Can Longshoremen Claim Psychological Injuries?
Longshoremen provide valuable services by ensuring goods are transported into and out of our nation’s ports. Working on the docks and around vessels has its own risks for accidents and personal injuries. There are several different types of moving equipment, such as forklifts, cranes, and trucks.
Common causes of port injuries and accidents could include:
- Falls from great heights or into the water.
- Being run over by a truck, forklift, or another moving vehicle.
- Having cargo, containers, or other objects accidentally dropped onto a person.
- Slips and trips on uneven pavement, cables, ropes, or a wet and oily surface.
- Exposure to hazardous materials and chemicals.
- Improperly functioning or maintained equipment.
When an accident does occur, longshoremen are protected under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA). This Act provides specific provisions above and beyond normal state worker’s compensation claims.
While we typically associate personal injuries to those that do actual physical harm, like broken bones, sprains, strains, cuts, deep wounds, or death, we often do not consider the psychologic impacts and injures a person could also sustain. In some cases, a longshoreman could experience psychological injuries even if they are not physically injured.
Two of the more common types of psychological injuries a longshoreman may experience are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or mental anguish. PTSD can occur in workers that see or experience a horrific accident, like seeing a co-worker fall from an elevated height to their death. Mental anguish is when an injured worker is having difficulties dealing with their injuries since they can no longer work and provide for their family.
Fortunately, The LHWCA is written in such a manner to provide compensation for any type of injury, whether physical or psychological. However, most employers will challenge claims filed for psychological reasons unless the worker was also physically injured at the same time or was placed in imminent danger of harm.
This is why, if you are injured, physically or psychologically, it is in your best interests to consult with a local maritime lawyer, like those here at Maintenance and Cure. Call us at 1-800-836-5830 now to find out your legal rights!
10 Facts About Oil Rig Accidents That Will Give You Goosebumps
Working offshore on oil rigs and platforms presents increased risks for workplace injuries and even deaths. As the oil industry continues to expand its drilling operations and hire new employees, so, too, do the risks for accidents increase.
Workplace accidents can take on many different forms, such as fires, explosions, drilling equipment problems, and so on. The types of accidents workers experience can range from minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises to more serious life-crippling injuries and death.
We invite you to read and review the following infographic to discover 10 facts about oil rig accidents, along with some hard facts and numbers that will surprise you.
Afterward, if you or a loved one has been injured while in the service on an oil rig, platform, or vessel, please feel free to contact Maintenance and Cure directly to learn more about your legal rights and what options you have available under maritime law.
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Most Offshore Oil Rig Fires and Gas Explosions Are Preventable
Two of the biggest threats to oil rig workers are fires and gas explosions. Fires and gas explosions have occurred for a number of different reasons, including equipment malfunction, poor or incomplete maintenance, lack of employee training, negligence by the employer, and blowouts.
Stats and Facts About Past Explosions
In more recent years, the state-owned Mexican oil company, Pemex, has had ongoing accidents, fires, and explosions.
- April 2016 – Explosion at Pemex’s Pajaritos petrochemical complex with 136 injuries and at least 13 deaths.1
- April 2015 – Pemex’s Abkatun Permanente platform exploded and caught on fire. There were 16 people injured, 4 deaths, and 3 people who went missing after workers jumped into the ocean and are presumed dead.2
- April 2015 – Two weeks after the explosion, Pemex was responsible for an oil spill from its pipeline after oil thieves damaged the pipeline. This accident resulted in oil flowing into three rivers near Villahermosa.2
- May 2015 – A Pemex oil rig in the Bay of Campeche collapsed into the ocean, resulting in 2 deaths and at least 10 injuries.2
- 2013 – 37 people died in an explosion at Pemex’s Mexico City headquarters.1
- 2012 – 26 people died in a fire at one of Pemex’s natural gas facilities.1
Part of the problem with Pemex is, because they are a state-owned operation, there has been very little accountability by the Mexican government. In all of the accidents, it appears that improper maintenance, upkeep, and other substandard practices were contributing factors.
Here in the United States, one of our nation’s worst oil rig disasters was the Deepwater Horizon incident that occurred in April 2010. The explosion of the oil platform occurred when a blowout preventer device failed to automatically seal the well. Eleven people lost their lives from the explosion. The oil leak was the biggest oil spill in the United States on record.3
Upon review of the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, it was determined the accident could have been prevented. Had BP enforced a more functional safety culture, then, in all likelihood, the explosion could have been avoided.
