What does Maintenance and Cure Really Mean for Mariners?

One of the reasons so many people distrust the legal profession is that simple concepts are often cloaked under archaic terms, which attorneys and judges trade freely but that usually leave other people completely baffled. A good example is “maintenance and cure,” which is owed to some employees in offshore work environments. If you’re confused about your rights to “maintenance and cure,” or what that means if you’ve already been hurt, the good news is that it’s really simpler than it may seem. Here’s what you need to know.

What Are “Maintenance” and “Cure” Under Maritime Law?

Under maritime law, most people working on vessels, drilling rigs, or even tugboats and other “brownwater” workplaces qualify for two types of benefits if they get sick or get injured at work:

  • “Maintenance.” Maintenance payments are an income supplement. These payments give you money to help pay your normal living expenses while you are unable to work. Frankly, it’s not especially generous, but it’s better than no income at all. In order to collect maintenance, you have to prove that you incurred day-to-day expenses which were not otherwise covered while recuperating from your injuries.
  • “Cure.” Cure payments cover the legitimate medical expenses related to your accident or illness. This not only means payment for immediate emergency care right after the accident, but also any necessary surgery and follow-up therapy.

If you are injured or become ill while you’re working on a vessel or a drilling rig, you automatically qualify for maintenance and cure benefits. If employer negligence played a part in the accident, you qualify for basic maintenance and cure benefits even if you also are eligible for additional financial compensation under the Jones Act. Your employer is required by law to make these payments to eligible seamen. Learn 5 Things injured seamen may not know about Jones Act maintenance and cure.

How Long Do Workers Receive Maintenance and Cure?

You should receive maintenance and cure payments until you’ve reached “maximum medical improvement,” also called “MMI.” This means that employers must continue paying both maintenance and cure until you have recovered as fully as you can with medical treatment. If further treatment isn’t likely to make you feel better, then the law will not force the employer to continue to pay for it.

Keep in mind that it is up to your doctors to decide when your condition has improved to the point that further medical care is no longer necessary. Even if your boss can find a physician who is willing to testify that you cannot benefit from more medical care, that doesn’t guarantee your benefits will end. You can speak up about the truth of your condition and pursue your right to financial compensation with the help of an attorney who understands and has won these kinds of cases for seamen.

How Is the Amount of Maintenance and Cure Payments Determined?

The amount that an injured seaman is paid for maintenance and cure varies quite a bit. “Cure” is basically your medical bills, so that amount will depend on the kinds of treatment you received and the actual cost of that treatment. “Maintenance” can vary depending on your living expenses while you are unable to work, but most companies try to pay as little as possible—sometimes less than $30 per day. In both cases, the total amount is added up from many, many different expenses related to your injury, from surgical bills to travel costs to pharmacy needs.

If you aren’t sure how much you should be receiving for maintenance and cure, talk with an attorney who has experience with injury cases for Jones Act seamen. He or she will be able to go over all the specific information in your case and explain what kinds of payments your employer owes you.

What to Do When Maintenance and Cure Are Denied or an Employer Stops Paying Benefits

Employees who qualify for maintenance and cure often get into disputes with their employers on the issue of payments. If you believe your company is short-changing you on maintenance and cure, contact us to start investigating your rights. We help a lot of injured seaman on the issue of maintenance and cure. Sometimes we get it resolved without the need for a lawsuit. Other times a lawsuit is necessary. It all depends on the circumstances of your particular situation.

Your employer must pay these benefits, even though the company may argue that they are expensive. Saving the company’s “bottom line” should never mean breaking the law and denying injured people like you the money you desperately need while you are hurt. If your employer is threatening to cut off your maintenance and cure benefits, or if your employer has refused to pay your costs, reach out to VB Attorneys at 877-724-7800 for help.

Injured HPD officer receives generous gift from Mattress Mack and Gallery Furniture

Mattress Mack donated a recliner to our client, Houston Police Officer Chayne Brothers, to help him recover from the injuries he received in a crash caused by a drunk driver in May 2018.

Both of our client’s wrists were broken in the crash, which occurred while he was on duty. He had emergency surgery to repair the damage to one wrist and may need surgery on his other wrist. His doctors wanted him to keep his wrists elevated and recommended that he purchase a recliner. He needed a way to prevent his arms from moving in his sleep. As it was, Officer Brothers was getting about an hour of sleep at a time, so the recliner would help him be comfortable while keeping his wrists where his doctors wanted them.

Mattress Mack’s generous gift helps Houston Police Officer

When Officer Brothers went to Gallery Furniture, he met Mattress Mack and told him why he needed the recliner. Mattress Mack’s generosity toward his fellow Houstonians and toward first responders resulted in him giving Officer Brothers a top of the line recliner for free. Officer Brothers says the recliner has made it easier to keep his arms elevated and help him sleep. It’s helped his recovery. He told Ron Trevino with KHOU that, “I started getting rest at night and in the day… it really did help out me and my family a lot.”

