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.
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.
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.
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.
Compensation Benefits Under Maritime Laws
When a worker is injured on the job, typically there are specialized benefits available to assist them: employer-provided worker’s compensation, disability, etc. Naturally, these benefits fall under the jurisdiction of the usual state and federal laws.
What happens, however, when an individual is injured while working on open water? In this article, we’ll discuss the concept of maritime law; the types of compensation benefits it can provide to seamen, longshoremen, and other maritime employees; and the benefits of retaining a local maritime attorney.
What Is Maritime Law?
In general, maritime law is the body of legal rules and regulations governing the activities that occur at sea. Activities that may be covered under maritime law include shipping of cargo, transport of passengers, fishing, and more. In the United States, federal maritime law allows maritime workers/seamen to file suits and claims for compensation should they be injured on the job while performing maritime work duties.
Also sometimes called “admiralty law,” maritime law is an entirely separate legal jurisdiction from the usual federal body of law. Because it technically operates outside of national law, the maritime laws of all member states are held to the standards of the International Maritime Organization (171 members in all). The United States, of course, is one of these member states.
This international set of rules ensures the maintenance and regulation of appropriate and fair maritime laws worldwide. Ships must also carry appropriate IMO certification aboard at all times, and local governments are expected to enforce the relevant standards at all times.
Compensation Benefits Under Maritime Law: an Overview
Because maritime law was written specifically to address the legal rights of deckhands, fishermen, seamen, and others working on the water, the rules had to be carefully crafted to meet the varied, sometimes unusual, needs of this unique workforce.
Maritime injuries can occur in situations that an employee would never experience on land, like being made to work on an unseaworthy vessel. As such, the umbrella of maritime law contains a variety of other laws, acts, and regulations that seek to protect the rights of those laboring every day on navigable waters.
There are a variety of areas of U.S. maritime law, including Maintenance and Cure, The Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), the Death on High Seas Act (DOHSA), and Passenger Personal Injury. The types of damages an injured worker can rightfully claim vary based on under which portion of the law a given incident falls.
The following are examples demonstrating which types of incidents might fall under which sections of maritime law:
• Maintenance and Cure
Nearly any kind of injury at sea—regardless of cause or fault—entitles a worker to compensation benefits under Maintenance and Cure. This section of maritime law is so-named because it relates to maintaining daily expenses and paying for any medical expenses needed to treat the related injury.
Examples of covered expenses under Maintenance and Cure include rent/mortgage payments, utility bills, taxes, food, hospital stays, doctor appointments, relevant medications, physical therapy, medical equipment, etc. This compensation will continue to be paid to an injured worker until such time as his or her doctor determines that it is safe to return to work.
• The Jones Act
This particular act exists to protect maritime workers who have specifically been injured as a result of negligence (generally on the part of another worker or the employer). Because this law hinges on employer liability, the injured party does have the burden of proof and must provide evidence that their injury happened at work and is the result of someone else’s negligence.
Fortunately for the injured individual, the burden of proof for negligence is generally easier to meet under maritime law than it might be in another kind of personal injury case. The Jones Act requires only that the employee is able to show that employer negligence was involved in some way in his or her injury (e.g., improper equipment maintenance, poorly cleaned decks, improper training, overworking, etc.).
• The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
By comparison to other areas of maritime law which deal only with those working on open water, the LHWCA covers all maritime workers working on or around navigable waters. This includes longshoremen, mechanics, and harbor workers who deal with vessels at the shore but may not work directly on the water.
The LHWCA stipulates that an injured worker may receive 66 2/3 percent of normal wages while they heal, and may be compensated further for especially serious injuries and/or disabilities (e.g., loss of limbs, paralysis, etc.). Should a maritime worker be killed on the job, the act states that his or her surviving spouse is entitled to 50% of average pay.
• The Death on High Seas Act (DOHSA)
As its name implies, DOHSA compensates the families of those who are killed on the job when working more than three miles from a U.S. shoreline (considered “high seas” for legal purposes). Claims for benefits under the Death on High Seas Act may only be filed by a spouse, child, or dependent (or a legal representative of any of these).
