You are not required to give a statement to the insurance adjuster​ after a car accident. Here’s why.

recorded statements

The other driver’s insurance company will call and want to pressure you into giving a recorded statement. The insurance company may even tell you that, by law, you have to give a recorded statement. That is FALSE! You are under no obligation to give a recorded statement to the other driver’s insurance company. Many times, the insurance company will try to convince you that you are somehow required to give a “recorded statement.” This is simply not true. In fact, it may be a terrible idea to give a statement to the insurance company:

  • First, insurance companies hire seasoned professionals who may try to trick you into saying something that will hurt your case.
  • Second, after a serious injury or wrongful death, you may not be in a position to give an accurate and complete statement.
  • Third, anything you say to the adjuster may be twisted and used against you after your injury.

Insurance adjusters are highly skilled at manipulating you into making statements that can hurt your claim down the road. Your statement is “recorded” for this very reason—they want to use it against you if you pursue your claim.

So, if you think they want your “statement” just to get information so they can pay you on your claim, try this approach: tell the adjuster you are willing to give a “statement,” but you don’t want it to be “recorded.” See how the adjuster reacts. If the adjuster wants your statement just to get information from you, why would they need it to be recorded? Can’t they just take notes of what you say? Before giving any kind of statement to the insurance company, seriously consider getting your own independent legal advice.

What Is the Insurance Company Expecting to Gain From Getting a Recorded Statement?

The other driver’s insurance company is looking out for its own interests and is not looking out for what is best for you. Insurance companies know that, immediately after an accident, most people have not hired an attorney yet. Your recorded answers could be used to severely limit how much money the insurance company pays you. What are they expecting in a recorded statement? They are hoping that:

  • You will say something that can later be used against you. Getting a statement on record before you understand your rights allows the insurance adjuster to potentially twist your words into something you did not mean, which will be used against you at a later time.
  • They will keep you from “changing the story” later on. By getting a statement while you are still reeling from accident, or before you know the full extent of your injuries, the insurance company can argue against anything that comes up later. For example, if you didn’t know you’d injured your back in an accident until a few days or weeks later, the insurance adjuster could argue that you didn’t mention back injuries in your earlier recorded statement.

Insurance companies have become increasingly aggressive in demanding recorded statements from accident victims, even when those statements are not legally required. While we often tell clients to avoid giving a recorded statement, we understand that it can be hard to avoid—especially if the adjuster from the other driver’s insurance is getting pushy about the issue. Sometimes, it’s just hard to say “no” to the person who stands between you and payment of your medical bills.

Just remember that the insurance adjusters are professionals at this sort of thing and have extensive training in taking statements from injured people. This is why it is important to always speak with an attorney before giving a recorded statement.

ArcelorMittal steel mill explosion sends one to hospital with serious burns

steel mill explosion workplace injuries

On Monday, November 5, 2018, an explosion at a midwestern steel mill rocked an Indiana town and left a steel mill employee seriously injured. The explosion at ArcelorMittal steel mill sparked a fire that sent smoke billowing from an industrial complex along Lake Michigan, about 10 miles southeast of Chicago.

The injured employee suffered serious burns from the blast and was taken by ambulance to an East Chicago hospital for treatment. The fire was controlled within two hours by local East Chicago firefighters and the company’s in-house fire department.

Recently, the company has faced backlash regarding the safety of its facilities. In July of 2018, they were fined $21,000.00 after a worker’s death. Just this past October, the company had a fire break out on a conveyor belt line at their Cleveland, Ohio plant.

Explosions and fires in the workplace

Explosions at chemical plants, oil platforms and other similar facilities are fairly common. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, fires and explosions have claimed lives in three percent of fatal work accidents.

It is extremely important that victims of these types of accidents consult with an experienced workplace accident attorney as soon as possible. Large corporations have teams of experts on their side to ensure they avoid compensating you for your injuries. We have over a decade of experience going head to head with these companies, and winning. Take a look at how we helped Gary and 42 other plant workers get their lives back after being injured in a plant explosion.

If you or a loved one were hurt in an explosion or fire at work, time is not on your side. Give us a call at 877-724-7800 or fill out a free, confidential case evaluation form today.

