When an injury occurs aboard a ship, it is common for ship vessel employees to overlook maritime law. Many accidents can occur on cargo ships, cruise ships, merchant marine ships, mobile offshore oil rigs, and the list goes on.
Because these occurrences do not happen on U.S. soil, injured people who work at sea need a maritime expert to help decide the best course of action under the law. With a maritime accident lawyer, your specialized attorney can provide thorough answers to questions like these:
• Am I considered a seaman under the law?
• Should I sign the document provided by my employer?
• Can I obtain compensation?
• What are my rights?
• How do I file a claim?
If you or someone you love has been affected by personal injury or wrongful death while working on or near U.S. waterways, maritime attorneys can help you determine if the case is valid under specific statutes of limitations and represent the facts of the incident with even greater precision. Read on to learn more about what considerations one should make when seeking a maritime lawyer after an accident on the water.
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Understanding the Finer Points of the Jones Act
Passed in 1920, the Jones Act is legislation that protects workers who become ill or injured while working offshore. The Act covers anyone who is employed on a sailing vessel that navigates in waters used for foreign or interstate trade. The crewman must be engaged in work that directly impacts the vessel’s mission and may include:
• Cruise Ship Personnel
• Captain and crew
• Workers on oil rigs, cargo carriers, dredges and barges
The Act provides compensation for living expenses while incapacitated, medical expenses, costs associated with rehabilitation and even vocational training if a worker is unable to return to his or her prior position.
Common Complaints Covered Under the Jones Act
Almost any type of injury that can occur on land can also happen offshore. The Maritime Injury Guide lists the most common causes:
• Falling objects
• Slips, trips, falls
• Impact from heavy equipment
• Exposure to toxic chemicals and temperature extremes
• Falling overboard
As a result, common injuries include:
• Traumatic brain injuries
• Injuries to the spinal cord
• Lung damage
• Broken bones
• Crushing injuries
If you’ve been injured or become severely ill at sea due to circumstances beyond your control, contact Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris to discuss your options.
What Causes Injuries at Sea?
As a worker on a cruise ship, oil rig or other seagoing vessel, many factors can cause you to receive a debilitating injury. These include poor ship maintenance, negligence on the part of the captain or crew, failure to handle food properly, inadequate safety training or standards, operating the ship while severely understaffed and more. Even if you think what happened was out of anyone’s control, you should insist on representation. Odds are good that there’s a solid reason why your injury occurred and an even better chance that your injury or illness is covered under the Jones Act.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Coverage
Is there a statute of limitations on Jones Act claims?
• Yes. The typical time frame for filing a compensation claim under the Jones Act is three years from the date you become injured.
What type of coverage can I request?
• Generally, the Jones Act provides you with a regular income while you recover. It can also pay for pain and suffering, medical expenses, expenses associated with rehabilitation, and even for loss of enjoyment of life. If there’s a delay between the date of your injury and the time that you file your claim, you may be able to ask for retroactive coverage for all of the above.
What’s included in Jones Act maintenance and cure?
• Benefits received for maintenance and cure include the costs associated with recovery until you’re at 100 percent health. Maintenance is typically calculated at a daily rate, while cure refers to the costs of actual medical treatment.
Call for More Information Today
If you’ve been injured during the performance of scheduled duties offshore, contact the law offices of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris to discuss your recommended course of action. You shouldn’t have to suffer with the stress and worry of how your family will survive while you’re incapacitated, and thanks to the Jones Act of 1920, you don’t have to. Call us today at 1-800-836-5830.
Finding the Right Jones Act Attorney
Sailors who have been injured or become ill while performing required job duties at sea may be eligible for compensation from their employers under the provisions of the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Maritime Act of 1920. American sailors who believe they may be eligible under the Jones Act should discuss the circumstances of their case with an attorney.
Clients seeking an attorney for their maritime law case should look for experience, specialization, successful past cases, board certification, and cost.
For the best chance of a successful outcome, maritime workers should seek attorneys who have relevant experience with cases like theirs. The following steps can assist in confirming past experience:
• Ask how many years of experience the attorney has as well as the number of years of experience the firm has. Don’t mistake the firm’s experience for an individual attorney’s expertise; both numbers are important.
• Ask how many maritime law cases the attorney has worked on.