Compensation under DOHSA is calculated on a case-by-case basis, and generally includes the amount of income the individual would have provided to his or her family, as well as some consideration for the care that any dependent children will no longer receive from their deceased parent. Surviving family members who are entitled to compensation under this act have three years from the date of the individual’s death to file a claim for these benefits.
Of course, employee injury is not the only type of case that can be covered under maritime law; issues of property damage and passenger injury (such as on a cruise ship) can also fall under this special legal jurisdiction.
Under U.S. law, the majority of personal injury, collision, cargo damage, and other maritime cases can be brought in either state or federal court. However, cases involving shipowner liability, property/vessel arrests, salvage, and other property possession issues can typically only be brought in a federal court.
Trust an Expert Local Maritime Lawyer to Help You Seek Compensation as a Maritime Worker
If you or a loved one have been injured while working at sea or on the docks, you may be entitled to compensation benefits under maritime law. At Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., our local maritime lawyers devote their legal expertise to helping injured maritime employees seek the damages they deserve. Leveraging decades of combined experience working in maritime law, we’ve helped clients just like you recover hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages as a result of maritime injuries.
To learn more about maritime law and how our local maritime attorneys can help you claim the benefits you deserve, contact us online or call us 24/7 at (888) 297-4553. We’ll help you set up a free, confidential case evaluation with one of our experienced Maintenance and Cure attorneys to discuss your situation and needs.
Can Longshoremen Claim Psychological Injuries?
Longshoremen provide valuable services by ensuring goods are transported into and out of our nation’s ports. Working on the docks and around vessels has its own risks for accidents and personal injuries. There are several different types of moving equipment, such as forklifts, cranes, and trucks.
Common causes of port injuries and accidents could include:
- Falls from great heights or into the water.
- Being run over by a truck, forklift, or another moving vehicle.
- Having cargo, containers, or other objects accidentally dropped onto a person.
- Slips and trips on uneven pavement, cables, ropes, or a wet and oily surface.
- Exposure to hazardous materials and chemicals.
- Improperly functioning or maintained equipment.
When an accident does occur, longshoremen are protected under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA). This Act provides specific provisions above and beyond normal state worker’s compensation claims.
While we typically associate personal injuries to those that do actual physical harm, like broken bones, sprains, strains, cuts, deep wounds, or death, we often do not consider the psychologic impacts and injures a person could also sustain. In some cases, a longshoreman could experience psychological injuries even if they are not physically injured.
Two of the more common types of psychological injuries a longshoreman may experience are post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or mental anguish. PTSD can occur in workers that see or experience a horrific accident, like seeing a co-worker fall from an elevated height to their death. Mental anguish is when an injured worker is having difficulties dealing with their injuries since they can no longer work and provide for their family.
Fortunately, The LHWCA is written in such a manner to provide compensation for any type of injury, whether physical or psychological. However, most employers will challenge claims filed for psychological reasons unless the worker was also physically injured at the same time or was placed in imminent danger of harm.
This is why, if you are injured, physically or psychologically, it is in your best interests to consult with a local maritime lawyer, like those here at Maintenance and Cure. Call us at 1-800-836-5830 now to find out your legal rights!
10 Facts About Oil Rig Accidents That Will Give You Goosebumps
Working offshore on oil rigs and platforms presents increased risks for workplace injuries and even deaths. As the oil industry continues to expand its drilling operations and hire new employees, so, too, do the risks for accidents increase.
Workplace accidents can take on many different forms, such as fires, explosions, drilling equipment problems, and so on. The types of accidents workers experience can range from minor cuts, scrapes, and bruises to more serious life-crippling injuries and death.
We invite you to read and review the following infographic to discover 10 facts about oil rig accidents, along with some hard facts and numbers that will surprise you.