The worst oil rig disaster in history is still the Piper Alpha disaster, which occurred in the North Sea in the United Kingdom in July 1988. During the explosion and resulting fire, of the 226 workers stationed on the rig, 167 died.4
The cause of the disaster was due to maintenance not being completed on a condensate-injection pump. The day crew failed to inform the evening crew the work was still not done. Due to this communication error, the pump was turned on, resulting in a major gas leak that caused numerous explosions on the oil rig.
Most of the oil rig explosions and fires over the past three decades were preventable with improved safety measures, better maintenance practices, and effective communications between employees.
If you or a loved one has been injured or were killed in an oil rig fire or explosion, please feel free to contact Maintenance and Cure at 1-800-836-5830 today. Our maritime accident attorneys have helped clients and families settle cases, including one of the largest, if not the largest, settlements under the Jones Act, for close to $18 million.
What is DOHSA?
Anyone who has arrived on this website probably knows already that maritime employment is extremely hazardous. Offshore and maritime personnel are routinely exposed to a shockingly wide array of physical perils, ranging from harsh weather to employer negligence and, as a result, serious injury is far from uncommon in this line of work.
That’s why injured seamen have been provided by law with a number of remedies, such as the Jones Act, that enables them to obtain due compensation for the harm they experience in connection with their employment.
Tragically, some maritime accidents result in fatal injuries. In these cases, the focus of the law shifts to compensating the family of the deceased. The Jones Act provides a mechanism where family members can seek compensation for the death of a loved one killed while fulfilling their obligations as a maritime employee—but only if the incident occurred within U.S. territorial waters. What happens when such as incident happens out on the “high seas”—that is, in international waters? Fortunately, legal help is still available under these circumstances.
One of the most important laws on the books for helping bereaved family members obtain such recompense is the Death On the High Seas Act (DOHSA). What follows is a brief overview of DOHSA and its place in maritime law.
How DOHSA Came into Being
There was a time when offshore employees and other persons harmed in maritime accidents had relatively little recourse when it came to pursuing justice in the courts. That began to change in the first decades of the 20th-century when a number of laws were passed to bolster the rights of persons seriously wounded through the negligence of another party while out at sea.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (commonly known as the Jones Act) is one such law; this legislation helps injured sailors make claims against a negligent employer. The Death on the High Seas Act—also enacted in 1920—is another such law.
The intent of DOHSA is to provide surviving family members with the legal tools to recover damages against a maritime employer responsible for the death of the seaman in question. DOHSA (46 U.S.C. app. §§ 761–768) officially became a federal statute when it was signed by President Wilson on March 30, 1920, and it has been enforced continually, with a few modifications, down to the present day.
The Scope of DOHSA
The Death On the High Seas Act applies to fatal incidents at sea occurring more than three nautical miles from U.S. waters (including territories). There is a valid cause of action under DOHSA if the seaman died due to an unseaworthy vessel or through other provable negligence on the part of the shipowner. The vessel in question must have been engaged in what could be recognized as a maritime activity. In addition to maritime employees, DOHSA also covers civilian passengers of a maritime vessel.
Incidentally, DOHSA also applies to personnel and passengers aboard commercial aircraft that crash in international waters (defined in these cases as more than twelve nautical miles from any U.S territory).
Some confusion persists regarding DOHSA’s applicability to accidents where the death of the seaman or passenger occurs after a significant passage of time following the precipitating accident.
Let’s consider a hypothetical situation: A seaman is severely harmed by an explosion on a maritime vessel on the high seas, then conveyed to a hospital on the mainland U.S., where he dies weeks later. What does DOHSA have to say? In a situation like this, DOHSA still applies. That’s because the courts have ruled that the determining factor is the site where the accident occurred, not the place of death.
DOHSA can even apply when the accident occurs outside the high seas. The courts have ruled that maritime incidents of this nature fall under DOHSA’s area of coverage so long as they occur outside the three-nautical-mile boundary. That means a maritime accident that takes place within another nation’s territorial waters still qualifies as a DOHSA case, so long it happens at sea more than three nautical miles from any U.S.-controlled territory.