• Visit with references shared by the firm to learn more about the experience and success past clients have had with the firm or the attorney.
• Check the firm’s Better Business Bureau profile to ensure they have been in business and in good standing for the length of time claimed.
• Finding an experienced attorney can increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.
Maritime law is complex and differs from Workers Compensation law. Choosing an attorney who specializes in maritime law ensures that the attorney is trained and experienced in the complexities of maritime law and receives continuing education in this specialized field of law. Maritime law attorneys:
• should clearly advertise themselves as maritime law attorneys,
• should limit the cases they take to maritime law or related cases,
• should never work on behalf of an employer being sued under the Jones Act, and
• should focus their continuing education requirements on maritime law and related topics.
Understanding how a firm or attorney has performed in past cases can help a potential client understand what to expect in their case. Maritime employees victim to accident or injury should request more information about past cases, including the attorney’s success rate and the details of at least one successful case and one unsuccessful case if public or permitted to share.
Other ways to learn more about a firm’s track record are to research the company’s history and involvement in high profile cases, review their BBB score, and ask to speak with references.
It’s important to learn about cost and financial options up front to ensure the right firm is selected. The best firms never charge a fee unless they are able to win a settlement or judgment on the client’s behalf. While not all attorneys use this model, clients should demand and expect this arrangement before selecting an attorney.
Finally, a select few firms may offer additional perks to clients like low or no-interest personal loans to ensure they are able to make ends meet following their injury or illness. Finding an attorney who has a client loan program can reduce worry during such a stressful time.
Is Maritime Law Affected by Location?
An offshore injury can occur anywhere on any body of water in the country. No matter what state that body of water might be located in, those who work out on the water fall not under the jurisdiction of that state’s law but under the jurisdiction of U.S. maritime law.
Because many Americans are unfamiliar with the concept of maritime law, offshore injuries tend to raise an interesting question: Does the location of an accident affect how maritime law is applied? In short, the answer to this question is generally “no.” However, there are some cases where the location may be relevant.
How Location Affects the Cases of Injured Maritime Workers
Maritime law is still somewhat confusing for many, including maritime workers themselves. As a result, some workers who are injured offshore don’t bother to seek compensation due to uncertainty regarding their rights. This makes it somewhat difficult to ensure that injured maritime workers are given the maintenance and cure payments they deserve.
With regard to location, maritime law usually supersedes (or overrides) state law. This means that any worker that suffers an offshore injury will be covered by maritime law standards and will not be subject to state restrictions on compensation. There are, however, a few exceptions.
One exception to this rule is that the injury must have occurred on navigable waters. In addition, any injuries that took place on or near a dock or other fixed platform may be considered to have occurred on “land,” even if the platform was located on navigable waters. If an injury is determined to have happened on land or in non-navigable waters, the case will fall under the jurisdiction of the state.
Find Experienced Representation for Your Maritime Injury Case
If you’re uncertain whether your injury is covered by maritime law or if the body of water on which you were injured is considered “navigable,” you may want to speak with an experienced maritime attorney. Our maritime law practice has been representing offshore injury victims for over 100 years, and our professional attorneys have helped recover over $720 million in compensation.
To learn more or discuss your case for free, give us a call at (888) 297-4553.
Negligence Under the Jones Act
Contemporary seamen often have to work under hazardous conditions that could easily lead to serious personal injury if circumstances on their vessel go even slightly awry. Many seamen sustain severe harm in environments that seem to be reasonably safe. An undetected gas leak that suddenly ignites, a conveyor belt that catches a wayward hand, a hatch negligently left open on the deck in a worker’s walking path—these are just a few simple scenarios that have landed seamen in the hospital.
When disaster strikes, injured seamen have several options when it comes to obtaining just compensation for the physical harm they suffered. What we will focus on here is the Jones Act, an approximately 100-year-old statute that provides seamen with financial recompense in proportion to the negligence of their employer. Who qualifies for the protections of the Jones Act? How are degrees of negligence calculated under its provisions? We’ll answer these and other questions below.
Causes of Action
The law recognizes three causes of action available to an injured seaman. These are the following:
Maintenance and Cure – This is financial compensation provided to a seaman irrespective of the degree of fault they assume for their injury, provided that the individual has not acted with willful negligence (e.g., intentionally tried to harm themselves). It is part of general maritime law, and it consists of two separate components: (1) maintenance and (2) cure. The first component, maintenance, refers to payments intended to make up for lost wages. The second component, cure, covers the seaman’s medical expenses.