Afterward, if you or a loved one has been injured while in the service on an oil rig, platform, or vessel, please feel free to contact Maintenance and Cure directly to learn more about your legal rights and what options you have available under maritime law.
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Compensation Benefits: Vocational Rehabilitation Services
What are maritime injuries? A maritime employee is defined as any individual who works either on the water (a seaman, such as a ship’s captain or crew member) or along the water on the docks. When a seaman or harbor worker is injured on the job, it is considered a maritime injury.
Compensation Benefits for Maritime Employees
Unlike other industries where injured workers can simply file for benefits through their employer’s worker’s compensation insurance, benefits given to maritime employees are governed by federal maritime laws, including the Jones Act, Maintenance and Cure, and the Longshore Act.¹
Under the Jones Act, a seaman who was injured due to employer negligence can sue for appropriate damages.¹ Maintenance and Cure allows injured seamen to receive a daily allowance as well as compensation for medical bills. This compensation continues until such time that the worker is able to return to work.²
The Longshore Act applies to those maritime workers who are not seamen and do not work on the water. Benefits can include payments for disability and/or medical bills. If he or she is unable to return to work, the disabled worker is also offered vocational rehabilitation benefits. ³
Vocational Rehabilitation Services
When a maritime worker is injured significantly—particularly when one is rendered disabled for quite some time—he or she may require specialized vocational rehabilitation services to return to work. These services can include medical treatment, physical therapy, counseling, and even the provision of a personal assistant to help the worker perform daily tasks during the rehabilitation period.4
Seek the Help of a Professional Maritime Accident Lawyer from Maintenance and Cure
Whether you need vocational rehabilitation due to temporary disability or would like to seek damages for an accident caused by an unsafe workplace, it’s important to have the support and guidance of an experienced maritime lawyer.
At Maintenance and Cure, we strive to help all of our clients get the compensation benefits they deserve so that they can recover fully without struggling financially. To learn more about how we can help you with your personal maritime injury case, contact us online or call us today at 1-800-836-5830.
The 1920 Merchant Marine Act and Injured Workers
In 1920 Congress passed the Merchant Marine Act. This act has become to be known today as the Jones Act. The act contains federal laws which govern the maritime industry, including work-related injuries for those in the service of a vessel.
Unlike normal worker’s compensation and protections, negligent accident compensation under the Jones Act is typically higher and offers other added benefits for injured seamen. In addition, the statute of limitations to file a claim at either the state or federal level is three years.
Seamen have several rights under the Jones Act. It is to your benefit to be aware of these rights and what you should do in the event you are injured while in the service of a vessel. To learn more about seamen’s rights, employer responsibilities, and types of vessels the Jones Act covers, please continue reviewing the following infographic.
If you have or a loved one has been injured while in the service of a vessel, contact the maritime and Jones Act lawyers at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. for legal advice.
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What Is the Maritime Administration (MARAD)?
It’s certainly not a radical statement to say that the maritime sector in the United States plays an essential role in the maintenance of the nation’s economy and its military force. Corporations rely on the maritime transportation system to deliver goods safely and efficiently across the country and to foreign lands. In addition, the merchant marine serves the dual role of promoting maritime commerce and providing auxiliary support to national defense and emergency response efforts.
Given the centrality of the maritime sector, it makes sense that its various activities and responsibilities would be coordinated by a federal agency. This is where the Maritime Administration (MARAD) comes into the picture.
MARAD is one of the agencies controlled by the U.S. Department of Transportation (others include the Federal Aviation Administration and the Federal Highway Administration), and throughout its history, it has proven to be highly effective in overseeing the waterborne transportation sector. For maritime employees, understanding what MARAD does is important, as this organization touches on a wide range of matters relevant to this industry.
A Brief History of the Maritime Administration
The United States Maritime Administration was formed in 1950 in order to take over many of the regulatory responsibilities that had been handled by the recently dissolved United States Maritime Commission, which had been founded in 1936.
