Time is not on your side. Hire the best maritime injury lawyers in the country to make sure you get the compensation you are owed. When you get hurt, you become a liability to your employer. This means they will do whatever it takes to pay you as little as possible. The good news is that the law is on your side.
The bad news is that these cases aren’t like filing a worker’s compensation claim. You are facing an army of lawyers and adjusters trained to make your case go away. That’s where we come in. Before you cash any check, sign any forms, or speak with an adjuster, consult our experienced maritime injury lawyers to make sure you get what you deserve.
After being injured on the job you may think that you are legally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, if your job involves working on a vessel at sea, along the Gulf Coast, in a river system, or on an offshore oil rig, you are not entitled to workers’ compensation. Instead, you are covered by federal admiralty law, also known as “maritime law” or the “Jones Act.” An experienced Jones Act lawyer can help you understand what this means for your case.
Federal maritime law and the Jones Act are extremely complicated. Only a handful of law firms and lawyers across the country are considered experts in this area of the law and have a track record of success when it comes to helping injured mariners get the compensation they deserve for their Jones Act claims. Brian Beckcom, one of VB Attorneys’ founding partners, is widely considered one the nation’s leading Jones Act lawyers for cases involving maritime accidents and injuries.
At 37 years old, Keidron had spent nine years building a career for himself working offshore. He enjoyed the work and being able to provide for
“I couldn’t remember if I kissed my wife goodbye, but I had to help my buddies.” Months after an oil well blew out, killing two
Who you hire as your lawyer may be the most important decision you make. It can be the difference between a small settlement and a large settlement, between a quick settlement or one that drags on for years and year, between collecting everything to which you are legally entitled or collecting nothing at all.
If you were injured on the job while working offshore, then you are not going to receive state workers’ compensation benefits. Instead, your legal rights will be controlled by U.S. federal law. Under a U.S. federal law known as the “Jones Act,” maritime workers who are hurt on the job are entitled to different legal benefits than land-based employees. Sometimes, these benefits can be much, much better than state workers’ compensation benefits. However, you absolutely must hire the best lawyer for the case. Otherwise, you stand a very good chance of losing your legal rights entirely.
The very first question you should ask is which law protects your legal rights? There are many different options. There are state laws and federal laws. And within the body of federal law, there are a number of specific laws like the Jones Act, the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, General Maritime Law, maintenance and cure, and much more.
Generally speaking, if your job requires you to work on a “vessel” that is “in navigation,” then you are probably covered under the Jones Act. The definition of “vessel” is quite broad. Some of the vessels that fall into this category are:
In order for you to be covered under the Jones Act, you must be assigned to a “vessel” and your job must contribute to the mission of the vessel. Again, “contribute to the mission” is quite broad. Basically, any job on the vessel will fit the definition. The following is a list of the types of jobs that are often covered by the Jones Act:
Practically speaking, if you were hurt on the job while working offshore, you are going to be entitled to collect significantly more money in a settlement than if you were only protected by state workers’ compensation laws. State workers’ compensation laws are basically run by large insurance companies. The insurance companies have an incentive to provide the minimum amount of medical care. As a result, the insurance companies will hire doctors who often care little about the patients and more about making money from the insurance company. They will put you back to work before you’re ready, they will write reports saying your injuries were “pre-existing,” and they will do all sorts of other underhanded things to prevent you from getting your full benefits.
It’s different when you’re covered by federal maritime law and the Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, for example, your employer is required by law to pay for all of your medical care until you reach maximum medical improvement. Unlike state workers’ compensation laws, you get to go to your own doctors, not doctors hand-picked by your employer or some big insurance company. You are also entitled to something called “maintenance,” which is a daily living stipend while you are off work recuperating from your injuries.
In addition to medical payments and maintenance payments, you are also allowed to bring a lawsuit for negligence damages, which you cannot do if you are getting state workers’ compensation benefits. Under state law, you cannot sue your employer if they have workers’ compensation insurance, regardless of the amount of negligence committed. Under the Jones Act, you can sue for negligence.
The difference between state workers’ compensation laws and the Jones Act can be a difference in you receiving nothing and receiving hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in a settlement. That’s why, as soon as you are hurt, you should consult an experienced Jones Act attorney to find out if you have a case. An experienced attorney can help you understand what to expect the company to do as well as the value of Jones Act settlements in cases similar to yours.