Officer Brothers has filed a million dollar lawsuit against the restaurant that overserved the driver who hit him as well as its parent company, RCI Hospitality Holdings, and the drunk driver. Bombshells, the restaurant, has been called a “crime factory” by the Harris County District Attorney, whose office has filed their own civil lawsuit to shut down the restaurant for good. Patrons of Bombshells have racked up too many DUIs for the city to not act. The bar and restaurant has been linked to over 90 alcohol-related crimes and has been cited over 70 times for serving alcohol to minors. To find out more about this lawsuit call 877-724-7800 or email Emily@VBAttorneys.com.

Oilfield injuries are still the leading source of workplace injuries

oilfield, oilfield worker, oil and gas industry,

People who work in the oil and gas industry are injured at a higher rate than any other industry in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While only a few hundred thousand people work in the oil and gas industry, the number of injuries per worker make it the most dangerous industry. Despite safety regulations and companies spending millions of dollars on safety training and procedures, the oil and gas industry remains dangerous to workers. These graphs show the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about oil and gas injuries:

oil and gas industry extraction fatalities page 1oil and gas extraction fatalities, fatal work statistics

Top causes of oilfield injuries

While some employers have excellent safety records, safety isn’t always the priority for employers hoping to maximize their profits. Although the safest rig site can experience a deadly blowout, some injuries and incidents are more likely to happen if an employer puts profits over safety. These include:

  • Pipeline explosions
  • Electrical accidents
  • Equipment failures
  • Injuries due to operator error
  • Amputations of fingers and limbs by machinery
  • Falls
  • Machine malfunctions
  • Single or multi-vehicle crashes
  • Well blowouts and explosions

These are some of the main causes of deaths or injuries in Texas oilfields. Because oil and gas extraction is so complex, a single work site can be crewed by multiple employers. This means that your injuries could be caused by a third party – a company other than your employer. Third party cases can be pursued in addition to your worker’s compensation case or your non-subscriber claim.

Depending on your specific case, you may be able to be compensated for your medical bills, lost wages, and other financial damages. Oilfield injury cases can be complicated and expensive to prove, which is why we recommend that you consult an attorney about your case before you give any statements or sign any papers. While you’re trying to navigate the claims process and recover from the incident, the companies responsible for your injuries have adjusters, lawyers, and experts working to make your claim go away.

Getting help if you or a family member has been seriously hurt in the oilfield

Like you, many oilfield workers and their families are often at the mercy of skilled legal teams, company representatives, and insurance personnel after an injury. And many are unaware that their legal rights may be at risk. We have helped people across the oil and gas industry and across the oil and gas support industry, including:

For more information about getting compensation and avoiding claim-ruining mistakes after an oilfield injury, reach out to our experienced Houston injury team today, or request your free copy of our book, How to Win Your Injury Case.

Arthur Square lawsuit claims kids died in uninhabitable apartment

Arthur Square, LLC, and Capstone Real Estate Services face a lawsuit filed by the fathers of two children who died in a fire on July 4, 2018 as well as two men who survived the fire. They hired Byron Alfred to help them hold the companies accountable for the tragedy. An article in the Beaumont Enterprise quotes Byron about why the companies are being sued, saying, “the July 4th fire propagated in a manner that created a wall of fire which covered the apartment unit’s front door – the only means of escape for the minor children.”The lawsuit, filed in the 172nd District Court of Jefferson County, Texas, reveals that Arthur Square has a “recent documented history of fire safety violations.” These violations include inoperable smoke and fire alarm systems. The lawsuit seeks punitive damages for the companies’ reckless decision to house tenants in an apartment complex that contained multiple dangerous conditions. The wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for:
  • Pre-death pain and mental anguish of the two children who died in the fire
  • Funeral and burial expenses of the two children who died in the fire
  • Mental anguish
  • Financial and economic losses
  • Loss of parent/child relationship and consortium
  • Loss of society
  • Punitive damages
In addition to these claims, the survivors also seek compensation for their destroyed or damaged personal property. As the lawsuit states, the residents at Arthur Square were living in “uninhabitable” apartments. Arthur Square representatives did not respond to the Beaumont Enterprise’s requests for comment about the lawsuit.

Arthur Square smoke alarms being tested by independent experts

Our independent investigation is working with building code, electrical, and fire experts to conduct our own review of the fire. Our experts have sent the smoke alarm in the family’s apartment unit to a lab for “further testing.” As we have previously reported, our clients’ mother said the apartment had several electrical issues in addition to the non-operational smoke detectors. The fire started in a different unit, yet none of the smoke detectors in the complex went off.We will continue to provide updates about this investigation and lawsuit. To find out about this lawsuit or the investigation into the deadliest fire in Port Arthur, Texas, in nearly a decade, call us at 877-724-7800. For press inquiries, contact Emily Corwin at Emily@localhost.