Types of Compensation
Under DOHSA, the plaintiff in a wrongful death suit is entitled to recover damages based on “pecuniary loss“—that is, loss of income and support. They are generally not eligible to obtain recompense for pain and suffering or other non-economic factors. The idea is to compensate families for the loss of a member who could provide financial and domestic sustenance. This compensation typically takes into consideration funeral expenses and loss of future monetary support.
Who Qualifies for DOHSA Compensation?
Because DOHSA is primarily intended to compensate families for a loss of a parent, spouse, and/or caregiver, the law strictly defines who is entitled to recover damages in these cases.
Only these individuals are entitled to compensation under DOHSA:
• The spouse of the decedent
• The children of the decedent
• The parents of the decedent
• Other dependent relatives of the decedent
If the plaintiffs are successful in their DOHSA case, the court will determine the amount of compensation to which each family member is entitled, according to the degree of pecuniary loss they have sustained.
What Must Be Proven
To prevail in the DOHSA case, the plaintiff must be able to demonstrate to the court one of the two following conditions:
- The vessel in question was not seaworthy—that is, it suffered from significant mechanical defects or was otherwise incapable of contending with the perils that such vessels can be reasonably expected to encounter while at sea.
Also, a shipping vessel that has been overloaded may be ruled to be unseaworthy. Other unseaworthy conditions can include an absence of safety equipment and an inadequate number of personnel on board. Please note that the presence of merely minor defects in the ship is unlikely to lead to a ruling of unseaworthiness.
- The owner of the vessel behaved negligently in connection with their responsibilities as a shipowner. Failure to provide personnel with adequate training and failure to abide by proper safety protocols are among the valid causes of action for a negligence claim.
The Issue of Contributory Negligence
Like many maritime statues that govern personal injury matters, these cases hinge on the issue of contributory negligence. In other words, does the deceased party bear partial responsibility for the accident? If so, does this affect the amount of pecuniary damages that may be recovered? Under DOHSA, families can recover damages even if it is shown that the decedent’s negligence contributed to the fatal incident. However, it is also true that the amount of the awarded damages may be reduced in proportion to the negligent actions (or inactions) of the decedent.
Statute of Limitations
For family members of a deceased seaman, it is imperative to act quickly when filing a DOHSA case. The law gives plaintiffs only three years to file a suit, and the clock starts ticking on the day when the incident in question occurred.
Under the Death On the High Seas Act, claims can be brought before the court only by a personal representative of the family members who seek to obtain recompense for the death of the decedent. That’s one reason why is it essential for persons with a DOHSA-qualified case to waste no time in hiring the services of an experienced maritime personal injury attorney who understands the ins and outs of this potentially confusing law.
We will fight for you in the courts and help you obtain the settlement that you justly deserve. Please contact us at 1-800-836-5830 and ask for a free case evaluation. Calls are answered 24/7.
Compensation Benefits: Vocational Rehabilitation Services
What are maritime injuries? A maritime employee is defined as any individual who works either on the water (a seaman, such as a ship’s captain or crew member) or along the water on the docks. When a seaman or harbor worker is injured on the job, it is considered a maritime injury.
Compensation Benefits for Maritime Employees
Unlike other industries where injured workers can simply file for benefits through their employer’s worker’s compensation insurance, benefits given to maritime employees are governed by federal maritime laws, including the Jones Act, Maintenance and Cure, and the Longshore Act.¹
Under the Jones Act, a seaman who was injured due to employer negligence can sue for appropriate damages.¹ Maintenance and Cure allows injured seamen to receive a daily allowance as well as compensation for medical bills. This compensation continues until such time that the worker is able to return to work.²
The Longshore Act applies to those maritime workers who are not seamen and do not work on the water. Benefits can include payments for disability and/or medical bills. If he or she is unable to return to work, the disabled worker is also offered vocational rehabilitation benefits. ³
Vocational Rehabilitation Services
When a maritime worker is injured significantly—particularly when one is rendered disabled for quite some time—he or she may require specialized vocational rehabilitation services to return to work. These services can include medical treatment, physical therapy, counseling, and even the provision of a personal assistant to help the worker perform daily tasks during the rehabilitation period.4
Seek the Help of a Professional Maritime Accident Lawyer from Maintenance and Cure
Whether you need vocational rehabilitation due to temporary disability or would like to seek damages for an accident caused by an unsafe workplace, it’s important to have the support and guidance of an experienced maritime lawyer.