When should you contact an attorney after a car accident?​

car accident attorney

If you have been involved in a car accident, you may be wondering if you need to contact an auto accident attorney. The decision to seek legal advice after a car crash depends on the details of the accident. For example, if you or any of your family members were injured during the accident, then you should seek the assistance of an experienced car accident lawyer, especially if there were permanent injuries or a significant amount of time spent away from work.

Insurance companies can be difficult to work with and it is not uncommon for a low settlement to be offered, even if there were serious injuries. Auto accident lawyers are used to working with insurance companies and can usually negotiate a better settlement than if you were to try to handle it yourself. Insurance adjusters are given a certain settlement range and they will generally start out at the low end of that range. An attorney will be able to place a value on your claim, which will help you get the compensation you deserve.

There are many types of circumstances involving car crashes that should be handled by a car accident lawyer, which include:

  • Permanent injuries occurred
  • There were serious injuries
  • Death resulted from the accident
  • Pedestrian was involved
  • Accident happened in a construction zone
  • Police report is inaccurate
  • Insurance company is uncooperative
  • Insurer involves an attorney
  • Fault is apparent

Sometimes a settlement cannot be reached and a lawsuit becomes the only option to recover fair compensation for your injuries. If your auto accident case ends up in court, an attorney can build a strong argument on your behalf to help you win the lawsuit.

Even if you have already settled with your insurance company, it is possible under certain circumstances, to bring a legal action against them. The lawsuit would have to be separate from the settled claim. Typically, the insurance company will have you sign a settlement agreement that prohibits you from suing the insurer on that occurrence after the settlement has been signed and it releases them from making any further payments on that claim. However, that does not necessarily prevent you from filing a lawsuit on future claims that are different than the settled one.

If you have been injured in a car accident, you need fast, effective legal representation that is experienced in going head to head with the insurance companies. Give us a call today at 877.724.7800  or fill out a free, confidential contact form.

What to expect from your car accident injury claim

Don’t be afraid to pursue compensation after a car accident. Often, victims fear the unknown and aren’t sure what may happen if they pursue a claim. However, if you have been injured in a car crash due to the negligence of another, you deserve justice and the opportunity to recover peacefully. To help, here is a general overview of what to expect from your car accident injury claim.

  • The immediate aftermath of the accident. Your focus at this point should be on recovering from your injuries and documenting the accident. Notify the police, your insurance company, and even if your injuries are minor have your family physician take a look at you and monitor any symptoms.
  • Building a relationship with a car accident attorney. If you have been injured in an auto accident, you may need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to get a truly fair settlement and one that covers the cost of your car accident injuries. Make it a priority to at least speak with an attorney about your case and your rights with a free, confidential consultation- even if you don’t ultimately decide to pursue a claim or hire an attorney.
  • Filing an accident injury claim. Once you’ve decided to pursue compensation, you can file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company for your injuries. If you are working with an attorney, he can handle all of the details of this step and advise you on any applicable time limits.
  • Waiting for the other driver to respond. After you have filed a claim, you will generally need to wait a short period for a response from the other party. The other driver may choose to admit some or all responsibility, deny responsibility, or even start a countersuit against you.
  • Negotiating with the other driver’s insurance company. As you enter mediation with the other driver’s insurance company, you may find yourself sorting through complex options. The insurance company’s first offer is often insultingly low, and it sometimes takes strong evidence and clear documentation to come to an agreement on what is fair to you.
  • Moving on to other options if you cannot reach a resolution. If you and your attorney are unable to negotiate a fair settlement with the other driver’s insurance company, it may be appropriate to take your case to trial. If you’re not sure if this is the right option for you, contact us today to talk it over. Take a look at what our clients are saying.
If you have been injured in a car accident, you need fast, effective legal representation that is experienced in going head to head with the insurance companies. Give us a call today at 877.724.7800  or fill out a free, confidential contact form.

Were you involved in a work accident at Tyson Foods? We can help!

In recent years, Tyson Foods has found themselves in the middle of numerous non-subscriber lawsuits filed by injured or sick employees. These lawsuits claim that Tyson Foods is responsible for injuries ranging from dismemberment to permanent disabilities and injuries.  If you or a loved one has been hurt while working at Tyson Foods, time is not your friend. It is important that you understand your rights and that you have an experienced personal injury attorney on your side who has taken on large companies like Tyson Foods, and won!

