Timeline of a Personal Injury Case
You’ve suffered an injury. What do you do now? Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit, but how do you know if you have a valid case? Even if you’re sure a lawsuit is the right action, there are a number of questions to be answered. What should you do first? Should you contact a lawyer immediately? When should you see a doctor? How long will the process take? What is your responsibility and what is your lawyer’s responsibility?
Pursuing a lawsuit can be a complicated business. Thankfully there are attorneys who can help you navigate the complexities of the legal system. Of course, the first few steps are your responsibility. Only after seeking immediate medical attention and choosing a qualified attorney can the legal system go to work for you.
In the end, knowing the proper procedure for filing a personal injury lawsuit is crucial to ensuring a favorable outcome. It’s also important to remember that a personal injury lawsuit may take a great deal of time and effort, on your part and on the part of your lawyer. More than anything, you’ll need to be patient while the process unfolds.
We’ve created this helpful infographic to give you the critical information you need to get the ball rolling. Take a look at the graphic below to learn more about the steps you’ll need to take if you want to file a personal injury lawsuit.
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Jones Act: What You Should Know
Maritime Laws provide a variety of protections for seamen in the service of a vessel. One such protection is covered under the Jones Act, which is sometimes referred to as the Merchant Marine Act. In addition to providing specific protections for seamen injured due to the negligence of the employer, the Act also has provisions on the shipment of goods into United States ports, as well as the regulation of commerce and transport of goods while in U.S. controlled waters.
The Jones Act is a separate form of compensation claim an injured seaman can file with assistance from a Jones Act law firm. It allows the seaman to seek compensation for lost wages, pain and suffering, and long-term medical treatment and care, beyond compensation paid through maintenance and cure claims.
However, a seaman must prove the employer was negligent in order to have grounds to file a claim under the Jones Act. In cases where the employer is not negligent, the extent of compensation a seaman is entitled to receive is limited to that provided through a maintenance and cure claim.
The Definition of a Seaman
The Jones Act’s definition of a seaman is rather vague. Federal courts and even the Supreme Court have interpreted the definition in the past to help distinguish which types of workers are covered under the Act. In addition, an employee must spend a certain amount of time onboard the vessel and perform specific tasks, which are directly related to helping further the operations of the vessel.
The minimum amount of time spent onboard a vessel can and does vary on a case-by-case basis. If you are injured while working in the service of a vessel but are not sure whether you would be defined as a seaman, it is in your best interests to consult with a maritime and Jones Act lawyer from Maintenance and Cure. Do not hesitate to contact us at 1-800-836-5830 to find out your legal rights and speak with one of our lawyers now!
What Is the Difference Between Worker’s Compensation and Jones Act Claims?
Two forms of compensation a worker can seek, after being injured on the job, are worker’s compensation and Jones Act claims. The key distinction between the two has to do with where the injured occurred:
- If it occurred on land, in most cases, the claim would be filed under worker’s compensation.
- If it occurred while in the service of a vessel, even while docked, then the claim would be filed under the Jones Act.
Another difference between the two is in regards to fault. Worker’s compensation claims are considered “no fault” claims. In other words, it does not matter whether the employee or employer was at fault. Jones Act claims, on the other hand, require that the employer was negligent in some manner. However, it is worth noting, Maritime Laws do provide “no fault” protections under maintenance and cure claims.
Maintenance and cure claims are separate claims and are not the same as a claim filed under the Jones Act. In order to prove negligence while in service of a vessel, an employee must demonstrate the employer did not provide safe working conditions, in one or more areas of the vessel, including but not limited to:
- Understaffing of Crewmen
- Employee Not Properly Trained
- Hazardous Conditions Present
- Equipment Insufficient or in Improper Repair
- Vessel Is Deemed Unsafe
Furthermore, a crewman is entitled to file for addition damages for pain and suffering and all lost wages through the Jones Act, whereas, with a worker’s compensation claim, the injured employee is limited in the extent of compensation recoverable and could be prevented from filing a lawsuit against the employer.
Maritime Laws do provide better protections for workers, compared to worker’s compensation. Determining what recourse you could potentially have against an employer through maintenance and cure and the Jones Act is easier when you seek legal advice from qualified maritime and Jones Act attorneys, like those here at SMSH. Contact our maritime law office at 1-800-836-5830 to speak with a lawyer today!