In 1961, MARAD expanded its scope of duties by assuming control of subsidization of the construction of merchant ships, a task that had previously been managed by the United States Federal Maritime Board (1950-1961). MARAD became an official administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in 1981, and it has remained under the oversight of this federal cabinet department ever since.
The Maritime Administrator
The head of MARAD is known as the Maritime Administrator. The occupant of this office reports to the Secretary of Transportation and advises them on matters pertaining to the U.S. maritime industry. Additionally, the Maritime Administrator serves as Commandant of the United States Maritime Service, the Chairperson of the Maritime Subsidy Board, and Director of the National Shipping Authority.
At the present time, the position of Maritime Administrator is held by Rear Admiral Mark H. “Buz” Buzby, USN, Ret., formerly president of the National Defense Transportation Association, who was officially sworn in on August 8, 2017.
The Role(s) of the Maritime Administration
In 2017, MARAD commanded an operating budget of $399 million and employed more than 750 personnel, who were spread among MARAD headquarters, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and various fleet sites and gateway offices.1 These dedicated professionals are involved with supporting and managing many different facets of the maritime sector in America.
Let’s explore the some of the activities in which MARAD is engaged as part of its mission to promote the U.S. waterborne transportation sector.
- Cargo Regulation – MARAD has the task of overseeing the transportation of the nation’s military and agricultural cargo in accordance with all applicable laws and statutes. Among these laws are the Cargo Preference Act of 1954, which mandates that at least 50% of cargo generated by the government be carried on privately owned commercial vessels that fly the U.S. flag, and the Military Cargo Preference Act of 1904, which requires all water-transported items intended for military use to be carried by vessels that fly the U.S. flag. To address the need for the ready availability of U.S.-flag, Jones Act-qualified ships, MARAD routinely assists public entities in their efforts to locate such vessels.
- The Office of Maritime Security – Another MARAD department, the Office of Maritime Security is involved with various efforts to protect the maritime industry from pirates, terrorists, and other criminal threats. MARAD has aided the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Coast Guard in their attempts to combat piracy on the high seas in line with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Furthermore, the Office is involved with efforts to enforce the National Maritime Domain Awareness Plan (2013), intended to bolster maritime security on the global level, and provides support to the DHS in allocating port security grants to entities at the local and state levels.
- Office of Safety – This MARAD department is involved with developing safety standards for the national and international maritime industry, as well as promoting advances in practices and technology to protect the welfare of maritime personnel.
- Port Conveyance and Port Licensing Programs – MARAD helps federal agencies and departments comply with the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, which compels such entities to transfer unneeded property to other agencies that need it. Since the 90s, the Administration has also had the authority to convey this property to state and local governments for the development of port facilities. In addition, MARAD licenses offshore liquefied natural gas and oil import/export port facilities in accordance with the Deepwater Port Act of 1974.
- National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) – MARAD manages this small fleet of inactive ships for the purpose of providing auxiliary support, as needed, for national emergency response efforts. As of July 31, 2014, the NDRF consisted of 114 ships.2
- Ready Reserve Force (RRF) – Since 1976, MARAD’s Ready Reserve Force has served a backup support for the U.S. armed forces, especially the Army and Marine Corps. The RRF has been involved in Operation Desert Storm and the Hurricane Katrina response effort.
- Ship Disposal and Dismantling – MARAD runs a Ship Disposal Program to enable the agency to safely dispose of old vessels that are no longer adequate for national security purposes. The agencies achieve this goal through sales to domestic ship recyclers, participation in the U.S. Navy’s SINKEX “live fire” training exercises, and providing vessels for use as artificial offshore reefs.
- Federal Ship Financing Program (Title XI) – The agency takes part in Title XI financing, which is intended to bolster the U.S. merchant marine by funding the construction (or reconstruction) of vessels in compliance with environmentally friendly policies. The Program gives ship owners the opportunity to purchase vessels at affordable rates (low interest and long repayment terms) from U.S. shipyards. It also provides financial support to shipyards seeking to modernize their facilities.