At Maintenance and Cure, we strive to help all of our clients get the compensation benefits they deserve so that they can recover fully without struggling financially. To learn more about how we can help you with your personal maritime injury case, contact us online or call us today at 1-800-836-5830.
The 1920 Merchant Marine Act and Injured Workers
In 1920 Congress passed the Merchant Marine Act. This act has become to be known today as the Jones Act. The act contains federal laws which govern the maritime industry, including work-related injuries for those in the service of a vessel.
Unlike normal worker’s compensation and protections, negligent accident compensation under the Jones Act is typically higher and offers other added benefits for injured seamen. In addition, the statute of limitations to file a claim at either the state or federal level is three years.
Seamen have several rights under the Jones Act. It is to your benefit to be aware of these rights and what you should do in the event you are injured while in the service of a vessel. To learn more about seamen’s rights, employer responsibilities, and types of vessels the Jones Act covers, please continue reviewing the following infographic.
If you have or a loved one has been injured while in the service of a vessel, contact the maritime and Jones Act lawyers at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. for legal advice.
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What Is the Maritime Administration (MARAD)?
It’s certainly not a radical statement to say that the maritime sector in the United States plays an essential role in the maintenance of the nation’s economy and its military force. Corporations rely on the maritime transportation system to deliver goods safely and efficiently across the country and to foreign lands. In addition, the merchant marine serves the dual role of promoting maritime commerce and providing auxiliary support to national defense and emergency response efforts.
Given the centrality of the maritime sector, it makes sense that its various activities and responsibilities would be coordinated by a federal agency. This is where the Maritime Administration (MARAD) comes into the picture.
MARAD is one of the agencies controlled by the U.S. Department of Transportation (others include the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Highway Administration), and throughout its history, it has proven to be highly effective in overseeing the waterborne transportation sector. For maritime employees, understanding what MARAD does is important, as this organization touches on a wide range of matters relevant to this industry.
A Brief History of the Maritime Administration
The United States Maritime Administration was formed in 1950 in order to take over many of the regulatory responsibilities that had been handled by the recently dissolved United States Maritime Commission, which had been founded in 1936.
In 1961, MARAD expanded its scope of duties by assuming control of subsidization of the construction of merchant ships, a task that had previously been managed by the United States Federal Maritime Board (1950-1961). MARAD became an official administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in 1981, and it has remained under the oversight of this federal cabinet department ever since.
The Maritime Administrator
The head of MARAD is known as the Maritime Administrator. The occupant of this office reports to the Secretary of Transportation and advises them on matters pertaining to the U.S. maritime industry. Additionally, the Maritime Administrator serves as Commandant of the United States Maritime Service, the Chairperson of the Maritime Subsidy Board, and Director of the National Shipping Authority.
At the present time, the position of Maritime Administrator is held by Rear Admiral Mark H. “Buz” Buzby, USN, Ret., formerly president of the National Defense Transportation Association, who was officially sworn in on August 8, 2017.
The Role(s) of the Maritime Administration
In 2017, MARAD commanded an operating budget of $399 million and employed more than 750 personnel, who were spread among MARAD headquarters, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and various fleet sites and gateway offices.1 These dedicated professionals are involved with supporting and managing many different facets of the maritime sector in America.
Let’s explore the some of the activities in which MARAD is engaged as part of its mission to promote the U.S. waterborne transportation sector.
- Cargo Regulation – MARAD has the task of overseeing the transportation of the nation’s military and agricultural cargo in accordance with all applicable laws and statutes. Among these laws are the Cargo Preference Act of 1954, which mandates that at least 50% of cargo generated by the government be carried on privately owned commercial vessels that fly the U.S. flag, and the Military Cargo Preference Act of 1904, which requires all water-transported items intended for military use to be carried by vessels that fly the U.S. flag. To address the need for the ready availability of U.S.-flag, Jones Act-qualified ships, MARAD routinely assists public entities in their efforts to locate such vessels.
- The Office of Maritime Security – Another MARAD department, the Office of Maritime Security is involved with various efforts to protect the maritime industry from pirates, terrorists, and other criminal threats. MARAD has aided the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Coast Guard in their attempts to combat piracy on the high seas in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Furthermore, the Office is involved with efforts to enforce the National Maritime Domain Awareness Plan (2013), intended to bolster maritime security on the global level, and provides support to the DHS in allocating port security grants to entities at the local and state levels.