Unseaworthiness – The employer responsible for the vessel on which seamen perform their duties is required by law to ensure that the ship is always seaworthy. A vessel can be ruled to be unseaworthy if it contains defective equipment, unsafe walkways, inadequate (or missing) safety gear, or other features that could lead to harm. The ship may also be considered unseaworthy under the law if its crew members were denied sufficient training.
Jones Act violations – If the employer is found to be in violation of the Jones Act, then the seaman is entitled to financial compensation similar to that provided by maintenance and cure. What’s the difference between the two causes of action? To qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, it must be shown that the employer is responsible for the seaman’s injury or illness. This is the statute that we will explore in more detail later on.
Keep in mind that it’s possible to invoke multiple claims of actions when pursuing a case against an employer. For example, an injured seaman can qualify for compensation under the provisions of maintenance and cure in addition to the Jones Act.
Overview of the Jones Act
The Jones Act, otherwise known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, was signed by President Woodrow Wilson in an effort to bolster the U.S. maritime commerce industry. This statute—still very much in force today—consists of a variety of laws governing a wide range of matters pertinent to this industry, but the only part that concerns our present discussion is 46 USC 30104: “Personal injury to or death of seamen.” This section legally endows “a seaman injured in the course of employment… with the right of trial by jury, against the employer.”
Definition of a Seaman According to the Jones Act
The Jones Act grants important rights to seamen who seek compensation for their on-the-job injuries—but who does this statute classify as a seaman? The question isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.
For example, if the employee is an independent contractor rather than a salaried employee, should he or she be considered a seaman who is entitled to Jones Act protections? (Incidentally, judges often rule that this is indeed the case.)
What about someone whose job duties only infrequently bring them on board a vessel? When Jones Act cases go through the courts, it must be determined whether the plaintiff qualifies as a seaman. What the courts tend to look at is the nature of the employee’s role on the vessel (e.g., whether they perform duties essential for the operation of the ship) and the length of their employment.
Negligence and the Jones Act
Now we arrive at the heart of the issue: negligence. The primary distinction between maintenance and cure compensation and Jones Act compensation is that while the former does not depend on proving employer negligence, the latter does.
To prevail in a Jones Act case, the plaintiff must prove four separate elements relating to negligence:
- Duty – It must be shown that the employer had a duty of care—e.g., the responsibility to provide reasonable training, properly functioning equipment, and acceptable safety practices. Under general maritime law, the employer has a non-negotiable duty to maintain a seaworthy vessel.
- Breach – It must be shown that the employer violated this duty of care.
- Causation – It must be shown that the employee’s injury or illness was caused by this breach. In Jones Act cases, this element is governed by the standard of so-called featherweight causation, which means that even slight negligence on the behalf of the defendant is enough to prove liability.
- Damages – It must be shown that the employee suffered real harm. An injury that does not require the employee to miss work or seek medical aid would probably fail to meet this standard.
These four elements are common to all negligence cases, not merely those involving the Jones Act.
Comparative Negligence Under the Jones Act
Comparative negligence is the idea that financial compensation for personal injury should be calculated according to the degree of responsibility borne by each party. It is the standard recognized by the Jones Act and used to determine financial compensation in these cases.
Here’s an example. If a plaintiff is ruled to be 40% responsible for their injury, then the amount awarded by the court will be lowered by 40%. Let’s say that their injury is determined to be worth $100,000. The plaintiff will receive only $60,000, as their partial responsibility for their condition is factored into the payout.
In many negligence cases that do not involve the Jones Act, the plaintiff must prove that the other party’s negligence was the primary cause of the illness or injury under consideration. Not so with Jones Act cases. The employer can be found to be negligent even when the seaman is chiefly at fault for their injury.
In fact, the plaintiff can prevail in a Jones Act case even if it is shown that they bear almost all of the responsibility for the incident under consideration. However, in these instances, the court will sharply reduce the monetary award to be granted to the plaintiff.
If the seaman is found to be entirely responsible for their injury, then no compensation will be awarded. Nonetheless, the seaman may still qualify for maintenance and cure payments.