Duck boat lawsuit: why you should consult a lawyer immediately

Survivors and surviving family members of the Table Rock lake tragedy should consult an experienced attorney right away about filing a duck boat lawsuit. When you choose to consult an attorney, talking to someone who is experienced in handling wrongful death lawsuits as well as personal injury and maritime lawsuits will be able to provide you with more accurate legal advice than someone who doesn’t have any experience in these areas. While no amount of money will rewind time or bring back your loved ones, a lawsuit is one way you can get justice. A lawsuit allows survivors and loved ones to hold the responsible parties accountable for the harm they’ve caused. A lawsuit may also be the only way to prevent anyone else from being traumatized, hurt, or killed by a duck boat.If you are given a check for burial expenses or medical expenses, do not cash it without consulting an attorney. By cashing it, you may be giving up any right to file a lawsuit against the company. The same goes for giving a recorded statement, signing any paperwork, or talking to the company. If you have been contacted by the company, consult an attorney to protect your legal rights as soon as possible.

Why you should consult an attorney about filing a duck boat lawsuit

You have everything to gain by talking to an attorney now. The sooner you consult an attorney about your legal rights, the sooner you can get justice and prevent anyone else from getting hurt on a duck boat. Time is not on your side. Ripley Entertainment and Ride the Ducks have had time to begin working on their arguments for why they aren’t responsible for what happened to you. They have an army of lawyers working to make sure you don’t pay anything As time goes by, evidence disappears, is altered or damaged, and the company has had time to take legal action to protect themselves from having to compensate you for your losses.If you were on the Stretch Duck 7 and survived the capsizing, you may have a claim for the trauma, pain and suffering, injuries, and mental distress you’ve suffered. If you are a spouse, parent, child, or dependent of one of the 17 victims, you may file a wrongful death lawsuit as well as a survival claim on behalf of the estate of your loved one. A defective product lawsuit may also be filed against the companies by both survivors and the families of the 17 victims.There are three reasons why you shouldn’t wait to consult an attorney about your legal rights and filing a lawsuit against Ride the Ducks and Ripley Entertainment:

1. The companies can file a limitation of liability proceeding to prevent you from getting the compensation you are owed

Under the U.S. Constitution, you have the legal right to be compensated for your losses. However, a law passed in 1851 protects companies such as Ripley Entertainment and Ride the Ducks from being held accountable for their unsafe choices. The Limitation of Vessel Owner’s Liability Act allows the vessel owner to limit its liability to the value of the vessel. The value of a duck boat is considered to be between $100,000 and $150,000. So if you are lumped in with all the rest of the cases, the total amount of money a jury can award is the value of the boat. So you’d get a portion of that $100,000 to $150,000. Meanwhile, Ripley Entertainment, which owns the Branson duck boats, pulls in more than $35 million in revenue each year.It also allows the companies to choose where the lawsuits against them can be filed, which means they can force you to file your lawsuit in a place that sides with companies rather than people. This is called forum-shopping, and it can seriously hurt your chances of getting a fair, unbiased jury in your case. Another way the Limitation of Liability Act hurts you is that the companies can force all of the survivors and loved ones who are filing suits –whether you live in Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Texas, or New Mexico – to be lumped into one lawsuit. This can also hurt your chances of getting the compensation you are owed.The good news is that if you have hired a lawyer who has overcome limitation of liability proceedings, who has beat the companies at their own game, you may not get trapped by this outdated, unfair law. You will want to ask lawyers you are consulting if they have experience in successfully fighting limitation of liability proceedings.Your attorney may not have to fight a limitation of liability proceeding, depending on the judge’s ruling. A federal court ruled in 1983 that Table Rock lake is “non-navigable” because the lake is used for recreational activities. However, this ruling contradicts other legal precedents that state that any inland body of water touching two states is considered “navigable” for interstate commerce. Table Rock lake touches Missouri and Arkansas. The judge in this case will have to decide which legal precedent applies to this case. If the judge decides that the lake is non-navigable, you won’t have to worry about a limitation of liability proceeding.

2. You have the right to investigate the sinking of the duck boat

You have the power to conduct an independent investigation into the sinking of the Stretch Duck 7. The National Transportation Safety Board has already said its report won’t be published for at least a year. Which means by the time you receive that report, it might be too late for you to file a lawsuit. The companies are conducting their own investigations to figure out ways to convince a jury they aren’t responsible for what happened.To conduct your own independent investigation, you will need to get a Temporary Restraining Order from a judge. Our firm obtains these orders whenever we need access to the evidence, the scene of an incident, and the ongoing investigations. These orders also prevent any evidence from being tampered with, altered in any way, damaged, destroyed, or thrown away. They guarantee us time to conduct a thorough investigation to determine what happened and who is responsible.

3. You need to know how long you have to file a lawsuit.

There are deadlines to filing a lawsuit. These rules, called statutes of limitation, prevent you from being able to get justice after the deadline passes. That’s why lawyers recommend you consult an attorney right away. The deadline for your case varies, depending on what state you live in and what type of claim you have. For example, if you’re filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Missouri, you have three years. But if you’re filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Arkansas, you only have one year. Other states, such as Indiana and Texas, have a two year deadline. If you’re filing an injury lawsuit, some states have two year deadlines, other states have three year deadlines.Whichever state you live in, if you wait until a year before the deadline, or even a few months before the deadline to file your lawsuit, your lawyer may not have enough time to prepare your case. Lawsuits must include facts to back up your claims, and if your lawyers don’t have enough time to gather all the necessary facts, or if crucial evidence has been lost or destroyed in the process, your lawyers may not be able to file your case. The sooner you consult an attorney and have them start working on your case, the stronger your case will be.Also, if the judge does decide the lake is navigable waters and the companies are able to bring a limitation of liability proceeding, you will want your lawyers to be fighting that proceeding from the beginning. If you wait, you could get stuck with an outcome that could have been prevented if you had hired a law firm to start working on your case as soon as possible.

