FAQ’s About Maritime Injuries
If you work on or near navigable waters, then you are engaged in a high-risk profession, in which physical injury is always a possibility. In this post, our maritime injuries lawyers will answer some of the questions that often arise in connection with these types of injuries.
How do maritime injuries occur?
Due to the nature of maritime work, an accident and injury can happen in any number of ways. For example, a worker may be injured slipping and falling on a slick substance on the deck, such as oil or grease.
Lifting of heavy objects can cause injuries. A worker may be injured from too much stress being put on a mooring line, which causes that line to snap back; this is especially common if you are dealing with rough waters, old lines, and an inexperienced mooring crew.
Injuries may occur from a personnel basket, rescue boat, or crew boat being lowered too quickly, or from prolonged exposure to chemicals, such as oil fumes or benzene. These are just a few examples of common scenarios that may result in maritime injuries.
What causes these injuries?
Maritime injuries can be caused by a variety of factors. Common causes of maritime injuries include: improper equipment for the job; improperly maintained equipment; inadequately trained crew; incompetent crew members; and/or dangerous conditions.
What recourse do I have if I am injured on the job?
Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to bring a wide variety of claims against a number of responsible parties.
You may be able to bring a claim for negligence (unreasonable carelessness) against your employer under a federal law known as the “Jones Act.” If you meet the requirements for Jones Act status, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering.
To prevail on a Jones Act claim, you will have to show that your employer’s negligence played a role in causing your injuries. In addition to a negligence claim, you may also be able to bring an “unseaworthiness” claim against the owner of the vessel (which may not be your employer, but another entity altogether).
An unseaworthiness claim can be brought against a vessel owner when the vessel is not reasonably safe. This can be a vessel with broken equipment or a shorthanded crew. While a vessel owner does not have a duty to make its vessel accident free, it does have a duty to provide a reasonably safe vessel.
If you do not meet the criteria for a Jones Act case, you still may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries under another federal law, the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. You also may be able to bring negligence claims against other non-employer, non-vessel owner parties under what is called “general maritime law.”
What should I do if I’m injured?
We advise anyone who has suffered maritime injuries to take the following steps:
- Seek medical care as soon as possible. Doing this supports your credibility, as you would appear suspect for making a large claim for which you did not receive immediate medical attention. Further, seeking medical treatment creates a paper trail showing exactly where you were injured and can provide insight into how you were injured. If you are seen by a company doctor, you should also make an appointment with a doctor of your own choosing to obtain a second opinion. Company doctors may be biased.
- Report your injury. This puts your employer on notice of a potential claim, which requires your employer to preserve all potentially relevant evidence, such as deck logs, engine logs, cleaning reports, maintenance logs, or photographs. If you delay reporting your claim, this will delay your employer’s investigation into what occurred, which, in turn, could delay your claim and the payment of any compensation which may be owed to you.
- Gather evidence. As much as practically possible, gather evidence to support your claim for maritime injuries. Take photographs. Try to obtain statements from co-workers or other potential witnesses. For example, did you overhear co-workers discussing the problems with old, worn mooring lines or winches, or complaining about the crew being shorthanded that day? See if anyone is willing to make a statement to that effect.
- Obtain your medical records from all doctors and medical facilities where you received treatment.
- Don’t sign anything. Do not sign any releases or any statement about “fault” in the accident until you have consulted with an experienced maritime injuries lawyer. Anything you sign now may come back to haunt you if you decide later to proceed with a claim against your employer and its insurance company.
- Contact a maritime injuries lawyer. The laws governing maritime injuries are complicated. To ensure that you receive full and fair compensation for the harm done to you, consult with an experienced maritime injuries lawyer. Learn about your legal rights and options, so that you can make informed decisions about how to proceed.
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