- The United States Merchant Marine Academy – MARAD is responsible for administrating the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), in Kings Point, NY. This is one of the five military academies charged with the task of producing commissioned officers for the various armed forces. Graduates of the Academy go on to serve in the merchant marine or in the U.S. military. MARAD also provides funding to California Maritime Academy, Great Lakes Maritime Academy, Maine Maritime Academy, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, the State University of New York Maritime College, and Texas A&M Maritime Academy.
- The MARAD History Program – The Maritime Administration is also involved in preserving its own history, as well as that of the U.S. maritime industry as a whole. To that end, it operates the American Merchant Marine Museum and, through the Maritime Administration Artifact Loan Program, lends valuable historical artifacts to non-profit organizations and other public museums. It also maintains the MARAD Vessel History Database, which has data on over 12,000 vessels, past and present.
Given its role in enforcing the provisions of the Jones Act, battling piracy on the high seas, and promoting safety in shipbuilding and maritime employment conditions, the Maritime Administration is a name that sometimes arises in connection with offshore personal injury cases.
If you have or a loved one has been seriously injured while performing duties as a maritime or offshore employee, you should contact the maritime law firm Maintenance & Cure at 1-800-836-5830. A free consultation is available.
Protecting Your Rights Under the Jones Act
In 1920, the U.S. Congress passed the Merchant Act of 1920. This act has come to be known as the Jones Act. It contains specific provisions which outline specific requirements for those businesses operating in maritime industries. It also provides protections for employees in the event of negligence by their employer, fellow employees, captains, or other crew members resulting in accidents causing personal injuries.
The United States Supreme Court established the qualifications to determine whether an employee is considered protected under the Jones Act in the case of Chandris, Inc., v. Latis, 515 U.S. 347, 115 S. Ct. 2172 (1995).1 To qualify for seamen’s rights under the Jones Act, the employee must be in the service of a vessel in navigation for more than thirty percent of his or her time.
This provision extends to oil rig workers, dock workers, and others, as allowed under the act. One of our Jones Act lawyers can help you determine whether you meet the qualifications to be considered a protected seaman under the Jones Act. If not, there may be other maritime laws or acts for which you could be entitled to for filing a claim against your employer in the event of an accident where you sustained personal injuries while in the service of a vessel or on the job.
What Rights Does the Jones Act Provide Seamen?
There are numerous risks and potential dangers seamen face every day. The Jones Act relates to specific working conditions, negligence caused by employers, ships’ captains, other crew members, and other such aspects of working in maritime industries. One of the key factors is the seaworthiness of the vessel.
Specifically, is the vessel in proper working order, is it correctly maintained, and does it provide a safe working environment for employees? If the vessel is deemed unseaworthy, for one or more reasons, seamen could have grounds to file for damages allowed under the Jones Act if they are injured while in the service of the vessel.
Employers have a responsibility to maintain safe working conditions at all times, which include:
- Properly maintaining the vessel for safe operations.
- Providing proper training for employees on specific job duties.
- Ensuring there is the correct number of employees available to complete tasks.
- Training employees how to correctly and safely use equipment, tools, and other such materials related to their jobs.
- Providing access to personal protection equipment (PPE), such as hard hats, work gloves, and other attire, as required for certain types of job functions.
- Verifying all equipment, machines, and tools used to complete tasks are functioning and operating correctly.
How Do Seamen Risk Their Jones Act Rights?
After being injured while in the service of a vessel, typically, the ship’s onboard doctor will provide an evaluation and emergency treatment. If the injuries are more serious, then efforts are made to transport the injured worker back to land for proper medical care and treatment.
It is not uncommon for the seaman’s employer to request the worker seek care and treatment through a company-approved doctor or health care provider. The company’s doctor may tell the worker his or her injuries are not as severe as they think. They may also release the seaman back to work sooner than the time they need to recover from the injury.
In addition, an injured worker may be contacted directly by the employer’s insurance company and offered a settlement, depending on the extent of injuries and recovery time needed. Many seamen risk their Jones Act rights because their employer, company doctor, and company insurance provider make it sound like they are working in the employee’s best interests when, in fact, this is not always the case.