Hiring a lawyer costs you nothing. Don’t wait to get the help you need.

At our firm, we recognize that you may not be ready to file your case. That’s why we will work in the background on your case and not file the lawsuit until you’re ready. This allows us to investigate, gather evidence, and conduct research.In personal injury, wrongful death, and maritime lawsuits, you pay nothing unless and until we win your case. The lawyer takes on all the risk as well as the financial costs of your case. The last thing you need while you’re coping with the aftermath of a tragedy is one more bill. That’s why it is free to consult an attorney about your case.Again, if you are given a check by Ripley Entertainment, do not cash it. If you are asked to sign any paperwork or give any statements, do not do it. By doing either of these things, you may be destroying your ability to pursue an investigation or file a lawsuit against the companies. You may be signing away your legal rights.Here at VB Attorneys, we represent people on a contingency fee basis, which means you pay us a percentage of your settlement or verdict. If we are unable to win your case, you owe us nothing. Our track record of success in wrongful death, maritime, and personal injury lawsuits speaks for itself. We have taken on the world’s largest companies and won. When you contact us for a confidential consultation, our attorneys will go over every detail of your case with you, answer all of your questions, explain your legal rights, and help you make an informed decision about your next steps. To get started now, call us at 877-724-7800 or fill out a contact form on our website.
More information:

The Limitation of Liability Act is outdated, unfair, and should be immediately repealed

For more than a decade, I have been arguing for a repeal of the Limitation of Liabilty Act. I urge lawmakers to repeal the Limitation of Liability Act immediately. No more committee meetings, no more panels, and no more discussions that end up going nowhere. The Limitation of Liability Act is at least a century behind the times, the original justifications are long since gone, and most importantly, it is completely unfair and immoral to mariners and their families.I speak and write from experience. I have spent a large part of my legal career advocating for the rights of seafarers, maritime employees, and their families. I’ve seen firsthand on an almost daily basis how poorly some employers and insurance companies treat injured employees or the families of employees who have died. And I have fought against the Limitation Act again and again.The maritime industry has a spotty safety record to say the very least. And the Limitation of Liability Act does nothing to make the industry safer; in fact, the Act makes maritime commerce less safe.It is time to repeal the Act and get serious about protecting our mariners and the people who ride ferries, duck boats, and other commercial ships. In fact, it’s long since past time to repeal the Act.

What is the Limitation of Liability Act?

The Limitation of Liability Act, 46 U.S.C. 181 is a complex law. The details of the Limitation of Liability Act require significant legal experience and are beyond the scope of this paper.In general, though, the Act allows shipowners to file a lawsuit after a loss-producing event like a death, injury, or loss of cargo. The Act allows shipowners to limit the total amount of money they pay out to the value of the ship and her cargo at the time the shipowner files the lawsuit. The Act then pauses or “enjoins” any other lawsuits arising out of the loss-causing event and forces people with claims to file in the limitation proceeding or risk losing their claims entirely.When a ship or vessel sinks, explodes, or is otherwise damaged beyond repair, the value of the vessel and her cargo then pending can be very small. Not nearly enough to compensate victims in a catastrophic event.The original justification of the Limitation of Liability Act made sense. The Act was passed in America in 1851, when the U.S. merchant fleet needed protection and help competing against the British and European fleets. Plus, back in the 19th century and into the first part of the 20th century, it made sense to limit shipowner liability for loss of life, injury, and cargo loss because ships would often be at sea for months or years at a time with no way for the shipowner to contact the ship, monitor safety issues, or otherwise keep track of what was happening on a ship hundreds or thousands of miles away.But obviously, both of the original justifications make no sense today. The U.S. fleet doesn’t need protection against British or European fleets like it did when the U.S. merchant fleet was just getting started. More importantly, perhaps, the advent of modern technology has made ship-to-shore communications easy, cost-effective, and necessary. In fact, any shipowner that fails to monitor and track ships should be penalized for a failure to act reasonably.Moreover, there are sophisticated insurance markets where financially responsible shipowners can buy policies to insure against risk.

How has the Limitation Act been used in the past?

The Limitation Act has been used many times, including in some rather famous cases. For example, a Limitation proceeding came out of the sinking of the Titanic. Recently, there were Limitation Act proceedings when the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank.After the Deepwater Horizon sank, advocates for mariners tried to pass a law to change the Limitation Act. But like many things in our dysfunctional government, those efforts went essentially nowhere, with Congress convening committees and studies but not actually doing anything worthwhile to change this archaic law or protect seafarers from corporate wrongdoing.