Negligence Per Se
The doctrine of negligence per se constitutes an exception to the standard of comparative negligence. This simply means that the employer will be found entirely responsible for a seaman’s injury if it is found to result from the employer’s violation of a safety statute. It does not matter if the employee may have been partly at fault for the harm they sustained—the employer’s failure to abide by these safety laws supersedes these considerations.
Damages Under the Jones Act
When calculating damages to be awarded to the injured seaman, the courts consider multiple factors, including lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical expenses. The courts weigh not only the losses already incurred by the seaman but, also, if applicable, the projected diminishment of their future earning ability and quality of life.
If you or someone you know suffered significant injury as a result of employer’s violation of the Jones Act, you need to contact experienced legal professionals to analyze your case. You can contact Maintenance and Cure: Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., for a free confidential case evaluation.
Union Membership & Maintenance and Cure: What You Should Know
In maritime law, any maritime worker injured or made ill by an accident on the job has the legal right to be compensated, no matter what happened or which party was at fault in the incident. The law that governs this compensation is known as “maintenance and cure.” “Maintenance” refers to the daily needs and living expenses of the maritime worker, while “cure” refers to any hospital bills or other medical expenses related to the injury/illness.
What Is a Union Seaman?
A union seaman is one who is part of a labor organization that aims to support and protect the rights of maritime workers. As such, a union seaman’s work contract may be under the jurisdiction of various union rules regarding how much he or she will receive for maintenance and cure in the case of a workplace accident.
How Union Membership Affects Maintenance and Cure Rates
Because some labor unions set specific maintenance and cure rates based on what they believe is most fair for its members, the pre-determined rate given by the union will always be what is paid, regardless of the circumstances. For example: if the union contract specifies that maritime workers will receive maintenance of $900 each month, an injured union seaman will receive $900 a month.
It is important to note, however, that this is not necessarily the case nationwide. In some areas of the country, your contract may not fall under union rules regarding maintenance. The best way to know for certain where you fall is to discuss your case with an experienced maintenance and cure attorney.
Get What You Deserve with an Experienced Maritime Lawyer
If your employer refuses to pay the maintenance and cure that you are owed as a result of an accident, it’s time to enlist the help of a professional maritime law attorney. In 100 years of representing maritime workers, Maintenance and Cure lawyers have recovered more than $720 million for injured offshore workers.
To discuss your case for free with a knowledgeable maritime lawyer, call us today at 1-800-836-5830.
Claims Under the Jones Act and General Maritime Law
The Jones Act provides protections to seamen who are injured while in the service of a vessel and who can prove their employer was negligent. The law also stipulates employers must provide employees with a safe working environment and take steps to ensure the vessel is maintained within reasonably accepted conditions. In fact, negligence under the Jones Act is defined as any act, no matter how slight, which caused or contributed to cause injury to the seaman.
What Is Unseaworthiness?
A ship owner owes every crew member employed on its vessel the absolute duty to keep its vessel and all its decks, gear, tools, and equipment in good condition at all times. If the vessel owner does not provide a vessel in good working order, and the vessel or equipment is the cause of an injury to the seaman, then the vessel owner is responsible to the seaman for his/her damages that resulted from that injury.
For example, if the seaman is assigned to do a job and is provided tools or equipment that fail and cause injury to the seaman, the vessel owner is responsible to pay the damages suffered by the seaman. Also, if the seaman is assigned to do a job and is injured because not enough people were assigned to help complete the task, then the owner is responsible for the seaman’s injury and damages.
If a seaman suffers injury due to the negligence of the owner, captain, or crew of a vessel (Jones Act), or because the vessel or its equipment or manning was insufficient to safely complete the job, then a seaman can be compensated for past and future wage loss, medical care, pain, suffering, mental anguish, and any impairment suffered.
For more information about General Maritime Law or the Jones Act, or to find out if you have grounds to file an injury claim against your employer or the ship’s owner, call the maritime law experts at Maintenance and Cure by phoning 1-800-836-5830 now!
Maintenance and Cure: Important Facts You Should Know
Maintenance and Cure provides monetary benefits for men and women who work on boats, barges, floating drilling rigs, and any other craft capable of transporting people or things across water, while working in the service of a vessel. The law is designed to protect you should you become ill or injured, regardless of whether the vessel is at sea or docked in a port, or whether the illness or injury happened on land or at sea.