- Office of Safety – This MARAD department is involved with developing safety standards for the national and international maritime industry, as well as promoting advances in practices and technology to protect the welfare of maritime personnel.
- Port Conveyance and Port Licensing Programs – MARAD helps federal agencies and departments comply with the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, which compels such entities to transfer unneeded property to other agencies that need it. Since the 90s, the Administration has also had the authority to convey this property to state and local governments for the development of port facilities. In addition, MARAD licenses offshore liquefied natural gas and oil import/export port facilities in accordance with the Deepwater Port Act of 1974.
- National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) – MARAD manages this small fleet of inactive ships for the purpose of providing auxiliary support, as needed, for national emergency response efforts. As of July 31, 2014, the NDRF consisted of 114 ships.2
- Ready Reserve Force (RRF) – Since 1976, MARAD’s Ready Reserve Force has served a backup support for the U.S. armed forces, especially the Army and Marine Corps. The RRF has been involved in Operation Desert Storm and the Hurricane Katrina response effort.
- Ship Disposal and Dismantling – MARAD runs a Ship Disposal Program to enable the agency to safely dispose of old vessels that are no longer adequate for national security purposes. The agencies achieve this goal through sales to domestic ship recyclers, participation in the U.S. Navy’s SINKEX “live fire” training exercises, and providing vessels for use as artificial offshore reefs.
- Federal Ship Financing Program (Title XI) – The agency takes part in Title XI financing, which is intended to bolster the U.S. merchant marine by funding the construction (or reconstruction) of vessels in compliance with environmentally friendly policies. The Program gives ship owners the opportunity to purchase vessels at affordable rates (low interest and long repayment terms) from U.S. shipyards. It also provides financial support to shipyards seeking to modernize their facilities.
- The United States Merchant Marine Academy – MARAD is responsible for administrating the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), in Kings Point, NY. This is one of the five military academies charged with the task of producing commissioned officers for the various armed forces. Graduates of the Academy go on to serve in the merchant marine or in the U.S. military. MARAD also provides funding to California Maritime Academy, Great Lakes Maritime Academy, Maine Maritime Academy, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the State University of New York Maritime College, and Texas A&M Maritime Academy.
- The MARAD History Program – The Maritime Administration is also involved in preserving its own history, as well as that of the U.S. maritime industry as a whole. To that end, it operates the American Merchant Marine Museum and, through the Maritime Administration Artifact Loan Program, lends valuable historical artifacts to non-profit organizations and other public museums. It also maintains the MARAD Vessel History Database, which has data on over 12,000 vessels, past and present.
Given its role in enforcing the provisions of the Jones Act, battling piracy on the high seas, and promoting safety in shipbuilding and maritime employment conditions, the Maritime Administration is a name that sometimes arises in connection with offshore personal injury cases.
If you have or a loved one has been seriously injured while performing duties as a maritime or offshore employee, you should contact the maritime law firm Maintenance & Cure at 1-800-836-5830. A free consultation is available.
Protecting Your Rights Under the Jones Act
In 1920, the U.S. Congress passed the Merchant Act of 1920. This act has come to be known as the Jones Act. It contains specific provisions which outline specific requirements for those businesses operating in maritime industries. It also provides protections for employees in the event of negligence by their employer, fellow employees, captains, or other crew members resulting in accidents causing personal injuries.
The United States Supreme Court established the qualifications to determine whether an employee is considered protected under the Jones Act in the case of Chandris, Inc., v. Latis, 515 U.S. 347, 115 S. Ct. 2172 (1995).1 To qualify for seamen’s rights under the Jones Act, the employee must be in the service of a vessel in navigation for more than thirty percent of his or her time.
This provision extends to oil rig workers, dock workers, and others, as allowed under the act. One of our Jones Act lawyers can help you determine whether you meet the qualifications to be considered a protected seaman under the Jones Act. If not, there may be other maritime laws or acts for which you could be entitled to for filing a claim against your employer in the event of an accident where you sustained personal injuries while in the service of a vessel or on the job.
What Rights Does the Jones Act Provide Seamen?
There are numerous risks and potential dangers seamen face every day. The Jones Act relates to specific working conditions, negligence caused by employers, ships’ captains, other crew members, and other such aspects of working in maritime industries. One of the key factors is the seaworthiness of the vessel.
Specifically, is the vessel in proper working order, is it correctly maintained, and does it provide a safe working environment for employees? If the vessel is deemed unseaworthy, for one or more reasons, seamen could have grounds to file for damages allowed under the Jones Act if they are injured while in the service of the vessel.