The Limitation of Liability Act has outlived its intended purpose. Now it just protects unsafe companies

If companies file a limitation proceeding, then this potentially – and negatively – impacts the very people who need protection the most. Namely, the surviving family members who lose their loved ones in maritime tragedies. It would be a grave injustice to prevent these families from getting full and fair justice if an investigation shows they are entitled to it.That’s why I am publicly calling on our President and the United States Congress to actually take action this time. Stop this nonsense. Repeal the Limitation of Liability Adct immediately. There is absolutely no justification whatsoever in this day and age for such a backwards, outdated, unnecessary, and immoral law.No more committee meetings. No more studies. No more back room deals and discussions and hand shakes where nothing happens in the end.It is time to act. It is time to protect the men and women who man the ships. Not with words, but with action.

Attorney Job Tennant on being expert-ish

As many of you probably know, when Aidan was born I started working full time and taking classes part time. I worked at Jason’s Deli, in the trucking industry, as a security guard, performing antique restoration, doing door-to-door sales, as a building engineer, as a handyman, in radio, and was in the process of starting an event videography company before I went to law school. Each of those experiences allowed me to learn about a new field (except for security which was pretty boring) and gave me some perspective on the world around me.

Not Bored

One of the coolest things about being an attorney is that while you specialize in the law you also have to be an expert in every other relevant portion of your case. It is almost like a mini-career change each time you get to a new issue. That can vary from understanding how an expert hydrologist can show how water from Hurricane Harvey actually flooded specific areas to understanding the details of what is required for an expert toxicologist to be able to form a relevant opinion.

Getting to Know the Experts

While I am far from being an expert in any of the other areas of knowledge that a case involves, for a brief period of time I get to really learn about some very specific information about that field. For example, in a recent deposition of an expert toxicologist I learned about the machine that was used (liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry), the method of performing the test, the maintenance that is required, the likelihood of an error, the way the machine works, etc.

 

I had to understand it on a deep enough level to be able to have a conversation with someone who had spent years practicing in the field and who didn’t particularly want to give me the answers I was looking for. Obviously, I started off knowing nothing about the subject so it was frustrating at first trying to figure out what exactly I was trying to learn, but by the end it was extremely gratifying to be able to walk into a room and get the information that I needed from the defense’s toxicologist.

It is that type of pursuit of knowledge that I think is so thrilling about this line of work because there is never going to be a time when I know everything about a case when it starts. There will always be another concept or subject to learn and that’s how I know I am at home in this career.

Duck Boat designer lacked mechanical or engineering qualifications

The designer of the Stretch Duck 7, the duck boat that sank last week in Table Rock Lake near Branson, Missouri, lacks any training or certification in mechanics, design, or engineering. DCReport first published this information, found in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Seattle, Washington after a duck boat collided with a bus in 2014. The court documents reveal that the designer, Robert McDowell, came up with the design for the stretch duck boats after consulting with “a transmission person, as well as the maintenance people at the local Penske Truck group and the U-Haul down the street,” according to the lawsuit.These amphibious vehicles are modified from World War II vessels, with 15 inches added to the frame to fit more people. Mechanics, not qualified engineers or welders, cut the chassis in half to weld 15 feet of frame from a surplus truck to create the “stretch” duck boat. McDowell’s Ride the Ducks company created 12-18 of these vehicles a year starting in 1996. According to the Seattle lawsuit, the company failed to keep documentation of the origins of the “ancient parts” used in creating these vehicles.McDowell sold Ride the Ducks to the Herschend Group in 2004. Ride the Ducks International was created. Then, after regulators fined the company and its subsidiaries $1,000,000 for failing to comply with federal safety standards, the Branson, Missouri operation was bought by Ripley Entertainment Inc. in the fall of 2017.

Safety of duck boat design questioned by lawsuits and lawmakers

The attorney for the Seattle duck boat crash survivors and the families of the people who lost their lives told reporters that it’s “highly likely” the Stretch Duck 7 in Branson was made the same way as the duck boat involved in the Seattle crash. Karen Koehler went on to state that despite different “batches” of duck boats being made, the stretch duck boats are all essentially the same.Since the capsizing and sinking of the Stretch Duck 7 last week, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has spoken on the Senate floor about the need to for stronger safety standards for duck boats. She compared the duck boats to an “enclosed bus” and a “sinking coffin.” She is drafting legislation to address her concerns about the design and oversight of the safety of duck boats.The July 19 tragedy killed 17 people, including 9 members of the same family and the captain of the boat. It is one of over a dozen incidents involving duck boats in the past 25 years. The Branson tragedy is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. If you have ridden the duck boats and have photos or videos showing safety or design issues, please send them to Emily@VBAttorneys.com to be included in our ongoing investigation of this tragedy.

Duck Boat capsize near Branson results in 17 deaths

During an intensely violent storm on Thursday, July 19, 2018, a duck boat capsized on Table Lake near Branson, Missouri. As of early Friday afternoon, 17 people have been pronounced dead. The boat left the dock with 31 people on board, including the captain and a crewmember.Another duck boat was also caught in the storm, however it made it back to shore. Videos taken from passengers on nearby showboats show the doomed duck boat taking on water and slowly sinking due to the high winds and intense, large waves buffeting the vessel.An off-duty police officer, marina workers, and passengers on a nearby showboat – including a member of the Iowa Army National Guard who is an emergency room nurse – leapt into action to rescue and treat the duck boat passengers. Their quick thinking, despite “extremely dangerous conditions,” saved the lives of multiple people.