The Dangers of Falling/Moving Objects on Ships and Vessels
Working on a ship, vessel, or rig has its own potential risks and dangers for accidents. Most types of accidents can be prevented with the proper safety training, equipment, gear, and education.
One of the more frequent types of accidents workers experience is caused from falling or moving objects on board. There are several ways to reduce the risks associated with working in areas where there is a potential for falling or moving objects, as follows:
- Wear High-Visibility Clothing – Make sure others can see you and know you are in a work area where they might be moving objects overhead or on deck.
- Wear Safety Helmets/Gear/Apparel – Make sure to wear hard hats and other safety gear in dangerous work areas. If you are working at elevated levels, remember to use fall prevention safety harnesses.
- Be Aware of Slip, Trip, and Fall Hazards – The deck can be slippery from water, oil, and other residue. Make sure to wear nonslip foot wear for better grip, along with proper toe protection to protect feet from dropped objects.
- Know the Path/Movement of Overhead Swings and Hooks – Before moving objects using an overhead swing or hook, make sure you know their path and whether they could place people underneath where they might be injured.
- Never Enter Work Areas While Objects Are Being Moved – During the movement of overhead objects, stay out of work areas below. If you must be in the work area below, remember tip #1 above.
- Keep Doors, Lockers, and Stowage Compartments Closed – To prevent loose objects from moving freely about, securely shut and verify latches are in the closed position.
- Never Work Alone – If you must work alone, make sure to let others know where you intend to work and what you will be doing, and use a radio for communications.
By using the above tips and enforcing the best safety practices on your ship, vessel, or rig, you can help reduce the risks for accidents and injuries.
If you have sustained injuries from moving or falling objects, you may have certain maritime personal injury legal rights. To find out your rights, contact the Jones Act attorneys at Maintenance and Cure by phoning 800-836-5830 now.
The Difference Between Vessel and Platform Rigs
There are several different types of rigs used for offshore drilling and exploration, and these include both vessel and platform rigs. The primary difference between a vessel and platform rig is one’s ease of mobility from one location to another.
One common type is called the “jack-up” rig. These get this name because they can be moved directly over the location to drill or pump oil. The rig can be self-elevated below the vessel to the bottom of the ocean floor to secure it in place. Jack-up rigs are well suited for shallow waters of 400 feet or less.
For deeper waters up to 12,000 feet, the preferred method of exploration and drilling is to use semisubmersibles and drill ships. Semisubmersible work-decks float on top of the water, while the vast majority of their mass is contained below the water to help stabilize the platforms and keep them in place. As a result, the deck is rather stable and well-suited for drilling in rough waters. However, semisubmersibles are not easily moved.
For new exploration and the drilling and capping of new wells, drill ships are typically used. Drill ships have the drilling equipment installed directly on the deck, typically in the middle of the ship. The well is drilled through the “moon pool,” an opening in the center of the ship.
Working on any vessel or platform rig has within it certain risks. Owners and operators of rigs need to take steps to help protect their workers and provide safe working environments. In the event they are negligent and workers are injured, they can be held accountable under various maritime personal injury laws and acts.
If you are an oil rig worker, seaman, or vessel worker and have been injured while in the service of a vessel or ship, you could be entitled to monetary compensation. To find out more about your legal rights and if you have grounds for a personal injury law suit, contact the Jones Act lawyers at Maintenance and Cure today by calling 800-836-5830.
Crewmember’s Legs Amputated in Barge Accident
A crewmember’s legs were amputated after he fell off a barge November 10 near Port Canaveral, Fl.
The U.S. Coast Guard said the unidentified man, who they believed worked as the captain aboard the Paula Lee dredge barge, went overboard in the middle of the port’s channel and struck a propeller. He suffered from “bi-lateral double amputation below the knee,” according to the Fire-Rescue crews.
He was airlifted to the Holmes Regional Medical Center, where his condition is currently unknown.
The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating the circumstances around this accident.
“This is another incident where he fell in the water, he had a life jacket on. He lost presumably both his legs, he could have lost his life had he not had a life jacket on,” Coast Guard Petty Officer Steven Lehmann told Fox 35 Orlando News.
Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris (SMSH) Partner and Maritime Attorney Matthew D. Shaffer is experienced with maritime amputation cases.