The goal of any insurance company, whether it is to settle a conventional personal injury claim or a maritime claim covered under the Jones Act, is to get the person to settle for the least amount possible.
The amount being offered may not even cover future medical costs should additional treatments for the injury be required later. Seamen who sign off on accepting whatever settlement is offered, and who return to work once released, are essentially giving up their Jones Act rights.
Steps to Follow to Protect Your Jones Act Claim’s Rights
If you are insured while in the service of a vessel, it is important to report the accident and injury immediately. Even if a worker sustains minor injuries, they should seek medical care with the onboard or company doctor, as well as verify an accident/injury incident report is completed.
Next, as soon as possible, contact our Jones Act law firm. You have the legal right to consult with a maritime lawyer to determine whether your employer, their insurance company, and the company doctor are, indeed, serving your best interests.
If any individual representing the interests of your employer informs you there is no need for you to consult with your own lawyer, this should be a big “red flag” and warning that you probably should discuss your case with your own lawyer.
Your lawyer will review the cause of the accident, the extent of your injuries, what type of medical treatment and care are being offered by your employer, and other such aspects. They will provide you with sound legal advice, educate you about what rights you have, and lend their knowledge so you can make informed decisions on how you want to proceed.
What if I Were Partially at Fault for Causing the Accident?
Unlike conventional personal injury claims, where one party must be entirely at fault, with Jones Act claims the law works differently. You can file a claim even if you were considered partially at fault for causing the accident resulting in personal injuries to yourself.
The Jones Act treats all seamen equally and does not distinguish between deck hands, crew members, captains, and others. Furthermore, simply demonstrating partial negligence on the part of another seaman could be sufficient grounds for filing a claim, without having to prove negligence against your employer.
How Are Seamen Compensated for Injuries?
The Jones Act has a provision that refers to Maintenance and Cure. Maintenance is the compensation given to the injured party to cover their basic living expenses and lost wages. Cure is the compensation given for medical care and treatment until the seaman is released back to work.
Some employers and their insurance companies will use stall tactics to delay making payments to injured parties. If your employer does this, then it could create a situation where you could also be entitled to file for punitive damages against them with help from our maritime lawyers.
In cases where the vessel you were in the service of is deemed to be unseaworthy, there could be other types of compensation you could seek, such as pain and suffering. This is why it is best to talk to a lawyer at our Jones Act law firm.
What if My Spouse Died While in the Service of a Vessel?
Surviving spouses of seamen who died while in the service of a vessel due to personal injuries from an accident could have grounds for filing a wrongful death claim against the employer through the Jones Act. The amount of compensation sought in these types of cases depends on several factors and can be rather complex.
If your loved one died and his or her employer or the employer’s insurance company contacts you directly to make a settlement offer, do not agree to it until you consult with your own lawyer. Potentially, you could be entitled to receive a higher amount of compensation than what they are currently offering.
In summary, as a seaman working in the maritime industry, you have certain legal rights and protections provided by Jones Act Law. In order to preserve your rights, you need to refrain from signing any documents or accepting any settlement offer until after you have sought your own legal advice from Maintenance and Cure. Call us at 1-800-836-5830 to speak with a maritime lawyer now!
Is Maritime Piracy Still a Thing?
For centuries, pirates have been a cultural institution of sorts, glamorized in classic literature (Treasure Island), the cinema (the Pirates of the Caribbean movies), and various other productions of Western society.
The origins of piracy reach back literally thousands of years, yet the iconic image of the pirate—complete with eye patch and heavy jewelry—stems from the classic period of piracy, roughly the 17th to 19th centuries, when these hardy adventurers wreaked havoc along the Persian Gulf and the Caribbean.
It took a concerted effort from European powers, including legislation such as the General Maritime Treaty of 1820, to put an effective end to pirate activity, at least as it was understood at the time.