Duck boat accident survivors and the loved ones of deceased victims can get justice

Survivors of the Branson duck boat accident can get justice, as can the loved ones of the 17 people who lost their lives. You also deserve answers. You can get both, but you must act quickly as time is not on your side. Ripley Entertainment, the owner of the Branson duck boats, will already be taking steps to minimize their responsibility for the disaster. The three steps you need to take include:
  1. Consult an attorney right away. While you are recovering from this traumatic event, the company’s lawyers and insurance company are trying to find ways to get out of being held accountable. Investigations by governmental agencies and by the company are already underway. Nobody is working to protect your interests. Nobody is working to prevent this from happening again. That’s where an experienced, Board Certified personal injury trial attorney comes in.
  2. Do not sign any documents or give any statements to anyone from Ripley Entertainment, their insurance company, or anyone who is not your attorney. Companies use your recorded statements or your signature on documents against you when you try to settle your case. You are not legally required to sign anything or speak with them.
  3. Investigate to find out what happened. Again, this is where your attorney comes in. You want to get your investigation started right away. It can take years for a governmental agency to conclude an investigation. The company’s investigation is meant to get them off the hook. But to get access to the duck boat and all of the evidence, you will need your lawyer to help you find the right experts to investigate this type of case and to get a Temporary Restraining Order. This order, which your attorneys will get from a judge, will prevent any evidence from being tampered with, destroyed, damaged, or lost. This order also gives your experts and lawyers access to the boat, all the evidence, and the scene of the disaster so your independent investigation can be conducted. Investigators have already sent video recorders from both duck boats to D.C. to be analyzed. A Temporary Restraining Order would give your experts access to that crucial evidence now.
These steps are important to do as quickly as possible. For you to get justice, closure, compensation, and answers, you can’t let evidence get lost or destroyed over time. Since personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, you won’t owe your lawyers anything unless and until we win your case. That means you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by consulting a lawyer right away. In fact, the longer you wait to consult a lawyer, your chance of winning your case decreases dramatically.A really good, experienced lawyer will help you get the outcome you want. Some clients want to punish companies for failing to keep them and their loved ones safe. Others want the company to have to tell a jury that they put profits over the safety of their customers. And still other clients want answers. There are several questions we hope will get answered over the next few weeks and months.

Meteorologists push back on claim that the duck boat tragedy was unavoidable

While a storm warning had been issued for the area, the captain of the other duck boat said the weather was clear and calm when they departed on their tour.Experts are already speaking out about this tragedy, including meteorologists. The statement from the CEO of the duck boat’s parent company, Jim Pattison Jr., talks about how the “storm came out of nowhere.” Except it didn’t. Meteorologists predicted severe weather would occur in the area as early as 24 hours before the storm. In a Forbes article about meteorologists’ responses to this statement from Pattison, the American Meteorological Society is quoted as saying:
“A common theme in the after-action reports and service assessments for these disasters is that the weather plan was inadequate to deal with a comprehensive portfolio of weather risk, or a weather plan didn’t exist… Reducing the weather risk to life and property is a priority for the weather enterprise and the American Meteorological Society. Knowledge of, and investment in, pre-event planning and mitigation serves the nation economically as well as socially.”
Was Mr. Pattison trying to let the company off the hook when he said the storm came out of nowhere? Or had he not watched the weather in the 24 hours leading up to the sinking of the duck boat? Either way, meteorologists are already poking very large holes in his defense. Duck boat companies are required to monitor the weather.After a duck boat sank in 1999 in an Arkansas lake, the Coast Guard standardized its guidelines for inspecting and certifying duck boats. These guidelines, which are still in place, recommend that local Coast Guard inspectors tell boat companies to stay off the water if winds exceed 28 mph and/or if waves are higher than one foot.

Why the Branson duck boat passengers may have been told not to wear their life jackets or flotation devices

The National Transportation Safety Board’s report about the 1999 Arkansas duck boat tragedy, which took the lives of 13 people, was published in 2002. One finding in the report is that the canopies on duck boats restrict the horizontal and vertical escape of passengers. And that life jackets and flotation devices cause people to get trapped beneath the canopy, unable to escape. Therefore, they recommended that duck boats that have canopies not have passengers wear life jackets.Basic boating safety is that people wear life jackets all the time while on board. This finding seems to counter that safety rule. Several news outlets have reported that the passengers on the Branson duck boat were told not to wear their life jackets, causing public outrage. The general public sees this 16 year old finding unacceptable in 2018. Why haven’t duck boat companies come up with a better solution since these canopies appear to be death traps?

Is it time for duck boats to stop operating?