Who is Tyson Foods?

Tyson Foods Inc., is one of the most well-known company names in the United States. The company is the second largest processor of chicken, beef, and pork in the world. Headquartered in Springdale, Arkansas they have many facilities throughout the United States.

Tyson’s meat processing pants employ thousands of workers in many different job descriptions. Many of these employees work on production lines and in packaging ares. Others are employed as truck drivers and even in health and safety roles. Unfortunately, their company has been the focal point of many recent non-subscriber lawsuits that question their commitment to the safety of their employees.

What kind of accidents or illnesses have occurred at Tyson Foods?

Employees at Tyson Foods are at risk for salmonella poisoning due to their exposure to raw chicken and other meat products. Additionally, there have been reports of faulty production line equipment causing injuries and even dismemberment of hands, arms, and fingers. Employees use chemicals in the meat packaging process that have also been known to cause respiratory illnesses and irritation to those working on the production line all the way to the office staff. When proper training and safety measures haven’t been implemented, repetitive stress injuries and accidents have occurred leaving many employees in pain and worried about the future of their livelihood. 

Tyson Foods and workers’ compensation insurance

Each state has its own laws and programs for workers’ compensation insurance. Not all states require workers’ compensation insurance, Texas being one that does not. Companies that do not carry workers’ comp, such as Tyson Foods, are called “non-subscribers.” In these claims, the employee gains the right to sue his or her employer to recover compensation for injuries. This also means that the employer loses the right to certain defenses that could limit a worker’s claim. Learn more about non-subscriber claims.

What this means is, an injured party only needs to prove that the employer was one percent negligent for an accident in order for them to be responsible. Unfortunately, non-subscriber claims are designed to be difficult for those injured in a work accident to handle their claim without the help of an experienced attorney. Your employer wants you to get discouraged and give up. That is why you need an aggressive attorney that will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

What you should do if you were injured in a work accident at Tyson Foods

If you have been injured while working at Tyson Foods there are several steps you should take to ensure your rights are protected:

1. Let someone know immediately that you have been injured. In the case of faulty machinery or equipment, this can help protect others from being injured as well. Report your injury to your direct supervisor or if you are a Tyson Foods truck driver involved in an accident, call 911. Waiting too long to file a claim or report an incident may seriously jeopardize your case. 

2. Fill out an accident report while the information is fresh in your mind. Juries place a heavy emphasis on the initial accident report. You have the right to file an accident report but do not sign unless you agree 100% with what the report says. If a supervisor or manager refuses to provide one, create your own on a blank piece of paper and send it to your corporate office.

3. Seek medical treatment. Even if you do not think you were seriously hurt, seek medical treatment. Many times injuries and illnesses show up days later. More often than not, companies try to encourage injured employees to use company doctors or pressure you into not seeking medical treatment. Don’t fall for it. Learn more about your rights after a workplace injury.

4. Speak to an experienced workers’ compensation and non-subscriber attorney. After a workplace accident, it is important that you fully understand your rights as it pertains to your health and well-being. Our board certified, personal injury attorneys understand the tricks your employer and their representatives will try to pull over on you. Let us fight for you so you can concentrate on healing! Contact us today at 877.724.7800 or fill out our contact form for your free, confidential case evaluation.


Five common tricks trucking companies use against truck accident victims

18-wheeler accident

The trucking company won’t play fair when you file an injury or wrongful death claim. The company, insurance company and lawyers will try to protect their bottom line at all cost.

In case after case, we see trucking companies, their insurers, and their lawyers use these same five tricks over and over again to try to avoid paying you a dime:

  1. You or your family will be contacted by the trucking company’s insurance adjuster after the accident. This person will act like he or she is helping you and ask you to give a recorded statement. The adjuster typically says something along the lines of, “we just need to do this so we can cut you a check and settle your case for you.” Beware. This is a trick. The company actually has no interest in what you have to say, unless it helps their position. Their goal is to trick you into saying something that will harm your case. The adjuster contacts you as soon after the accident as possible, generally at a time when you probably have not had the opportunity to hire your own lawyer. The adjuster is trained to get you to talk about your accident in a way that hurts your case. They know you’re vulnerable at this point. What they don’t know is that you know your legal rights, including that you are not legally required to give a recorded statement for them to proceed with processing your claim.
  2. The insurance company will try to lowball you by offering you a very low amount to settle your case. This is another common trick. They know you are most likely missing work, hurting for cash, and worried about your future. Don’t take the money and don’t sign anything without consulting a lawyer first. Insurance companies never offer to pay fair amounts on an injury claim if there isn’t a lawsuit on file. They are trying to take advantage of you because they know as soon as you hire a lawyer, your chances of getting the compensation you deserve skyrocket.
  3. Trucking companies often destroy or alter evidence after a crash. We see companies attempt to destroy or alter evidence in many of our cases. For example, shortly after a crash, the trucking company destroys or alters the driver’s logs to show their driver was not driving while fatigued. Or they destroy the driver’s qualification file, which shows they were not qualified to be driving the 18-wheeler. Another common practice is to destroy the post-crash alcohol and drug tests that show their driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  4. Trucking companies will tell the truck driver not to go get the required post-crash drug and alcohol test. We have found that the trucking company or their insurance company will tell the driver to not get tested if they think the driver was impaired at the time of the wreck. They know that violating the post-crash drug and alcohol test rule is a lesser fine than the fine for employing a driver who was impaired at the time of the accident.
  5. The trucking companies and their lawyers know that justice delayed is justice denied. They will try every litigation trick in the book to push the trial of your case further and further down the road. They will say they need more time to get all the information they need for their case. They will say their lawyer is on vacation. They will say the expert witness they hired is not available for a month. Their list of excuses goes on and on. Whether you are speaking with the truck driver’s employer or the trucking company’s insurance agent, you may find that you’re running into a lot of delays, dead ends, “red tape,” and serious frustration—and it’s probably not a coincidence. Hopefully, you have a lawyer who knows how to battle the trucking companies and push for your case to be tried fairly in a reasonable amount of time.

Electric scooters may be defective according to lawsuit

defective electric scooter

If you ride an electric scooter, you need to keep reading. These scooters can be very dangerous products. There is no question these scooters can seriously injure or kill someone. They go just fast enough to really hurt the rider, and yet may not even be sturdy enough for the rider in the first place. Doctors are seeing more and more injuries caused by all kinds of these electric scooters. These electric scooters won’t be safer until people start reporting the issues and injuries they get while using them.

Electric scooters’ popularity is overshadowed by safety risks

The growing popularity of electric scooters is undeniable. We’re seeing them in Austin, to San Francisco, to New York. Prices range from a couple hundred dollars to a couple thousand. Some are for intended for “teens” and some are even rentable by the hour in certain cities.

So that means anyone in this country who is looking for an alternative or cheaper mode of transportation are checking out these electric scooters and could probably afford to use one at some point. The problem is that these scooters can be very dangerous products, no matter how affordable.

The SE Texas Record has written an article covering our lawsuits that we filed this past summer against scooter manufacturer, Urban626, LLC. The lawsuit alleges that URB-E scooters are defective, stating:

  • “While riding (the scooter), the subject scooter folded while in motion due to the lack of a locking mechanism preventing the scooter from folding while in use.”
  • “The collapse of the scooter mid-ride caused Ms. McCutcheon to fall hard, causing her severe injuries.”
  • Urban626 knew the scooter “had various defects with respect to its safety, and was not suitable for any use, thereby posing a serious threat of injury or death to its customers.”

These scooters are just one make and model that have been sold with defects. Demand for a lightweight, fast, and affordable mode of transportation has resulted in these products going on the market before going through rigorous safety tests. Our client was riding the URB-E Sport GT, an Urban626 scooter, at the time she was injured. The URB-E Sport GT does not have any locking mechanism. There is no way to prevent this scooter from folding while someone is riding it, which is what happened to Ms. McCutcheon.

Experts predict electric scooters will cause an increase in injuries

Twenty-five percent of scooter injuries affect the head and the face. As with our client, faceplanting because of scooter defects is causing a quarter of all scooter injuries. Experts and doctors across the country are seeing an increase in scooter injuries as rental companies pop up in towns and cities everywhere. The chief of emergency medicine at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, Dr. Chris Colwell, told the New York Times that, “I’m quite confident that we were seeing five to 10 injuries from this a week, and I’m probably underestimating that. We saw one or zero a month before the increase in electric scooters.”