If you have been injured while working offshore and have been reading up on your rights under the Jones Act, you may be unsure if your injuries were caused by the negligence of your employer, the unseaworthiness of the vessel where you were working at the time of the accident, or just plain “bad luck.” In the seconds it takes for you to get hurt, it can be very hard to figure out what happened at all—just that someone who was up and working a moment ago got seriously hurt as a result.
However, although it may not seem to matter how you got hurt, it is important to determine the cause. There are many ways employers can prevent accidents and injuries at sea, and you, as a mariner, can hold your employer financially responsible for your medical care and expenses if they contributed to your injury.
While there are many different ways that workers get hurt at sea, but the root causes usually boil down to:
Ultimately, there are a lot of reasons why accidents happen and seamen get hurt. The question of whether an employer is liable for an injury and must pay an injured seaman benefits often comes down to whether or not that accident—regardless of what happened—could have been prevented with appropriate care.
We often see situations where you may want to wait to consult a maritime injury lawyer after you are injured on a vessel because you trust your company. Often, people in your situation feel as if the company will repay your loyalty and hard work by taking care of you. The company may even be telling you not to worry, that they will take care of everything and pay all your bills. They may even offer you a lump sum right away for your medical bills. That lump sum comes with a catch – not only will it not be enough to pay your medical bills, but the paperwork you will sign to get it will prevent you from ever filing a Jones Act lawsuit and getting the compensation you deserve.
If you don’t take the lump sum settlement, the company will wait until after most of the deadlines on a Jones Act claim expire, to suddenly turn its back on you. The company stops benefits, stops helping with medical care and wages, and may even fire you. Since the company strung the situation out for so long, you have no recourse because all the important deadlines have passed and you will be forever barred from suing them.
Employers and vessel owners work hard to minimize their liability for accidents and injuries—and they don’t always play fair. Injured Jones Act workers should watch out for company attempts to:
These are just some of the things your employer is doing behind your back while you are trying to recover from your injuries. While they are doing these things, they are telling you that they are looking out for you, and looking out for your best interest. They are also probably telling you not to talk to any attorneys about a Jones Act claim. The truth of the matter is this: your company is only looking out for itself and trying to find ways it can pay you as little as possible for your injury. The company tells you one thing, and does the opposite behind your back.
If one of the above scenarios sounds familiar, get legal advice immediately. Injured seamen should get legal advice immediately from a Jones Act lawyer because there is no doubt the company has attorneys on their side working to protect the company. Our firm has often given “behind the scenes” legal advice free of charge to injured workers to make sure they don’t start off way behind the company if legal action becomes necessary.
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, which includes the Jones Act, general maritime law, and the Death on the High Seas Act, also protects 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.
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 like yours 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 fatalities on the water. DOHSA allows surviving family members to sue the ship owner or employer when a mariner 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.
The Death on the High Seas Act 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 your wrongful death claim can proceed under DOHSA:
DOHSA 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 epxlained clearly so you make the best decision about your legal rights.
Many families have questions about pursuing a legal claim for their loved one’s death. Some of the most common questions include:
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.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) applies to certain classes of workers who are injured offshore, or close to offshore. The most common workers who can claim under this law are those engaged in stevedore operations, such as loading and unloading large vessels. It also applies to other workers who repair, dismantle or build vessels, and those who work on or near offshore platforms, piers, wharves, dry docks, terminals and marine railways.
The LHWCA is similar to land-based workers compensation laws. If it applies to you and you suffer an injury, then you are automatically entitled to certain financial benefits, no matter who caused your injury.
The federal government estimates that about 500,000 workers qualify for benefits pursuant to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act every year. You, and other dock and harbor workers, may be able to recover:
If your loved one has died and was covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, then you may also be entitled to benefits. Those benefits may include compensation for medical expenses and half of your loved one’s average weekly income for the rest of your life or until you remarry.
A 905(b) case is a unique kind of offshore injury case. The section of the LHWCA that addresses these claims is 33 U.S.C.A. s. 905(b); however, most people just refer to these claims as “905(b)” cases. Under this part of the LHWCA, titled “negligence of vessel,” if your injury was caused by the negligence of the owner or operator of a vessel, then you can bring a claim against the vessel owner. This is similar to a “third party” claim under land-based law.
Our offshore injury lawyers have a successful track record in helping workers with 905(b) claims. Unfortunately, we often see that injured offshore workers, and even their attorneys, fail to identify that this claim exists. That failure means a lot of money is left on the table if they don’t consult a firm like ours that is experienced in handling 905(b) claims. The maritime companies and their insurance companies certainly don’t mind paying less money on claims, and therefore they don’t go out of their way to educate their employees about these claims.