Employers have a responsibility to maintain safe working conditions at all times, which include:
- Properly maintaining the vessel for safe operations.
- Providing proper training for employees on specific job duties.
- Ensuring there is the correct number of employees available to complete tasks.
- Training employees how to correctly and safely use equipment, tools, and other such materials related to their jobs.
- Providing access to personal protection equipment (PPE), such as hard hats, work gloves, and other attire, as required for certain types of job functions.
- Verifying all equipment, machines, and tools used to complete tasks are functioning and operating correctly.
How Do Seamen Risk Their Jones Act Rights?
After being injured while in the service of a vessel, typically, the ship’s onboard doctor will provide an evaluation and emergency treatment. If the injuries are more serious, then efforts are made to transport the injured worker back to land for proper medical care and treatment.
It is not uncommon for the seaman’s employer to request the worker seek care and treatment through a company-approved doctor or health care provider. The company’s doctor may tell the worker his or her injuries are not as severe as they think. They may also release the seaman back to work sooner than the time they need to recover from the injury.
In addition, an injured worker may be contacted directly by the employer’s insurance company and offered a settlement, depending on the extent of injuries and recovery time needed. Many seamen risk their Jones Act rights because their employer, company doctor, and company insurance provider make it sound like they are working in the employee’s best interests when, in fact, this is not always the case.
The goal of any insurance company, whether it is to settle a conventional personal injury claim or a maritime claim covered under the Jones Act, is to get the person to settle for the least amount possible.
The amount being offered may not even cover future medical costs should additional treatments for the injury be required later. Seamen who sign off on accepting whatever settlement is offered, and who return to work once released, are essentially giving up their Jones Act rights.
Steps to Follow to Protect Your Jones Act Claim’s Rights
If you are insured while in the service of a vessel, it is important to report the accident and injury immediately. Even if a worker sustains minor injuries, they should seek medical care with the onboard or company doctor, as well as verify an accident/injury incident report is completed.
Next, as soon as possible, contact our Jones Act law firm. You have the legal right to consult with a maritime lawyer to determine whether your employer, their insurance company, and the company doctor are, indeed, serving your best interests.
If any individual representing the interests of your employer informs you there is no need for you to consult with your own lawyer, this should be a big “red flag” and warning that you probably should discuss your case with your own lawyer.
Your lawyer will review the cause of the accident, the extent of your injuries, what type of medical treatment and care are being offered by your employer, and other such aspects. They will provide you with sound legal advice, educate you about what rights you have, and lend their knowledge so you can make informed decisions on how you want to proceed.
What if I Were Partially at Fault for Causing the Accident?
Unlike conventional personal injury claims, where one party must be entirely at fault, with Jones Act claims the law works differently. You can file a claim even if you were considered partially at fault for causing the accident resulting in personal injuries to yourself.
The Jones Act treats all seamen equally and does not distinguish between deck hands, crew members, captains, and others. Furthermore, simply demonstrating partial negligence on the part of another seaman could be sufficient grounds for filing a claim, without having to prove negligence against your employer.
How Are Seamen Compensated for Injuries?
The Jones Act has a provision that refers to Maintenance and Cure. Maintenance is the compensation given to the injured party to cover their basic living expenses and lost wages. Cure is the compensation given for medical care and treatment until the seaman is released back to work.
Some employers and their insurance companies will use stall tactics to delay making payments to injured parties. If your employer does this, then it could create a situation where you could also be entitled to file for punitive damages against them with help from our maritime lawyers.
In cases where the vessel you were in the service of is deemed to be unseaworthy, there could be other types of compensation you could seek, such as pain and suffering. This is why it is best to talk to a lawyer at our Jones Act law firm.
What if My Spouse Died While in the Service of a Vessel?
Surviving spouses of seamen who died while in the service of a vessel due to personal injuries from an accident could have grounds for filing a wrongful death claim against the employer through the Jones Act. The amount of compensation sought in these types of cases depends on several factors and can be rather complex.
If your loved one died and his or her employer or the employer’s insurance company contacts you directly to make a settlement offer, do not agree to it until you consult with your own lawyer. Potentially, you could be entitled to receive a higher amount of compensation than what they are currently offering.