One hospital in Salt Lake City has seen a 161% increase in the number of visits involving scooters compared to the same three month period the prior year. While scooter companies keep repeating that safety is a top priority, the results are saying something else entirely.

Companies are racing to dominate the e-scooter ridesharing market. This means there is a high probability they are cutting corners on both hardware and software. It’s a pattern regularly repeated with new consumer technology: sell it first, ask questions later.

This is, of course, backward. When health and safety is on the line, it is crucial that one company’s legitimate right to come up with a handy new product (and a money-making scheme) doesn’t infringe on your right to move freely in public spaces without fear of serious injury.

If you have been injured by an electric scooter, you have the right to hold the company accountable for their safety failures. To find out more about your legal rights and how we can help you, contact us now at 877-724-7800 or fill out a contact form.


A Freeport bus accident kills Texas pipefitter and seriously injures 30 others

On October 23, 2018, a bus accident in Freeport killed a Texas pipefitter and sent 30 others to the hospital with serious injuries.

Around 3pm a busload of employees from the Zachry Construction Corporation were being transported from an industrial plant back to their vehicles in a nearby parking lot. The bus was traveling near Highway 36 and 288 when, while switching lanes, the driver lost control. The vehicle fishtailed and flipped multiple times, finally come to rest in a ditch full of water.

Freeport Police Department identified a 29-year old Aaron Green as the pipefitter who died in the crash. He was from Dayton, Texas.

The Zachry Group issued the following statement:

We suffered a tremendous loss this afternoon and our most sincere condolences are with the family of our employee who was fatally injured. We had several employees transported to medical facilities in the Brazosport and Houston area and our full attention is on the care they are receiving and their welfare.

The 30 injured workers were taken to local hospitals for treatment. Police are still investigating.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a bus accident you need an experienced attorney on your side.

If you have been injured in a bus crash, VB Attorneys will be there every step of the way.  Contact us today for a free, confidential case evaluation at 877.724.7800 or fill out our contact form.

Parents of 13-year-old boy severely injured at family entertainment center retain VB Attorneys

The parents of a 13-year-old boy severely injured at a Houston family entertainment center have retained VB Attorneys. In July of 2018, the young boy was playing laser tag at a local fun center when he tripped and fell on an exposed metal post, deeply cutting his knee.

An ambulance was called to the scene and our client was taken to Memorial Hermann. He was treated for his injuries and received 20 stitches.

Our client is undergoing additional treatment. We are still investigating this case but we will provide updates as it progresses.

Contact us today for a free, confidential case evaluation.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a similar accident, find out how VB Attorneys can help! Call us at (877) 724-7800 or fill out our free, confidential contact form.

Three steps to protect the value of your claim

car wreck, insurance claim, protect your claim

What do you do when tragedy strikes and its not your fault? Believe it or not, insurance companies fight pedestrian-motor vehicle cases tooth and nail (even when they know you are innocent).

There are three basic things that must be done after every collision to protect your claim:

  1. 911 needs to be called
  2. photos need to be taken
  3. witnesses need to give statements.

The police needs to be called so that they can investigate what happened and file a police report. All of this helps save the evidence you need to prove your case.

Unfortunately, there aren’t always eyewitnesses, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prove your claim. With or without other witnesses, you still have to do your part to preserve your claim. That’s because you are your only dependable witness.

How you can do your part is by saving your cell phone and getting the medical treatment you need. You should also consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to make sure the driver and insurance company responsible don’t get away with it. At VB Attorneys, we can help you with these things.

We know that insurance companies plan to use your cell phone against you. They will blame you as a distracted pedestrian. So why not use this evidence right back at them? Don’t throw away your phone, even if its cracked or broken after the collision. Speak with a lawyer first to make sure you saved data, photos, and videos on your phone that is not available in your phone records. If you really weren’t distracted, we can prove it.

Your health and recovery should be your primary focus after being hit by a car, truck, or motorcycle. That includes preserving your personal injury claim. We can help you hold those at-fault accountable while you can focus on yourself. Give us a call at 877-724-7800 to get started.