“Having represented many workers over the past 50 years, the attorneys at SMSH are familiar with the challenges that this seaman faces as he begins his recovery,” Shaffer said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out the man and his family at this difficult time.”
About Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris
The personal injury attorneys at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris have been helping victims for the past 50 years. Combined, their attorneys have more than 100 years of trial experience in maritime, auto and industrial accidents.
If you or a loved one was injured in a maritime accident, call 800-282-2122 today to schedule a free, confidential consultation. Legal assistance is available both in English and Spanish (Español).
Foreign seaman often endure slave-like conditions
Roughly one-third of the 20,000 Filipino maritime academy graduates a year use illegal recruiting agencies to gain employment on ships. With an oversaturated market and desperate for work, these foreign villagers take jobs as crewmembers expecting steady pay and a chance to travel the world. Instead, they are faced with unsafe work conditions, little-to-no pay and, often, violence.
A recent New York Times article focuses on illegal recruiting agencies in Singapore and the Philippines. The article details the abuse, fraud and unseaworthy conditions these recruited crewmembers endure as depicted through the story of Eril Andrade. Andrade died while at sea from an alleged heart attack, but also suffered from unexplained cuts and bruises that were inflicted before death, according to the article.
The article states that Andrade departed for Singapore after being promised double the wages he would actually receive and paying upfront “processing” fees after signing with an illegal recruiting agency. When not on the unseaworthy ships, the article alleges that crewmembers such as Andrade would wait for the voyages in an unsanitary two-bedroom apartment with more than 20 other men where they were raped and unable to leave. While onboard the ships, the men endured 18-20 hour workdays and six day workweeks as well as brutal beatings.
Often, these crewmembers have no previous experience with maritime work and traveling abroad. Uneducated to maritime and anti-trafficking laws, the crewmembers are instructed by the illegal recruiting agencies to travel on tourist or transit visas. This exempts them from the protection of many maritime, labor and anti-trafficking laws. Since the agencies are operating illegally, the government agencies responsible for protecting their crewmembers sent abroad have no official records of the crewmembers or the agencies.
“Even when the crewing agencies are operating within the law, the mariners are often subjected to brutal conditions,” said Matthew D. Shaffer, maritime attorney and managing partner of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, LLP. “When maimed or killed, the seaman are left with pitiful, meager compensation and are often repatriated penniless and disabled. Unfortunately, the U.S. court system does little to help these workers, even when injured in the United States.”
Andrade was contracted to work with recruiting agency Step Up out of Singapore. According to the article, this agency has been involved in various lawsuits and maritime tragedies, including the Win Far 161 attack where the crew was held hostage and tortured by Somali pirates. Despite these lawsuits and accidents, the company’s owners have not been held accountable. The article explains that last year, prosecutors opened the biggest Cambodian trafficking case involving more than 1,000 fisherman, but could not charge Step Up due to jurisdiction problems. Due to jurisdiction, officials at the Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower and government anti-trafficking task force must formally await a request from the Philippine government before investigating Step Up’s involvement in Andrade’s death.
The original New York Time’s Article “Tricked and Indebted on Land, Abused or Abandoned at Sea” ran on November 9, 2015. The article can be viewed in its entirety here.
About Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, LLP
Our lawyers at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris have been helping victims of personal injury accidents for the past 50 years. Combined, our attorneys have more than 100 years of trial experience in maritime, auto and industrial accidents.
If your loved one was involved in a maritime or personal injury accident, call (888) 405-3393 today to schedule a free, confidential consultation. Legal assistance is available both in English and Spanish (Español).
Deadline to File Claims Related to El Faro Sinking Set
A federal judge for the Middle District of Florida has ordered all claims related to El Faro sinking to be filed with that court by December 21, 2015. Failure to comply with the strict deadline may result in a claim being defaulted or barred.
Sylvester C. Crawford, Jr., a 40 year old father from Lawrenceville, Georgia, was among the 33 crewmembers that perished aboard the 40-year-old cargo ship. The Seafarers International Union (SIU) member was working his first hitch aboard the vessel in its final voyage. Crawford’s family recently retained the experienced maritime attorneys of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, LLP (SMSH) to represent them against Tote Maritime for their loss.
“We are honored to represent the Crawford family as they seek justice for their beloved Sylvester,” said Matthew D. Shaffer, a maritime attorney and partner of SMSH.