In summary, as a seaman working in the maritime industry, you have certain legal rights and protections provided by Jones Act Law. In order to preserve your rights, you need to refrain from signing any documents or accepting any settlement offer until after you have sought your own legal advice from Maintenance and Cure. Call us at 1-800-836-5830 to speak with a maritime lawyer now!
Is Maritime Piracy Still a Thing?
For centuries, pirates have been a cultural institution of sorts, glamorized in classic literature (Treasure Island), the cinema (the Pirates of the Caribbean movies), and various other productions of Western society.
The origins of piracy reach back literally thousands of years, yet the iconic image of the pirate—complete with eye patch and heavy jewelry—stems from the classic period of piracy, roughly the 17th to 19th centuries, when these hardy adventurers wreaked havoc along the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean.
It took a concerted effort from European powers, including legislation such as the General Maritime Treaty of 1820, to put an effective end to pirate activity, at least as it was understood at the time.
Pirates did not go away for good, however. In fact, they constitute a serious threat that plagues the contemporary maritime industry, resistant to coordinated attempts to eliminate them. It’s not difficult to understand the persistence of this sort of criminal activity.
Piracy, like all crimes motivated by a desire for financial gain, is always a possibility wherever valuable goods can be seized. This is certainly true on the high seas, where substantial revenue is there for the taking in the form of cargo and even hostages.
Maritime piracy is far from an insignificant phenomenon in the modern era, and its reach is more widespread than most people suspect. Let’s take a closer look at this problem.
Where Piracy Happens
Piracy in the modern era is not restricted to any geographic region. In fact, the locus of piracy continues to shift as economic conditions and anti-piracy activities make their influence felt.
Somalia – For many casual observers, modern piracy is strongly associated with this beleaguered African country—and for good reason. In 2009 alone, there were no fewer than 51 incidents off the coast of Somalia.1 This made Somalia virtually synonymous with piracy, but it has to be said that this isn’t an altogether fair assessment.
In recent years, the incidence of Somali piracy has dropped precipitously, to the point where this country no longer holds the distinction of being the world’s hotspot for this type of criminal activity. Even so, Somali piracy is still a phenomenon that must be contended with.
Indonesia – The world’s largest island country, Indonesia is an archipelago in Southeast Asia that encompasses over 17,000 islands. It is also notorious for a very high rate of pirate activity, much of which occurs in the Strait of Malacca (pictured below), an extremely busy shipping route used to transport a vast amount of merchandise from Japan and China.
All that valuable cargo passing through the strait has proven to be an irresistible target for pirates. The year 2003 saw a staggering 121 hijackings of commercial vessels in this region—over 20 percent of the global total.2 Since then, piracy has declined dramatically, but it remains a major problem in Indonesian waters.
Bangladesh – Widespread poverty and an understaffed national coast guard have left the nation of Bangladesh vulnerable to pirates, who have eagerly exploited local conditions for their own profit. Piracy attacks, mostly dealing with kidnapping fishermen for ransom, has taken its toll on the national economy, which is heavily dependent on its fishing industry.
The good news is that Bangladesh has taken steps in recent years to quell this problem. Its participation in the U.S.-led Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises is considered largely responsible for reducing—though not eliminating—the threat of piracy in the Bay of Bengal.3
Nigeria – In West Africa, over seventy percent of all maritime piracy can be traced to Nigeria.4 The Gulf of Guinea is the local playground for regional pirates, whose activities are mainly devoted to capturing valuable cargo, often oil, rather than taking hostages.
These are not the only areas where piracy happens—Peru and the Ivory Coast have also encountered pirates, to name a few other examples—but they are the primary locales. As we shall soon see, maritime piracy is more than just a nuisance—it’s a wide-ranging social problem that gobbles up huge amounts of resources.
Why Piracy Is Harmful
Piracy causes major harm to society. The organization Oceans Beyond Piracy calculated the global cost of piracy for the year 2011 at $6.6 to $6.9 billion.5 The damage wrought by piracy takes a variety of forms, including but not limited to the following:
Fatalities – Many pirates operate by taking hostages and holding them for ransom. It’s a tactic that has proven quite profitable—but it can also lead to tragedy. Some encounters between commercial vessels and pirates devolve into violence. In Southeast Asia, 136 people were killed at the hands of pirates over the years 1995 to 2013.6 A far greater number of innocents have suffered serious injury during pirate attacks.
