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Your Rights as a Longshoreman

If you or a loved one works as a longshoreman, you already know that such workers face risks that simply aren’t present in most other industries. From hand-lifting cargo and operating heavy machinery to working in an environment where weather hazards can be especially severe, life on the docks can hardly be considered easy. Since longshoremen operate under maritime law, it can be confusing to determine what one’s rights are after an accidental injury on the job.

In this article, we’ll talk a bit about who can be considered a longshoreman, what kinds of laws protect these specialized workers, and what your rights are under those laws. We’ll also show you how having the right legal counsel for your injury case can make all the difference.

Rights as a Longshoreman

Who Qualifies as a Longshoreman?

A longshoreman is generally defined as any individual employed to load and unload ships in port. Depending upon the type of cargo a given ship is carrying, a longshoreman might lift crates by hand or use heavy equipment like forklifts and cranes to load and unload assets.

In addition to the moving of cargo, longshoremen may also be tasked with tying shipping containers together (lashing), assisting passengers with luggage on cruise ships, keeping track of manifests, signaling for communications, etc. In essence, teams of longshoremen will do whatever it takes to make sure ships pick up and drop off exactly what they need to while they’re in port.

The Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act

The Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA) is the section of maritime law that specifically covers the legal rights and compensation benefits of longshoremen. The LHWCA also covers the rights of anyone who works in or around the harbor, including shipbuilders and repairmen who work on the docks rather than on the water. This particular act is meant to bridge the gap between the Jones Act and standard worker’s compensation benefits.

In maritime law, the LHWCA is distinct from the Jones Act, which covers the rights of seamen working on a ship in open water. Under the Jones Act, claims are filed with the appropriate court. Under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, claims are filed directly with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Your Rights Under the LHWCA

The Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act provides you, as a longshoreman, with a set of valuable legal rights intended to protect you in the case of injury or fatality.

  • If you are injured on the job, you are entitled to receive compensation to cover medical bills and at least part of your usual income (maintenance and cure, in maritime law).
  • Depending upon the details of the claim, you may also have the right to coverage for physical therapy and/or other rehabilitation services.
  • If you’ve been injured on the job due to negligence on the part of someone who was not your employer, you are allowed to file a third-party claim for further damages.
  • If, in the worst case scenario, you are killed while working as a longshoreman, your family will be entitled to receive compensation benefits to help support them in your absence.
  • In all of these cases, you have the inherent right to hire a trusted local maritime lawyer to assist with your case and help you get the best possible outcome.

When you need to claim benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, you have 30 days from the date of injury to notify your employer that you’ve been injured. You must also file your LHWCA claim within a year from the date of your injury in order to receive benefits. Your employer will have 14 days from the date of notice to either begin paying your benefits voluntarily or dispute your claim.

Legal Counsel in an LHWCA Case

The Benefits of Legal Counsel in an LHWCA Case

As with any other type of claim, the benefits of having a strong legal representative on your side cannot be understated. An experienced local maritime attorney will not only have an intimate knowledge of your rights as outlined by the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, but will also know exactly how to get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries.

A good maritime law attorney will be able to help you with various aspects of your case, such as the following:

  • Filling out your claim (what information to include, etc.)
  • Filing your claim with the U.S. Department of Labor
  • Determining what benefits you may be eligible to receive and how much coverage you’ll require
  • Representing you and fighting for the coverage you deserve, should you be offered less than you need
  • Managing and reducing stress and paperwork related to your case

Whether you need basic coverage for medical expenses incurred during treatment for a broken bone or require long-term disability benefits for a serious, life-changing injury that threatens the financial security of your family, a knowledgeable maritime attorney will be able to help you navigate your case and fight on your behalf to get the money you need to pay your bills and support your family.

Need Someone to Defend Your Rights? Our Local Maritime Attorneys Are Experts in Maritime Law

As a BBB accredited business and a leader in maritime law, Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, LLP has helped hundreds of injured seamen, longshoremen, and other maritime workers seek the compensation they deserve after being injured in an accident. Our expertise and success in maritime law cases have led to features by respected media outlets like Bloomberg, CNN, MSNBC, Newsweek, and others.

Local Maritime Attorneys

We’ve recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for our clients, in a variety of cases, including those involving employer neglect, safety failures, PTSD, hearing loss, and more. We’re not afraid to go up against big names, as we’ve sued multi-million dollar companies like BP, Phillips 66, and Transocean.