With the families of the crewmembers still mourning the unexpected passing of their loved ones, the legal battle over the sinking of El Faro has started.
The vessel went missing on its final voyage to Puerto Rice when it sailed into the path of Hurricane Joaquin and sunk east of the Bahamas. Tote Maritime, the owner of the ship and employer of its crew, filed a complaint to limit its liability for the losses stemming from this disaster. Tote Maritime seeks to cap its liability at no more than approximately $15 million dollars, a value based on the ship’s tonnage. The court order requires all claims for compensation related to the El Faro disaster to be filed by December 21, 2015.
“It is shameful that Tote Maritime has initiated litigation in a venue far from their home seeking to limit its responsibility to these families to pennies on the dollar, while at the same time seeking the full measure of reimbursement for the loss of its ship,” said Shaffer. “Such actions are doomed for failure but will succeed in costing the survivors time and money as they look for answers in this tragedy.”
SMSH has represented individuals like the Crawford family for more than 50 years across the United States. Combined, its attorneys have more than 100 years of trial experience in holding employers and shipowners responsible for serious maritime accidents and deaths.
Family members affected by the El Faro tragedy are strongly advised to contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss their legal rights in light of the court’s upcoming deadline to file claims. If you or a loved one was injured in a maritime or offshore accident, call 1-800-282-2122 today to speak to an attorney at SMSH for a free, confidential consultation. Legal assistance is available both in English and Spanish (Español).
Tug and Barge Partially Sank in Houston Ship Channel
As of 1 p.m. Monday, the Houston Ship Channel has remained closed to ships because two vessels are partially submerged after an incident. The U.S. Coast Guard has not reported any injuries.
A 25-foot harbor tug, Annie Moon, and 200-foot attached barge sank where they were moored just south of Galena Park about 5:00 a.m., according to the Coast Guard.
“The assessment team determined that approximately 20 gallons of diesel fuel leaked from the tug, which was carrying about 300 gallons,” the Coast Guard told KHOU 11 News. “The area has been boomed off to contain and recover any additional spill while the vessels are being recovered.”
Big John, the Big John Marine cargo crane, was expected to start lifting the sunken vessels at 1:00 p.m. The Coast Guard said it will work with crews to ensure the ship channel is clear prior to reopening it to traffic.
Questions Remain Over Captain’s ‘Sound Plan’ to Sail El Faro Around Hurricane Joaquin
Given the weather information that was available before El Faro’s last voyage, many have questioned why the ship’s Captain would choose to brave what was then tropical storm Joaquin. On September 30, when El Faro left Florida en route to Puerto Rico, El Faro’s captain, Michael Davidson, decided to forge ahead on a path that would take him within 200 miles of the tropical storm that was brewing nearby.
Tote Maritime, the company that operated El Faro, reported that Davidson developed a “sound plan” that would enable him to sail safely outside of the storm’s path. If everything went according to the captain’s plan, some industry experts agree that El Faro could have outran the storm.
The weather conditions, however, weren’t the only factor Davidson needed to consider in the charted course. His strategy failed when the ship’s main propulsion stopped working as El Faro and its 33 crewmembers were in the path of what strengthened to become a category 4 hurricane. El Faro sent its last distress call on October 1 and lost contact near the Bahamas. Marine positioning data shows that the ship was battling 120 mph winds and more than 30 foot waves shortly before it succumbed to the forces of Hurricane Joaquin. It’s believed that all 33 crewmembers onboard, including 28 Americans, lost their lives in the disaster.
As investigations into El Faro’s sinking are ongoing, additional information will reveal whether Davidson made the right decision under the circumstances. In the maritime industry, the responsibility falls on a ship’s captain to use all information available to make a decision amidst the perils of the sea. A ship’s captain must account for the unexpected and the wrong decision puts the lives of all crewmembers at risk. In addition to responding to dangerous weather conditions, a ship’s captain also may encounter malfunctioning equipment and even the threat of pirates abroad.
Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, LLP, has represented injured crewmembers for more than 50 years, and many cases have called into question the decision making of a ship’s captain. In 2009, we were retained to represent some crewmembers aboard the M/V Maersk Alabama, a container ship that was hijacked by pirates near Somalia. With so many lives at stake, captains must be held accountable for their decisions as the safety of maritime workers depends on it.