How the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHS) helps you

Seafaring has always been a dangerous occupation. When the American colonies inherited their basic legal code from Britain, even before U.S. independence, we kept alive one important tradition: a separate law for people who work on or near the water.

Admiralty law — now more often called maritime law — is a separate branch of legal practice dealing with marine trade, shipping, transportation over water, and related shore and dock activities. The idea was that these special laws for seafarers, like the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, would better protect people who are hurt while working in marine trades.

These laws also protect the family members of workers who are killed while working on a vessel or an offshore drilling rig. If your spouse is involved in a fatal accident on the water, you may have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim on your spouse’s behalf. However, the laws that cover workers who are killed on the water are completely different from the wrongful death laws on land. Because they are so different, many families who have lost loved ones don’t really understand their rights to compensation until they speak with an attorney who has a deep understanding of these laws.

The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)

Although grieving families are sometimes unsure if they want to take legal action, wrongful death lawsuits are important. They force employers to think hard about safety and avoid reckless actions that can endanger others. They provide relief for families who have unfairly suffered an unthinkable loss, and they sometimes help set a precedent for changes that protect other families from similar losses.

Until the early twentieth century, there was no wrongful death doctrine under maritime law. Congress created the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) in 1920 to provide a limited wrongful death benefit for fatal accidents on the water. DOHSA allows surviving family members to sue the ship owner or employer when a crewman dies because of negligent behavior or the ship’s unseaworthiness. While not every family is eligible for these benefits, investigating your family’s rights with an attorney can help you access the compensation you deserve and potentially hold the employer responsible for your loved one’s death.

Four Considerations That Affect Death on the High Seas Act Claims

DOHSA includes significant restrictions that limit when lawsuits can be filed. Some of these limits are expressly found in the original law, and other limits have been applied by years of federal court precedents. There are four major considerations that determine whether a wrongful death claim can proceed under DOHSA:

  • Location of the fatal accident. The death must occur aboard a vessel on the open sea, at least three nautical miles from the shore of any state. It may be necessary to determine the location of the vessel from the ship’s log. If the vessel was within the three-mile zone of state control, the case cannot continue under the Death on the High Seas Act, but it is possible that state law may permit a wrongful death claim.
  • Role of the decedent. The person who was killed must have been a seaman employed on the vessel. He or she need not have been on duty at the time of the fatal accident, but he or she must have had a regular and continuing job that furthered the mission of the ship.
  • Limitation on who can file. The personal representative of the decedent must file the lawsuit. This role is usually limited to the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate. The only people who can benefit from a DOHSA claim are the deceased person’s spouse, parents, children, and other dependent relatives.
  • The grounds claimed. The family of the seaman must be prepared to show that the seaman’s death was caused either by negligence or by the unseaworthiness of the vessel.

Note that the Death on the High Seas Act may take precedence over other laws that compensate families for a wrongful death at sea. If you have a close family member who has passed away due to an accident at sea, it’s important to contact an attorney who has experience handling maritime wrongful death cases so that your rights under various federal laws can be untangled.

Answers to Your Questions About the Death on the High Seas Act

Many families have questions about pursuing a legal claim for their loved one’s death. Some of the most common questions include:

  • What kinds of damages are available under the Death on the High Seas Act? Damages in this type of action may include compensation for loss of financial support, loss of care, loss of nurturing and guidance, loss of household help, funeral costs, medical expenses incurred prior to death, and possibly more. Additional laws may also supplement this type of action and provide other types of damages.
  • Is it right to profit from someone’s death? By acting negligently, the people responsible for your loved one’s death directly harmed you. You have been deprived of the income, companionship, and attention that your relative would have given you for years to come. Your lawsuit isn’t an attempt to profit from the death, but it is your chance to reclaim a small measure of the benefits the deceased person would have shared with you.
  • What happens if DOHSA doesn’t apply to my case? If your loved one did not die on the high seas, or you otherwise do not qualify for relief pursuant to the Death on the High Seas Act, that is not the end of the story. You may still be able to recover damages pursuant other maritime laws. The attorneys with VB Attorneys have extensive experience pursuing wrongful death claims on behalf of families of deceased seamen. We know the law, and we can tell you if your case falls within the scope of the Death on the High Seas Act or another statute.

