritime jurisdiction if a boat hits you while swimming. If maritime law takes precedence, we highly suggest you work with Morgan and Morgan to resolve your legal issues.
We represent recreational boaters under the following circumstances:
- You've been involved in a boat, jet ski, or personal watercraft collision
- Someone crashed into your dock
- You've sustained injuries in a boating, jet ski, or personal watercraft accident
Why Do I Need a Maritime Lawyer for a Commercial Boating Accident?
Suppose you've been involved in a work-related accident on shore or on the waters. In that case, you may be entitled to compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. (LHWCA) This Act is responsible for providing workers' compensation to maritime-related workers who get injured on the job. The Act also covers conditions that may develop over time, such as hearing loss or diseases that are caused by exposure to conditions onboard a vessel. Our Chicago maritime lawyers can work to make sure your claim is a successful one.
To meet LHWCA requirements, two "status" requirements must be met. The first is that an employee must have been injured on the navigable waters of the United States or in water-related areas such as docks, shipyards, piers, or bridges. The next is that a substantial part of the worker's tasks involves water or marine transport. Individuals that qualify for the LHWCA are typically not covered under the Jones Act, like dock workers, ship-repairpersons, longshore workers, shipbuilders, harbor construction workers, and crane operators.
The LHWCA offers more generous compensation than regular workers' compensation, and unlike the Jones Act, it's not necessary to prove negligence on behalf of an employer or co-worker to get compensation.
Filing a claim under the LHWCA could entitle an injured worker to get medical benefits and recover two-thirds of their regular weekly wages, regardless of fault, until recovered. If an accident causes a fatality, the surviving family members may be entitled to a wrongful death claim under the LHWCA. Still, they may also file a lawsuit against the responsible negligent party.
What Is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, gives persons injured while working at sea the legal means to bring a personal injury claim against a negligent employer or co-worker. The Jones Act covers almost all work-related accidents that occur at sea or within the navigable waters of the United States, including the lakes and rivers like Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. Workers can be employed on vessels such as fishing or diving boats, tug boats, barges, charter boats, ferries, water taxis, and tour boats. Unlike the LHWCA, as mentioned earlier, the Jones Act only applies to workers who work on the waterways.
Contrary to customary maritime law, an injured worker has a right to a jury trial in the case of a civil dispute with the negligent party, including an option to have the case heard by a state or federal court. Injured workers may be entitled to be compensated for lost wages, lost future earning capacity, current and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other financial and emotional losses.
Some factors impacting a claim or lawsuit under the Jones Act include where the accident occurred, whether the injured party was actively "at work" when the injury occurred, and if the employer or co-worker can be held liable for the accident. While some people may compare entitlements under the Jones Act similar to workers' compensation, it's not the same. To be successful in a Jones Act case, the plaintiff must prove some negligent act or omission on behalf of the defendant resulted in the plaintiff's injury.
To prove negligence, it's often crucial to secure the help of Chicago maritime lawyers at Morgan and Morgan Law Firm. We can investigate all aspects of the incident that led to the accident.
How Do You Prove Negligence Under the Jones Act?
Proving that another party is liable for your injuries will require an in-depth investigation of the accident's circumstances. The Jones Act requires maritime employers to provide seamen with a reasonably safe workspace and to ensure the vessel is properly maintained and secured to mitigate the chance of injuries. The requirements to keep a safe vessel are stringent under the Jones Act. Even a minor infraction could result in employer liability for damages. Some common causes of accidents include the following:
- Improper maintenance of vessel or equipment
- Grease or oil on decks
- Lack of proper equipment for employees to do their work
- Failure to train crew members on safety protocols
- Failure to properly train crew members in how to do their job
The Jones Act's burden of proof is far less taxing than a regular civil negligence case in that the plaintiff need only show the defendant's negligence played any part in the defendant sustaining an injury. In an ordinary civil action, the plaintiff would need to prove the defendant's actions or inactions played a significant role in the plaintiff's injury. Under the Jones Act, the defendant would be liable even if there were other substantial causes for the injury and their part only accounted for a fraction of the causation.
What Does "Unseaworthiness" Means Under Maritime Law?
The word "unseaworthy" conjures up images of a vessel with holes in the hull or tattered sails. However, under maritime law, unseaworthy means the vessel is not adequately safe with the appropriate components and machinery for seamen to do their job properly. A seaman must show that some aspect of the vessel, crew, or equipment was not up to the job requirements, and an injury resulted. For example, if some machinery on board the ship is old and faulty, and the captain is aware but doesn't order it to be replaced, and a seaman gets injured because the machinery failed in its purpose, this renders the vessel unseaworthy under maritime law.
The owner of a ship has an absolute duty to provide its seamen with a seaworthy vessel and crew. Suppose an injury occurs because the ship's owner failed in their duty. In that case, the injured party has a right to pursue damages for their injuries. The ship's captain also has some liability, so if two different entities are involved in a seamen's injury, they may have two or more entities to go after in a lawsuit.
What Are Common Commercial Maritime Injuries?
The commercial maritime industry is lucrative and challenging. However, it's also one of the higher-risk careers with inherent hazards that can result in serious injuries. Here are some of the most common maritime accidents:
Falling overboard - Plunging into the sea is exceptionally hazardous to the person who fell overboard and also their rescuers. Falling overboard can result in hypothermia, late or secondary drowning, immersion syndrome, brain damage, and death.
Slip and falls - Losing your balance or tripping and slipping on a vessel is common, especially if the areas are slick with oil or grease or there is excessive clutter. A slip and fall can result in a variety of injuries, from a sprained knee to a spinal injury or worse.
Enclosed spaces - Aboard a vessel, there will be many tight, enclosed spaces where equipment or cargo may be stored. If the oxygen levels aren't enough to overcome toxic fume build-up, a seaman could succumb and die of asphyxia or poisoning.
Chemical, electrical, and thermal burns - Burns can happen for a variety of reasons aboard a vessel, such as from cooking, handling faulty electrical machinery, or being exposed to corrosive chemicals or steam. Some burns are so severe that a victim may suffer permanent scarring or disfigurement.
Repetitive motion injuries - As in many occupations, repetitive motions over time can cause injury, particularly when there isn't adequate break time set aside to relieve physical stress. Some body parts are more susceptible to repetitive motion injuries like the back, neck, hips, legs, feet, and ankles.
Poor training - Lack of proper training is a recipe for disaster, especially aboard a vessel. It's a captain's duty to ensure all crewmembers are aware of safety protocols, equipment use, and how to prevent situations where they or others may get hurt.
Fishing injuries - Although Chicago's commercial fishing is nothing like it used to be, there are still commercial fishing charters. Seamen who work these boats can be injured by defective equipment, lack of safety gear, and knife injuries.
Dock and pier accidents - Not all injuries occur on a vessel. The dock and pier can be hazardous because of the sheer weight of cargo when loading or unloading and heavy equipment in use in these areas.
Chicago Maritime Lawyers
When you're injured in and around the waterways of Chicago, you should first seek medical help. Medical records are essential when pursuing a civil, LHWCA, or Jones Act claim. If you can take pictures or videos of the area where the incident occurred, be sure to preserve these as vital evidence. If you find yourself in a dispute with an insurance company or an employer, contact Morgan and Morgan maritime lawyers. You may be eligible to recover compensation for damages or may be entitled to benefits under maritime law.
Whether you suffered an injury on a commercial or leisure vessel or personal watercraft, we can fight for your rights and hold the wrongdoers accountable. We'll work to develop a winning legal strategy and investigate to gather evidence to support your claim. Contact us anytime for a free case evaluation.