Can I Claim Maintenance and Cure if My Employer Was Not at Fault?
Maintenance and Cure are owed to you regardless of who is responsible for your illness or injury. The only requirement, in order to file a claim, is that you were injured or became ill while in service of a vessel.
What Is Maintenance?
Maintenance is an amount of money paid to the employee while he or she recovers. It is an allowance meant to cover basic living expenses paid at a per-day rate. The amount of maintenance varies according to the expenses of the seaman, but should cover the costs of basic housing and food for the seaman, and the costs of transportation to and from medical care
What Is Cure?
Cure is compensation paid by the employer to cover all reasonable costs of treatment and medical expenses for the illness or injury.
How Long Do Maintenance and Cure Payments Last?
Maintenance and Cure payments only last until your doctor finds you have recovered and reached “maximum” cure. This means, in some cases, the worker may not necessarily be able to return to work or have fully recovered from the injuries. It simply means that the seaman has reached the point in recovery where further treatment will not improve the seaman’s condition.
Is There Any Recourse if I Cannot Return to Work?
The Jones Act Law and the General Maritime Law provide for further compensation for employees who have been injured while in service of a vessel and who can prove their employer was negligent or that the vessel was unsafe or unseaworthy. Filing a claim under the Jones Act or General Maritime Law is a separate process from filing a claim under Maintenance and Cure.
For assistance in filing a Maintenance and Cure claim, Jones Act claim, General Maritime Law claim, or for other questions regarding maritime laws, please feel free to contact the maritime and admiralty lawyers at Maintenance and Cure by calling 1-800-836-5830 today!
Common Causes of Injuries Upon Offshore Rigs
Many of our petroleum energy needs are met from offshore oil rigs and the workers who work on these rigs daily. Unfortunately, working offshore presents itself with the real world potential for accidents, injuries, and, in some cases, even death.
There are several common causes and reasons for maritime accidents and injuries, ranging from slips and falls to poorly maintained equipment and understaffed working conditions. Fortunately, Maintenance and Cure maritime laws are designed to protect workers, regardless of who was at fault for the injuries.
The extent of injuries does depend upon the type of accident the worker experienced. Personal injuries can be severe, in some cases, resulting in broken or lost limbs, as well as brain and spinal trauma. To discover some of the more notable recent offshore oil rig accidents and additional information about the common causes, types of injuries, and why accidents occur, please feel free to continue reading the following infographic!
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Maritime Personal Injury Settlements: What You Need to Know
Personal injury settlements relating to maritime law and the Jones Act can result in substantial amounts. In the past, the monetary value of settlements reached between the plaintiff and defendant have been in the millions of dollars.
In one case, involving an injured seaman in the service of the S.S. Cape Jacob, a $2 million settlement was reached shortly before the case was to go to court. In this case, the worker was injured while securing mooring lines, yet the captain ordered a tugboat pulling the ship to move away before they were secure.
In another case, which occurred in Seattle, workers injured while performing cleaning task settled the case for over $1.1 million. In this case, the company operating the ferry had inadvertently mixed bleach with another cleaning product, resulting in a chemical reaction causing injury to the workers.
However, there is some key information you need to know and understand in regards to how settlements are calculated. To help determine the potential settlement amount you could receive, your maritime personal injury lawyer will examine and review several pieces of information, including:
- The costs of medical treatments and services. Keep in mind, payments already made under Maintenance and Cure relief cannot be included as part of your settlement calculation.
- Anticipated future medical treatments and services costs.
- Past, present and future lost wages. Any wages not paid under Maintenance and Cure, along with future earnings, can be used as part of the settlement amount.
- The cost of benefits you have lost. In cases where you have lost retirement benefits, health insurance, and other such forms of compensation, these can be included as part of your settlement.
- Pain and suffering you are experiencing and may continue to experience. The value for pain and suffering can be difficult to determine, but lawyers often rely upon medical expert testimony to help establish a fair and reasonable amount.
If you have been injured while in service of a vessel, it is your right to consult with a qualified maritime injury lawyer from Maintenance and Cure. Contact our law office at 1-800-836-5830 for a consultation today!