Pirates did not go away for good, however. In fact, they constitute a serious threat that plagues the contemporary maritime industry, resistant to coordinated attempts to eliminate them. It’s not difficult to understand the persistence of this sort of criminal activity.
Piracy, like all crimes motivated by a desire for financial gain, is always a possibility wherever valuable goods can be seized. This is certainly true on the high seas, where substantial revenue is there for the taking in the form of cargo and even hostages.
Maritime piracy is far from an insignificant phenomenon in the modern era, and its reach is more widespread than most people suspect. Let’s take a closer look at this problem.
Where Piracy Happens
Piracy in the modern era is not restricted to any geographic region. In fact, the locus of piracy continues to shift as economic conditions and anti-piracy activities make their influence felt.
Somalia – For many casual observers, modern piracy is strongly associated with this beleaguered African country—and for good reason. In 2009 alone, there were no fewer than 51 incidents off the coast of Somalia.1 This made Somalia virtually synonymous with piracy, but it has to be said that this isn’t an altogether fair assessment.
In recent years, the incidence of Somali piracy has dropped precipitously, to the point where this country no longer holds the distinction of being the world’s hotspot for this type of criminal activity. Even so, Somali piracy is still a phenomenon that must be contended with.
Indonesia – The world’s largest island country, Indonesia is an archipelago in Southeast Asia that encompasses over 17,000 islands. It is also notorious for a very high rate of pirate activity, much of which occurs in the Strait of Malacca (pictured below), an extremely busy shipping route used to transport a vast amount of merchandise from Japan and China.
All that valuable cargo passing through the strait has proven to be an irresistible target for pirates. The year 2003 saw a staggering 121 hijackings of commercial vessels in this region—over 20 percent of the global total.2 Since then, piracy has declined dramatically, but it remains a major problem in Indonesian waters.
Bangladesh – Widespread poverty and an understaffed national coast guard have left the nation of Bangladesh vulnerable to pirates, who have eagerly exploited local conditions for their own profit. Piracy attacks, mostly dealing with kidnapping fishermen for ransom, has taken its toll on the national economy, which is heavily dependent on its fishing industry.
The good news is that Bangladesh has taken steps in recent years to quell this problem. Its participation in the U.S.-led Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises is considered largely responsible for reducing—though not eliminating—the threat of piracy in the Bay of Bengal.3
Nigeria – In West Africa, over seventy percent of all maritime piracy can be traced to Nigeria.4 The Gulf of Guinea is the local playground for regional pirates, whose activities are mainly devoted to capturing valuable cargo, often oil, rather than taking hostages.
These are not the only areas where piracy happens—Peru and the Ivory Coast have also encountered pirates, to name a few other examples—but they are the primary locales. As we shall soon see, maritime piracy is more than just a nuisance—it’s a wide-ranging social problem that gobbles up huge amounts of resources.
Why Piracy Is Harmful
Piracy causes major harm to society. The organization Oceans Beyond Piracy calculated the global cost of piracy for the year 2011 at $6.6 to $6.9 billion.5 The damage wrought by piracy takes a variety of forms, including but not limited to the following:
Fatalities – Many pirates operate by taking hostages and holding them for ransom. It’s a tactic that has proven quite profitable—but it can also lead to tragedy. Some encounters between commercial vessels and pirates devolve into violence. In Southeast Asia, 136 people were killed at the hands of pirates over the years 1995 to 2013.6 A far greater number of innocents have suffered serious injury during pirate attacks.
Costlier Shipping Practices – One tactic for keeping away from pirates is to ship materials at very fast speeds across the water. That’s what a lot of shipping companies have resorted to in an effort to reduce the risk of encountering unfriendly ships.
Unfortunately, this practice substantially increases the expenses involved in maritime transportation. Another tactic that shipping vessels sometimes use is to follow an indirect route to their destination—which, of course, takes longer and costs more money.
Increased Insurance Rates – The likelihood of stolen cargo means that shipping valuable goods is more risky than it would be under normal conditions. This also means that insurance rates must be raised to compensate for the increased risk.