If you are a Texas maritime worker who is covered by the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act and you’ve been injured in a workplace accident, it’s time to get an experienced attorney on your side. To learn more about what we can do for you or ask any questions you may have about your rights, call (888) 297-4553 at any time day or night to schedule your completely free case evaluation with one of our local maritime lawyers.

Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act

Sources

  1. https://raymondduke.com/blog/who-are-longshoremen-what-do-they-do-your-questions-answered
  2. https://resources.lawinfo.com/admiralty-maritime/what-is-a-longshoreman-and-how-are-a-longshor.html

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.

10 Facts About Oil Rig Accidents Infographic

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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.

Offshore Oil Rig Fires and Gas Explosions

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.

Worst Oil Rig Disaster in History

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.

Sources

  1. http://www.newsweek.com/pemex-explosion-13-dead-petrochemical-veracruz-investigation-chlorinate-3-451024
  2. https://www.desmogblog.com/2015/05/26/pemex-deadly-offshore-explosions-and-major-pipeline-spills
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/20/deepwater-horizon-key-questions-answered
  4. http://www.offshore-technology.com/features/feature-the-worlds-deadliest-offshore-oil-rig-disasters-4149812/

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.

What Is DOHSA

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.

Scope of DOHSA

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.

OR

  • 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.

Issue of Contributory Negligence

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

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

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

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.

Sources

  1. http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/maritime-worker-injuries-the-basics.html
  2. http://www.maritimeinjuryguide.org/maritime-rights-compensation/maintenance-cure-benefits/
  3. http://www.maritimehelp.com/maritime-rights/longshore-harbor-workers-compensation-act
  4. http://www.maritimehelp.com/maritime-rights/vocational-rehabilitation

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.

The 1920 Merchant Marine Act Infographic

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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.

Protecting Your Rights

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.

Jones Act Provide Seamen

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.

Seamen Risk Their Jones Act Rights

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.

Protect Your Jones Act Claims Rights

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.

Maritime Workers Under the LHWCA

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.

legal rights and protections

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!

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchant_Marine_Act_of_1920

Death On the High Seas Act: What Are Your Rights?

Death On the High Seas Act

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).

Maritime accident attorney

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.

The International Polar Code

Earlier this year (2017), new polar water regulations were rolled out that will affect the shipping industry and ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters. These waters pose special threats, mainly from ice and icy conditions ship operators need to take into consideration to ensure their vessels are fully compliant with the new code.

The new requirements focus on every aspect of a ship’s operations, stability, structure, and safety, as well as what training the crew has received. The code applies to specific vessels based on their classification as either:

  • Class A
  • Class B
  • Class C

Keep in mind, the International Polar Code does not apply to all ships operating in these waters. Expectations are made for ships weighing less than 500 metric tons, fishing ships, and structures that are fixed in place.

Prior to entering Arctic and Antarctic waters, ships that must satisfy the rules and regulations contained within the International Polar Code must be certified. To learn more about the new code and how it could affect your operations, equipment, and crew in polar waters, please continue reviewing the following infographic.

The International Polar Code Infographic

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Assessing the Jones Act: The Rights Your Employer Doesn’t Want You to Know

Workplace safety is never more important than when you work at sea. From drowning to falling to slipping on the deck, maritime employees face a variety of serious threats on a daily basis, which employers are responsible for protecting them from. The Jones Act establishes your rights as a seaman, allowing you to hold accountable any employer who does not adequately protect your safety.

Assessing the Jones Act

Background & Basics

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act, is a Federal law designed to protect and maintain the United States merchant marine system. Though the law covers a wide range of maritime topics, it is notable for its provisions on maritime worker safety. The act enshrines the rights of seamen to bring legal charges against their employers if the latter’s negligence causes them serious injury. If you can prove that your employer violated the Jones Act, you are entitled to compensation for the costs of your injury, which include:

  • The price of medical care, including treatments for the long-term effects of the injury
  • Lost wages that you were unable to earn because you were undergoing medical treatment, or because of disability that resulted from your injury
  • Pain and psychological suffering that result from your injury, as well as the cost of counseling
  • Loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment, and other effects that impact your quality of life

The Jones Act law establishes a significantly lower burden of proof for compensation than most other personal injury cases have. Whereas most cases require the plaintiff to prove that their employer was the primary cause of the harm, the Jones Act requires you to show only that they played a role in the injury. This makes it clear that it is the responsibility of maritime employers to safeguard the rights of their workers in all circumstances, no small matter in an industry with so many risks.