Costlier Shipping Practices – One tactic for keeping away from pirates is to ship materials at very fast speeds across the water. That’s what a lot of shipping companies have resorted to in an effort to reduce the risk of encountering unfriendly ships.
Unfortunately, this practice substantially increases the expenses involved in maritime transportation. Another tactic that shipping vessels sometimes use is to follow an indirect route to their destination—which, of course, takes longer and costs more money.
Increased Insurance Rates – The likelihood of stolen cargo means that shipping valuable goods is more risky than it would be under normal conditions. This also means that insurance rates must be raised to compensate for the increased risk.
Higher Security Expenses – There was a time when it was considered unnecessary for shipping vessels to employ armed guards and utilize anti-piracy equipment. That time is in the past, however. The price of maintaining adequate security is another expense that shipping companies must bear.
Damage to Local Economies – As we have mentioned, piracy in Bangladesh has caused serious injury to the nation’s fishing sector—and this is only one example of a country-wide economic devastation that can be attributed to these maritime interlopers.
Drain on Limited Military Resources – Many impoverished nations struggle to mobilize the kind of military response needed to discourage piracy.
There are a variety of laws on the national and international level aimed at prosecuting pirates and reducing the incidence of these types of crimes.
The State of Piracy Law
Piracy that takes place within the territorial waters of a nation can be prosecuted by that nation. In the U.S., the crime of maritime piracy falls under 18 U.S.C. § 1651, which states, “Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.”
However, what happens when piracy occurs out on international waters? In this case, international law takes over—specifically, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This international agreement stipulates that “all States shall cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State.”
In practice, there has been some confusion as to which country should take on the responsibility of prosecuting pirates captured out on the high seas. When the United States has assumed this role, it has often imposed very harsh penalties, in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 1651.
If you or a loved one has been injured during the commission of a pirate attack, it is important to understand that there is legal recourse available. Under the Jones Act, victims of pirate assaults may be entitled to substantial compensation. Contact Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., for a free consultation.
Death On the High Seas Act: What Are Your Rights?
When someone dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another, it’s called wrongful death. Their families have the right, under various state laws, to sue the responsible party. The same is true for those who die at sea, only their case comes under the purview of maritime law, specifically, the Death On the High Seas Act (DOHSA).
The Death On the High Seas Act
The Death on the High Seas Act (46 USC 761) has been around since 1920 when Congress decided to make provisions for the families of seamen who had been killed in international waters. Legislators have since expanded and amended the law, but the premise remains the same.
When a commercial maritime worker dies at least three nautical miles from U.S. shorelines, DOSHA permits dependents to recover damages. (A dependent is anyone who relies on the deceased for financial support—a spouse, children, siblings, parents, etc.)
Over the years, the law has come to include commercial aircraft accidents that take place over international waters at least 12 nautical miles from shore.
It’s important to note that DOSHA applies only to workers killed on commercial vessels—it does not cover those who work aboard non-commercial or privately owned ships. It also does not cover maritime injuries, which come under the aegis of the Jones Act.
What the Law Does and Does Not Cover
Under the Death On the High Seas Act, dependents are allowed to recover damages for such things as:
• Loss of financial support
• Funeral expenses
• Counseling expenses
• Other pecuniary (financial) losses
Since DOSHA preempts state law, however, families of victims cannot file claims through traditional wrongful death statutes. Historically, that has prevented dependents from recovering damages related to non-pecuniary losses (e.g., mental anguish, loss of companionship, loss of emotional support).
In addition, a maritime accident attorney must be able to show that the death was the result of another party’s negligence, whether that is the ship’s owner or a fellow worker. Negligence may occur when:
• An employer fails to equip the ship with the necessary safety gear.
• Employers or owners fail to maintain the seaworthiness of the vessel.
• An employer or manager fails to maintain or repair safety gear.
• An employer forces a seaman to work in unhealthy or hazardous conditions.
• A co-worker engages in risky behavior or fails to carry out duties.
The Death On the High Seas Act Statute of Limitations
Like all maritime injury cases, DOSHA comes with a statute of limitations—a deadline of three years. That means family members must file a claim within three years of the accident if they hope to receive compensation.
Given the narrow window of opportunity, it’s crucial for dependents to seek the help of a dedicated maritime law firm immediately after losing a loved one. At Maintenance and Cure, we work hard to secure justice on behalf of our clients. Contact us as soon as possible to speak with a skilled maritime accident attorney.