Here is where things get trickier. Section 905(b) does not come out and say what you must provide in order to win your third party case. To learn that, one must be familiar with a case the United States Supreme Court decided back in 1981, called Scindia Steamship Navigation Co., Ltd. v. De Los Santos.
If you think you may have a 905(b) claim, you should immediately contact a qualified maritime injury lawyer. This type of law is simply too complicated for you to analyze your rights on your own. Beyond that, maritime law is too complicated for most lawyers who don’t have extensive experience in this area of the law.
A federal judge in Pennsylvania, presiding over a large docket of maritime asbestos-related claims, issued a key ruling favorably impacting sweeping number of plaintiffs’ cases.
Judge Eduardo C. Robreno’s opinion considers three questions: (1) whether punitive damages are available to seamen’s claims for unseaworthiness under general maritime law; (2) if so, whether punitive damages are available in maritime cases for asbestos-related claims; and finally (3) whether the plaintiffs in the case had satisfied the (relatively) new pleadings standard for requesting punitive damages.
Here are Judge Robreno’s answers to those questions:
Mariners deal with some of the harshest conditions of any industry. Your jobs require lifting, going aloft, throwing heaving lines, tending capstans, loading stores, and a whole array of other physically demanding tasks. To make it worse, you are often performing these tasks in a very dangerous work environment, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that sometimes things go wrong. Under the Jones Act and other relevant laws, injured seamen like you may have the right to recover damages from employers who fail to protect your safety or don’t address unsafe conditions. But many seamen aren’t aware of their rights or just how many of their expenses can be covered if they are hurt at work.
If you have seen doctors for your injuries, you may make a claim to get your medical bills paid. Under the Jones Act, this might include the costs of:
While it makes sense for an employer to help pay your medical bills after an injury the company is responsible for, you should be aware that there is sometimes more to your costs than just doctor and hospital visits. If you have any questions about whether an expense will be covered, don’t wait any longer to investigate your rights further.
While anger, fear, depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness may seem like natural reactions to a terrible event, make sure that you communicate with your doctors and loved ones if you notice changes in your behavior or if your emotional state is beginning to interfere with your life or your recovery. Seeking out a professional can help you find effective strategies for:
It is hard to deal with a serious or disabling injury, and it can take a toll on your health. Necessary mental health care is covered under the Jones Act, and it’s generally compensated as a part of your overall medical care.
If your injury leaves you unable to work, you may be able to recover damages for your economic losses, including wages and employee benefits. Keep track of how much work you miss, and consider speaking with an attorney if you’ve missed a large amount of work or can’t work in the same type of job because of your injuries. In order to “prove” that you are owed compensation for lost income under the Jones Act, you may need help from skilled attorneys and economic experts.
Keep in mind, too, that these claims for lost wages are distinct from claims under maintenance and cure. A lot of maritime companies tell their workers that “maintenance and cure” is a substitute for Jones Act claim. Don’t fall for this trick.
There are other costs of a serious injury that can be hard to put a price tag on. Rather than compensating you for just your mental health care bills, the Jones Act recognizes and tries to account for the intangible pain and emotional anguish that you experience as a result of your injury. This might include financial compensation for:
While you might not receive a bill in the mail for all the ways an injury has changed your life, there can still be steep emotional costs. In cases involving very serious injuries—like permanent orthopedic injuries, amputations, burns, or death—seamen may be able to recover large amounts of money for these damages, into the many millions of dollars.
Many serious injuries require years, or even a lifetime, of costly care. Under the Jones Act and other maritime laws, you may be able to recover compensation for your potential medical needs, lost earning capacity, and other costs in the future. Don’t forget to take these projected costs into account when negotiating a Jones Act claim.
If you have questions about what compensation you may be able to recover after a serious injury at sea, an experienced attorney can be a valuable ally in determining the exact damages you can recover, gathering the necessary evidence, helping you protect your rights, and fighting for a favorable settlement for you and your family.
If you are ready to get started, give us a call toll free at 877.724.7800. The consultation is free and confidential. We will walk you through the entire legal process, answer every single question, and help you make the best decision for your future. You can also use the contact forms on our website to send us a confidential email, and we will schedule an immediate appointment for you to learn your rights. Our Board Certified attorneys know time is not on your side. Don’t wait another second to get the maritime injury settlement you deserve.