Jones Act Jurisdiction

For the Jones Act to apply to you, you must fit the following characteristics:

  • Vessel Validation– You must have been part of the crew of a commercial vessel at the time of your injury. A wide range of ships and boats qualify, including tankers, fishing vessels, casino boats, tug and tow boats, restaurant ships, barges, and freighters. It does not matter whether the boat was moored or in motion at the time you were injured.
  • Seaman Status– You must qualify as a seaman for the Jones Act to apply. The Supreme Court has defined this as anyone who spends at least 30 percent of their working hours serving a vessel that is in navigation. You may also qualify if your work is covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. If there is any doubt, consult a Jones Act attorney for help determining whether you are a seaman.
  • Location Limitations– You must have been on board the boat at the time that you contracted the injury. The law does not apply if you were on a nearby dock, even if you qualify as a seaman. You also must have been on the boat primarily so that you could aid in its mission.
  • Navigable Nuances– The injury must have occurred while the boat was on a body of water that is considered navigable. Oceans, gulfs, large lakes, and large rivers usually qualify, but as with seaman status, you should check with an attorney before filing. If the water is not navigable, your case will have to be filed under land-based laws instead.

To benefit from the Jones Act law, you must file your claim no more than three years after the injury occurred. It is thus important to begin the filing process as soon as possible in case there are delays. You can file the claim in a state court as an admiralty claim, or in a Federal court as either an admiralty or a law claim. Where and how you file may impact the amount of compensation you get, so make sure to discuss the case with your attorney before you decide.

Jones Act claims

Valid Violations

There is a myriad of things that can go wrong on the ocean, and thus a myriad of ways that your employer can fail to keep you safe. You can file Jones Act claims for injuries resulting from:

  • Sub-par Safety– Your employer must provide a safe environment for you to work in. This means cleaning up spills, cordoning off slippery or damaged walkways, keeping all sections of the hull in good condition, and providing training so that you know how to do your job competently. They must also distribute appropriate safety devices to employees who are performing especially dangerous jobs. Overlooking any of these duties can cause serious injury or death.
  • Damaged Devices– To do your job safely, you must have equipment that is up to date and in proper working order. This means that the employer must regularly inspect all equipment, repair or replace devices that are not working correctly, and inform all members of the crew not to use equipment that is damaged.
  • Crew Chaos– The employer is responsible for the actions of all other members of the crew. Thus, if another crew member assaults you or causes you to be injured through negligence, the employer must be held accountable for failing to keep them in line. The employer may also be at fault for failing to assemble a competent crew if your injury is the result of another seaman’s poor judgment.
  • Reticent Rescue– If you jump or fall off of the ship, the employer is responsible for making every effort to rescue you. Failing to respond quickly enough or to devote the appropriate resources is grounds for a lawsuit.
  • Medical Matters– If you become sick or injured on the ship, the employer must provide you with the proper medical care. Failing to provide the right care may lead to much more serious medical problems down the road, for which the employer will be responsible.

Understanding the scope of violations is one of the most important ways you can gain the upper hand over your employer in Jones Act claims. Many employers assume that if another employee assaults you or neglects your safety, for example, it is that employee’s fault, and any compensation you might win must come from them. Likewise, if equipment does not work properly, the employer might expect you to blame the manufacturer. The last thing they want you to realize is that they are responsible for everything that happens on the ship.

Your employer may also expect you to think that if you assume the risks before the injury happens, you cannot hold them accountable. But the fact that you were aware of the danger does not absolve them of their responsibility to maintain a safe ship. The Jones Act law makes it clear that they are responsible for all of the results of their negligence, not only those for which you were unaware of the risks.

Savvy Steps

As with any personal injury case, the quicker and more decisively you act, the more likely your Jones Act claims are to succeed. If you were injured while working on a commercial vessel, make sure to take the following steps:

  1. Pursue Proof– As soon as you are in a stable condition, gather as much evidence as you can. Take pictures of the accident site, and gather the names and contact information of nearby coworkers, employees, and any other witnesses. If your injuries are too severe for you to do this yourself, ask a trusted co-worker to do it for you.
  2. Commit To Care– Seek out medical treatment as soon as possible, and follow the instructions of your care providers to the letter. Try to keep a record of all the treatments that you receive, and ask your care providers for their names and contact information. This will allow you to refute any accusations that your injuries would not have been as severe if you had not neglected your own care.
  3. Locate A Lawyer– Consult a qualified Jones Act attorney as soon as possible. Ask them if you qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, and answer any questions they ask you as honestly and comprehensively as you can. If they determine that you qualify, file your claim as soon as possible according to their instructions.
  4. Consider The Costs– Keep detailed records of all the expenses that result from your injury. Make sure to obtain and store receipts for any bills that you pay out of your own pocket, as it will otherwise be difficult to prove that you paid them. Also, keep a record of indirect expenses, such as days of work you have to miss due to treatment or disability.
  5. Speak Sparingly– Try to avoid talking to your employer or their lawyers about the case when your attorney is not present. If you do have to talk to them, avoid signing anything or sharing key details of the case. The more information you give them, the greater the chance that they will find a way to counter your claim.
  6. Record The Results– Keep a daily log of all your experiences after the accident. Write down anything that may result from your injuries, including pain, mental anguish, and trouble sleeping. The more detailed your record, the easier it will be to identify subtle effects of the injury for which you deserve to be compensated.

Holding your employer accountable under the Jones Act is not just about getting compensation for yourself, though that would be reason enough. It’s also about protecting your fellow seamen. If an employer pays no price for neglecting your safety, they have no reason to show any more care in the future. Demanding compensation sends a powerful message that seamen’s rights cannot be ignored. The more that employers are held accountable for their past negligence, the more they will care for employees in the future, ensuring a safe maritime working environment.

No maritime employer should get away with putting their workers at risk. For more information about your rights under the Jones Act, contact Maintenance and Cure at {email}, call {phone}, or  visit our website today.

http://maintenanceandcure.com/jones-act-lawyers/; http://maintenanceandcure.com/maintenance-and-cure/; http://maintenanceandcure.com/contact-us/;; http://www.jonesactlaw.com/library/you-have-more-rights-after-a-boat-accident-under-maritime-law-than-your-employer-wants-you-to-know-part-a/; http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/overview-the-jones-act-seamens-injuries.html; https://www.ohiobar.org/ForPublic/Resources/LawYouCanUse/Pages/LawYouCanUse-690.aspx; http://www.saltwaterlaw.com/Maritime-Injury-Death-Claims/Crewmember-Injuries.aspx; https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/515/347/case.html; https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/46/30104; https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/515/347/case.html; http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/damages-how-much-personal-injury-32264.html; http://www.jonesactlaw.com/library/how-to-figure-out-if-you-have-a-jones-act-or-maritime-case/; http://www.maritimelawfirms.com/resources/maritime/maritime-injury-claims/jones-act-case.htm; http://www.theledger.com/news/20090410/life-of-a-merchant-marine-filled-with-work-danger; http://maintenanceandcure.com/negligence-jones-act/; http://maintenanceandcure.com/the-dangers-of-falling-moving-objects-on-ships-and-vessels/;

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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.

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If you or a loved one works as a longshoreman, you already know that such workers face risks that simply aren’t present in most other industries. From hand-lifting cargo and operating heavy machinery to working in an environment where weather hazards can be especially severe, life on the docks can hardly be considered easy. Since longshoremen operate under maritime law, it can be confusing to determine what one’s rights are after an accidental injury on the job.

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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.

Posted in General, Jones Act

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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.

Posted in General, Jones Act, News

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.

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.

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.

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 International Polar Code

Earlier this year (2017), new polar water regulations were rolled out that will affect the shipping industry and ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters. These waters pose special threats, mainly from ice and icy conditions ship operators need to take into consideration to ensure their vessels are fully compliant with the new code.

Assessing the Jones Act: The Rights Your Employer Doesn’t Want You to Know

Workplace safety is never more important than when you work at sea. From drowning to falling to slipping on the deck, maritime employees face a variety of serious threats on a daily basis, which employers are responsible for protecting them from. The Jones Act establishes your rights as a seaman, allowing you to hold accountable any employer who does not adequately protect your safety.

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Board Certified Attorneys

We are maritime injury attorneys that have recovered millions for our injured clients. We have always been a strong advocate for maritime personal injury victims and the families of those who are killed while working in service of a vessel or under the Jones Act law. Our concern is for the safety of those involved and helping their families find out the whereabouts and conditions of their loved ones.

These are some of the diverse groups of injured workers we have represented:

  • Jones Act seamen
  • Workers on oil rigs, offshore platforms and jack-up rigs
  • Crews and workers on barges, supply boats, tankers, freighters and other vessels

The list is by no means comprehensive. If you are unsure whether you qualify as a Jones Act seamen or whether you might be covered by other maritime regulations, it’s vital that you contact our maritime lawyers today to learn about your rights.