Multiple incidents and fatal disasters have occurred on duck boats across the country in the past 25 years. Nearly 40 people have been killed in duck boat incidents in the United States alone in this time:
  • The 1999 Arkansas disaster killed 13 people because their life jackets trapped them beneath the canopy.
  • A duck boat sank in Lake Michigan in 2000. Thankfully, everyone survived.
  • A 2002 incident on the Ottawa River in Canada killed four passengers who were also trapped under the duck boat’s canopy.
  • In 2010, a bearing collapsed on a duck boat in Liverpool in the UK. This caused the duck boat to crash, injuring 4 people.
  • In 2010 in Philadelphia, a barge plowed into a duck boat that had stalled on the Delaware River, killing two people.
  • In 2010, a Boston duck boat lost use of its brakes and hit several cars, injuring five people.
  • In 2013, a duck boat sank near the Salthouse Dock in Liverpool. Many passengers were taken to the hospital and everyone survived the sinking.
  • In 2013 in London, a duck boat caught fire on the Thames River. A first responder told the BBC that one passenger found it “difficult” to get the life jackets out of their packaging.
  • A Texas woman was struck and killed by a duck boat while she was crossing the street in Philadelphia in 2015.
  • In 2015, a bus collided with a duck boat on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle, killing 4 students.
  • A duck boat ran over a scooter in Boston in 2016, killing a woman and injuring a man.
  • Another woman was struck and seriously injured by a duck boat at another Boston intersection in 2016.
Whether on land or on water, these duck boats are dangerous. The duck boat designs create large blind spots so when they are driven on the road, everyone near them is at risk of getting hit. On the water, they are nothing short of death traps. Survivors and victims’ loved ones deserve to know why these companies are putting people in danger. You also deserve to know what the companies are going to do to prevent anyone else from getting hurt or killed by a duck boat. You deserve to know why better regulations haven’t been introduced in the past 25 years. Also, you deserve to know why duck boats haven’t been banned outright.If you are ready to consult an attorney now, call 877-724-7800. You will get all your questions answered, find out more about your legal rights, and get the information you need to make the right decision about your next steps. Our firm has helped families who have lost loved ones in boating disasters and is one of the few firms in the country that specializes in the maritime law that applies to these cases. We have the experience and track record you need to get justice.

Top 5 causes of 18-wheeler crashes

Most people don’t want to share the road with large trucks and 18-wheelers. Over the years, we’ve conducted surveys about why nobody wants to be driving next to an 18-wheeler, and the number one response is that they are afraid of getting hit. The good news is that the number of fatal truck crashes has been decreasing steadily for over a decade. The bad news is that there were still 4,317 fatal truck crashes in the United States in 2016.

That’s why we’re going through the top 5 causes of 18-wheeler crashes for you. You need to know what to watch out for when you’re sharing the road with a big truck or 18-wheeler:

1. Speeding is the leading cause of truck wrecks.

67% of large truck crashes occur because they are “traveling too fast.” Not only is this statistic staggering,   more than 22% of all large-truck drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2016 had at least one prior speeding conviction. Truck drivers are required by federal law to follow all speed limits. So when you realize the truck next to you or in front of you is speeding, it is a sign they have already made the decision to break one federal safety law. You don’t want to know what other laws they’d be willing to break next.

Also, fully-loaded trucks require 20-40% more distance to stop than a regular car. Depending on how fast they were going, the road conditions, and the weight of their load, these trucks can travel nearly 200 feet between the time they apply the brakes and when they come to a full stop.

2. When trucks are poorly maintained, they are more likely to cause a crash.

If it takes 200 feet for a truck with good brakes to come to a full stop, imagine what happens if the truck has bad breaks, a broken axle, or another problem that causes something catastrophic to happen. Some companies put safety first and make sure that their trucks are in perfect condition before every trip. Other companies cut corners and try to save money by not maintaining their trucks.

Even though truck drivers inspect their trucks before every trip and point out issues, their companies may flat-out deny maintenance requests because of the cost. We’ve helped injured truck drivers as well as truck wreck survivors hold their companies accountable for putting profits over the safety of their employees and the public. We have the experience to prove that these companies knew the trucks were unsafe and put them on the road anyway.

3. Distracted drivers and tired drivers cause crashes.

AAA published a study about distracted driving that concluded that any cell phone use roughly quadruples the risk of getting into a wreck. This goes for truck drivers as well. Although federal law prevents truck drivers from using their cell phones while driving, companies don’t always enforce the law. On top of that, cell phones aren’t the only thing that can cause a truck driver to be distracted.

Anything from opening a bottle of water to a bag of chips can be distracting. Anything that takes your eyes and attention away from the road and your hands from the steering wheel can distract you. We helped the family of a local realtor hold a truck driver and company accountable because the truck driver took his eyes off the road to get a can of soda from a cooler and rear-ended the realtor at high speed, killing him.

Tired drivers also cause wrecks. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allows 18-wheeler drivers to be on the road for 11 hours per day. Demand for truck drivers has stressed some companies to push their drivers past this time limit. Studies show that 13% of truck drivers were fatigued at the time of their crash.

4. Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol causes truck wrecks.

Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol seems like an obvious violation of truck safety laws, but it happens more than you think. Some trucking companies will look the other way when hiring drivers and ignore past drug and alcohol violations. 34% of all drunk driving crashes in 2016 involved a drunk truck driver. We have helped survivors of crashes caused by a truck driver who was high on cocaine as well as the survivor of a crash caused by a drunk truck driver. These clients turned to us to help make our roads and communities safer.

5. Lack of training and supervision causes 18-wheeler crashes

Trucking companies are required to train and closely supervise truck drivers. This rule helps keep all of us safe. However, when companies put drivers behind the wheel untrained and unsupervised, we pay the price. These companies think they are saving money by not investing in training and safety. The truth is, they usually wind up having to pay much more to the victims and survivors of 18-wheeler crashes. Juries and communities don’t like it when supposedly “professional” drivers have barely any more training than the rest of us.

What to do if you run into any of these safety failures on the road

If you are sharing the road with an 18-wheeler and feel as if something is wrong, it might be. Drive defensively and drive safely. If you think the truck is a clear and present danger to you and others, pull over and call 9-1-1. If you have a passenger who can safely take a photo of the truck’s license plate, that will help you identify the truck.

If you are hit by an 18-wheeler and believe the wreck was caused by one of these factors, consult an attorney immediately. Trucking companies and their lawyers get to work right away as soon as a wreck happens. They do everything possible to make your claim go away. You need the help of a team of experienced trial lawyers who have a track record of success holding trucking companies accountable for their safety failures. To get started now, call us at 877-724-7800.

What makes VB Attorneys different from other law firms

A question you should ask every lawyer you interview is, “What makes you different from all of the other law firms out there?”

At our firm, we believe that what sets us apart from every other law firm is how much we care about our clients. Caring about our clients means we do everything in our power to ensure our clients get the best results possible. From helping you get into the specialists you need to see, to using cutting edge technology to tell your story to the jury. From dedicating the time and resources necessary to win your case, to helping you figure out how to move forward with your life once your lawsuit has settled.

We want you to succeed and move forward with your life after you win your case.

Having a support system in place after an injury or losing a loved one is one of the most important things you need to be able to get better physically, and mentally. When you become a client at our firm, we work with you, your family, your medical providers, and everyone who is helping you get better to make sure your support system is as strong as possible.

Our clients become like family to us. If you want to hire a law firm that treats you like family instead of like a number on a file, this is the firm for you. Call us now at 877-724-7800 to get started. Our attorneys will help you get all of your questions answered, will help you understand your legal rights and options, and will help you decide what your next steps should be.

Coryell Memorial Hospital explosion takes two lives

An explosion shook Coryell Memorial Hospital in Gatesville, Texas, on June 26, 2018. Two people were killed and 14 others suffered injuries in the explosion. Filiberto Morales of Round Rock and Michael Bruggman of Rogers are the two men who lost their lives. The rest of the victims are being treated in San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Temple hospitals for injuries including severe burns.The hospital is undergoing a massive expansion project, managed by Adolfson and Peterson Construction. This project includes a physical plant to house boilers and chillers for the hospital. This is where the blast originated, according to witnesses. Preliminary reports suggest an electrical generator blew up. Other reports that a natural gas line might have been involved have been disproven by Atmos, the natural gas company that is responsible for the hospital’s gas lines.

Judge issues temporary restraining order to prevent explosion site from being “cleaned up”

Investigators from the state fire marshal’s office, OSHA, and the railroad commission began collecting evidence on June 29, 2018. The hospital’s CEO told reporters at KWTX a portion of the facility had reopened and crews have been “cleaning up the site” as of Monday, July 2. That’s when attorneys representing an electrician injured in the explosion filed a request for a Temporary Restraining Order. The restraining order, granted on Tuesday, July 3, prevents any changes being made to the scene of the explosion to ensure that everyone’s investigations can proceed without losing any evidence.A Temporary Restraining Order helps protect the legal rights of the people hurt and killed in the explosion. It is very important that these orders are filed as soon as possible. Every minute a construction company isn’t working, they’re losing money. Every minute the hospital isn’t operation, the hospital is losing money. So they will do everything possible to get back to work, even if it means “cleaning up” the evidence crucial to your case. If there is no evidence, your team of independent experts can’t determine the cause of the explosion. And if your team can’t conduct a thorough investigation, the state fire marshals and OSHA can’t either.You have a constitutional right to be compensated if you are injured due to a company or person’s negligence. And if anything or anyone prevents you from being able to determine who is responsible for your injuries, you may be able to sue for additional compensation, punitive damages in legal terms. These punitive damages are meant to do just that – punish the person or company responsible for preventing you from seeking justice.Even if you aren’t ready to file an injury or wrongful death lawsuit, we recommend you consult with experienced trial lawyers as soon as possible. A free and confidential consultation will help you determine what course of action will be best for your claim. We will answer all of your questions and analyze your case based on our extensive experience winning cases just like this one.The bottom line is this: the longer you wait to consult an attorney, the more time the companies have had to get rid of evidence. Which means it will get harder and harder to prove your case. To get started today, call us at 877-724-7800 or fill out a contact form.