The death of a loved one leaves a lot of questions. Our attorneys focus on making sure that you understand your rights and can make informed decisions about your case. To learn more, or to start investigating your loved one’s death with our experienced attorneys, reach out to us today at 1-877-724-7800.

How maritime death claims are different from wrongful death lawsuits

Finding out that your loved one died at sea, or died from their injuries shortly after being rescued by the Coast Guard is a traumatic and harrowing experience no one wishes for. However, if you’re grieving the loss of your spouse, child, or parent,  you deserve to know your legal rights. One of the most important federal maritime statutes is the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).

As you may already know, this law allows a representative of a deceased seaman—usually the executor of their estate—to sue the shipowner if the seaman died aboard the vessel under certain conditions. The most important of these conditions are that:

  • The fatal accident had to have been due to negligence or the ship’s unseaworthiness
  • The ship must have been at least three nautical miles away from shore at the time of the accident.

While the Death on the High Seas Act is similar to the wrongful death laws that set the grounds for civil lawsuits in state courts and the federal judicial system, maritime death cases are very different from onshore cases of wrongful death.

Like state and federal wrongful death laws, DOHSA limits what families are able to receive compensation for after a death. However, while state laws include a list of losses that deserve compensation, DOHSA is much less specific. The law says that recovery “shall be a fair compensation for the pecuniary loss sustained by the individuals for whose benefit the action is brought.” In this context, pecuniary means “financial” or “relating to money,” so the law says the family can recover its financial losses due to the death of the seaman. What does that mean?

The types of financial losses that can be recovered in a maritime death case

By now, you won’t be surprised to hear that the federal courts have been interpreting what this phrase means ever since Congress passed DOHSA in 1920. At this point in time, precedent law has settled that six categories may count as pecuniary loss for maritime death cases:

  • Funeral expenses. If the deceased person’s dependents paid for the funeral, that money can be recovered. However, at least one federal Circuit Court has said DOHSA cannot force funeral expenses to be repaid if the cost came out of the decedent’s estate.
  • Lost income. The family is entitled to recover the projected earnings of the deceased person from the time of the accident until retirement, plus the value of any retirement income (pension, Social Security benefits, and the like) for a normal lifespan.
  • Lost job benefits. If the deceased person’s employment provided medical insurance or other benefits for family members, then the cash value of those benefits can be recovered.
  • Lost inheritance. It is reasonable to assume that the value of the deceased person’s estate might have grown larger if he or she had lived a normal lifespan. The plaintiff can ask for the damage award to include the increase in value that would have occurred if the seaman had not died.
  • Lost household services. The routine household work that the deceased person would have performed—cleaning, minor home repairs, driving the family car, and similar tasks—will now have to be done by someone else, requiring an additional expense for the family. The costs of hiring someone to mow lawns, clean out rain gutters, and other household jobs can be calculated and included in the damages won.
  • Lost family nurturing and guidance. If the person who died was a parent, the nurturing and moral lessons he or she would have given his or her children can be assigned a cash value and recovered under DOHSA—at least in some jurisdictions. Some federal District Courts limit these claims only to instances where the family has very young children, who get the greatest benefit from parental instruction.

Of course, it’s up to the plaintiff—the person bringing the lawsuit—to show that the death actually caused a loss in any category and to assign a valid dollar amount to the loss.

The types of losses you can’t recover

There are two areas of recovery in conventional wrongful death claims that are not available for lawsuits under DOHSA:

  • Pain and suffering. Because the suffering of the seaman before death is essentially non-economic in nature, it cannot be compensated under the Death on the High Seas Act.
  • Medical treatment for the deceased person. Because the family does not pay for medical expenses before the decedent dies, those expenses do not qualify for reimbursement under DOHSA.

Getting help with questions about a maritime death claim

An attorney who is experienced with Jones Act cases can help surviving family members understand their rights after a death or accident at sea. If you have questions about a DOHSA wrongful death claim, contact our law office today at 1-877-724-7800 to schedule a free, confidential case review with our experienced attorneys. In the meantime, you can also start learning more about your rights by reading through our free book, The Insider’s Guide to Winning Your Jones Act Case.