We have represented workers and their families in the following disasters:

  • Deepwater Horizon Disaster
  • M/V Jillian Morrison Explosion
  • Bouchard Transportation Co. Inc. Barge B No. 125 Explosion
  • British Petroleum Texas City Refinery Explosion
  • Phillips 66 Refinery Explosion

The team of Jones Act attorneys and maritime lawyers at SMSH have over 100 years of combined trial experience. Contact our Jones Act lawyers today for a free, confidential case evaluation.

Why Hire the Worldwide Jones Act, Offshore & Maritime Injury Lawyers at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris?

The Jones Act and maritime injury lawyers at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris have spent more than five decades representing seamen, longshoremen and other maritime workers, and recovered millions of dollars for our clients. SMSH has always been a strong advocate for maritime personal injury victims and the families of those who are killed while working in service of a vessel. Our concern is for the safety of those involved and helping their families find out the whereabouts and conditions of their loved ones, as well as recovering the compensation they are entitled to for injuries, medical bills and other damages.

Here are some of the reasons why thousands of injured maritime workers have chosen Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris to represent their interests:

  • We have recovered over $620 million dollars for offshore and maritime workers, including recovery of $17.5 million in the largest Jones Act settlement ever paid by the United States government.
  • Each of our Jones Act attorneys and maritime injury lawyers has more than 25 years of experience, with total of more than 100 years of trial experience for the team.
  • Our maritime injury lawyers have represented clients in some of the nation’s worst maritime and refinery disasters, including: the Deepwater Horizon explosion; the M/V Jillian Morrison explosion; the Bouchard Transportation Co. Inc. Barge B No. 125 explosion; the British Petroleum Texas City Refinery explosion; and the Phillips 66 Refinery explosion.
  • As dedicated maritime injury and Jones Act attorneys, we understand the financial difficulties that families often face when a loved one is injured and unable to work. Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris offers interest free loans to assist our clients with day-to-day living expenses while waiting for the conclusion of their case.
  • Our attorneys provide assistance to maritime, offshore and port workers across the United States.
  • We have board certified Personal Injury Trial lawyers.
 

The Maritime Attorney Difference

Maritime and offshore accidents fall under a different set of laws than other personal injury or workers’ compensation claims. There are specific maritime laws that govern claims, including the Jones Act, the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and general maritime laws. To receive the full protections these laws offer, it’s crucial to have an attorney who understands the complexities of each. If you’ve been injured while working on a vessel, offshore or in one of the nation’s many ports, contact the Jones Act attorneys at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris today for a free consultation.
Our experienced offshore injury lawyers have handled cases throughout the Gulf of Mexico coastal region of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, and represented clients from all 50 states of the United States. We have years of experience representing the crew working on inland waters such as the Mississippi River, Ohio River, Kentucky River, the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and many more. We have also handled cases worldwide in countries as far away as the Ukraine and Israel. We routinely represent clients from the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. We have also made claims for clients from Columbia, Venezuela, Bangladesh, The Philippines, Romania, Croatia, England, Ireland, Spain, The Netherlands, Russia, China, Mexico, and Brazil.

Time is of the Essence

If you or a member of your family has been seriously injured or killed as the result of an offshore accident, please speak to a qualified maritime lawyer before talking to your employer or any insurance company or adjuster. If you work on a vessel, boat, barge, tanker, fishing boat, an offshore drilling rig or platform, or any other kind of ship, you may qualify for Jones Act compensation. Working in, on, or near water means you need the specially-trained legal assistance of the Board Certified maritime lawyers of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P.

A few small tidbits of advice for the injured offshore worker:

  1. Fill out an accident report or incident paperwork as soon as possible after your injury.
  2. If your employer gives you any paperwork to sign, have it reviewed by a competent maritime lawyer so you don’t waive your rights to more money.
  3. Do not give a recorded statement to anyone without first seeking legal counsel.
  4. Do not accept the word of a company doctor as to the extent of your injuries, seek out your own doctor for a second-opinion.
We are Worldwide Jones Act attorneys and Maritime lawyers with over 100 years combined experience in Maritime Personal Injury Cases and we have handled thousands of cases. Your initial consultation for your maritime accident case is FREE. You pay us nothing unless we win your case and get you money. Call a maritime lawyer NOW at 1-800-836-5830 or e-mail us at info@smslegal.com.

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