Higher Security Expenses – There was a time when it was considered unnecessary for shipping vessels to employ armed guards and utilize anti-piracy equipment. That time is in the past, however. The price of maintaining adequate security is another expense that shipping companies must bear.
Damage to Local Economies – As we have mentioned, piracy in Bangladesh has caused serious injury to the nation’s fishing sector—and this is only one example of a country-wide economic devastation that can be attributed to these maritime interlopers.
Drain on Limited Military Resources – Many impoverished nations struggle to mobilize the kind of military response needed to discourage piracy.
There are a variety of laws on the national and international level aimed at prosecuting pirates and reducing the incidence of these types of crimes.
The State of Piracy Law
Piracy that takes place within the territorial waters of a nation can be prosecuted by that nation. In the U.S., the crime of maritime piracy falls under 18 U.S.C. § 1651, which states, “Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life.”
However, what happens when piracy occurs out on international waters? In this case, international law takes over—specifically, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This international agreement stipulates that “all States shall cooperate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State.”
In practice, there has been some confusion as to which country should take on the responsibility of prosecuting pirates captured out on the high seas. When the United States has assumed this role, it has often imposed very harsh penalties, in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 1651.
If you or a loved one has been injured during the commission of a pirate attack, it is important to understand that there is legal recourse available. Under the Jones Act, victims of pirate assaults may be entitled to substantial compensation. Contact Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., for a free consultation.
Death On the High Seas Act: What Are Your Rights?
When someone dies due to the negligence or misconduct of another, it’s called wrongful death. Their families have the right, under various state laws, to sue the responsible party. The same is true for those who die at sea, only their case comes under the purview of maritime law, specifically, the Death On the High Seas Act (DOHSA).
The Death On the High Seas Act
The Death on the High Seas Act (46 USC 761) has been around since 1920 when Congress decided to make provisions for the families of seamen who had been killed in international waters. Legislators have since expanded and amended the law, but the premise remains the same.
When a commercial maritime worker dies at least three nautical miles from U.S. shorelines, DOSHA permits dependents to recover damages. (A dependent is anyone who relies on the deceased for financial support—a spouse, children, siblings, parents, etc.)
Over the years, the law has come to include commercial aircraft accidents that take place over international waters at least 12 nautical miles from shore.
It’s important to note that DOSHA applies only to workers killed on commercial vessels—it does not cover those who work aboard non-commercial or privately owned ships. It also does not cover maritime injuries, which come under the aegis of the Jones Act.
What the Law Does and Does Not Cover
Under the Death On the High Seas Act, dependents are allowed to recover damages for such things as:
• Loss of financial support
• Funeral expenses
• Counseling expenses
• Other pecuniary (financial) losses
Since DOSHA preempts state law, however, families of victims cannot file claims through traditional wrongful death statutes. Historically, that has prevented dependents from recovering damages related to non-pecuniary losses (e.g., mental anguish, loss of companionship, loss of emotional support).
In addition, a maritime accident attorney must be able to show that the death was the result of another party’s negligence, whether that is the ship’s owner or a fellow worker. Negligence may occur when:
• An employer fails to equip the ship with the necessary safety gear.
• Employers or owners fail to maintain the seaworthiness of the vessel.
• An employer or manager fails to maintain or repair safety gear.
• An employer forces a seaman to work in unhealthy or hazardous conditions.
• A co-worker engages in risky behavior or fails to carry out duties.
The Death On the High Seas Act Statute of Limitations
Like all maritime injury cases, DOSHA comes with a statute of limitations—a deadline of three years. That means family members must file a claim within three years of the accident if they hope to receive compensation.
Given the narrow window of opportunity, it’s crucial for dependents to seek the help of a dedicated maritime law firm immediately after losing a loved one. At Maintenance and Cure, we work hard to secure justice on behalf of our clients. Contact us as soon as possible to speak with a skilled maritime accident attorney.