Will I be fired for filing a maritime injury claim?

One of the biggest concerns you may have as an injured maritime worker, is the risk of losing your job if you file an injury claim. After all, the economy is tough and jobs are hard to come by. Even though you are injured, you may be too anxious about your job security to pursue compensation in which you are entitled.

Wrongful termination is against the law when you are protected under state and federal law. It is a violation of the General Maritime Law to fire you after filing a personal injury claim. Unfortunately, maritime employers have been known to fire employees after they have become injured, because they view these workers as a liability and they are no longer able to produce.

If you are concerned about being fired for filing your maritime injury claim, you should talk with an experienced maritime attorney who can go over your options. As an injured seaman, you do have legal rights and can pursue compensation for your injuries. If you are wrongfully terminated, you may be able to get your job back.

For more information, contact our law firm and speak to a maritime injury attorney.

How much is my case worth?

This is the question the clients ask most often. The short answer is that no attorney can accurately tell a client at the beginning of a case how much the case is worth. Much work will need to be done on the case before a value for the case is determined. The case value depends on many factors, including how difficult it will be to establish fault on a company you worked for or which caused your injury, whether there is any fault on the client for causing the injury and if there is a link between the alleged fault and the injury. Generally, if you are successful in your case you can recover lost wages, future lost wages if you cannot return to work, medical expenses, and damages for your pain and suffering.

Can I file a Jones Act claim if I was hurt by a co-worker?

Under a federal law, known as the Jones Act, if you are a seaman and have been injured by negligence or an unseaworthy vessel, you may be able to file a claim against your employer. Negligence can involve a co-worker.

When you are working on the high seas or other navigable waters, you generally rely on your co-workers. The tasks you complete as a Jones Act seaman can be incredibly physical and when you combine that with the heavy equipment and machinery you may be using, the risk of injury is high. The odds are even greater of sustaining a maritime injury when your co-worker is negligent. If you have been injured because of a negligent crewmember, you may be eligible to file a Jones Act claim to seek compensation.

Jones Act cases can be complex, which is why you should always consult with an experienced maritime attorney immediately following a maritime accident. There are deadlines that have to be met and if you miss the statute of limitations, you will have difficulty collecting monetary damages for your Jones Act injuries.

What should I do if I am hurt?

The first thing you must do is report your injury. If you have to fill out an accident report, explain on the accident report how it is that you got hurt and what part of your body is hurting. It is very important to make note of the reason the accident happened if it involves the fault of your employer, other person, or company. For example, if something breaks and causes you to get hurt – note it on the accident report. If you slip and fall on a foreign substance on a deck or floor – note it on the incident report. If you did not get enough help for a job that you were ordered to do – note it on the incident report. Also, many employers are in a rush to have their employees give a recorded or sworn statement before the employee has an opportunity to talk to an attorney or even reflect on how it is that he got hurt. On many occasions, an adjuster will come to talk to you while you are in the hospital emergency room or while an injured person is on strong pain medication. Do everything in your power to resist giving that statement before you have talked to an attorney. If you must give a statement, however, make sure that when you are asked if anything caused your injury, you give accurate and detailed information as to the negligence or fault on the company that you wish to bring a claim against.

Many companies ask their employees to sign what is know as a “waiver” of their right to sue under the Jones Act or the general maritime law. You do not have to sign this. If you do sign this, you will be forced to arbitrate your case and not have a judge or jury decide your case. This is both unfair and costly to the injured party. The issue as to whether this is an appropriate action by the employer is the subject of many lawsuits. Often the employer will tell you that they will not pay your medical bills or support you if you do not sign these “waivers,” but the law requires your employer to take care of you whether or not you sign the waiver or not.

Finally, it is important that you contact an experienced maritime lawyer as soon as possible. An experienced maritime lawyer can assist you in receiving the proper compensation for your injury and assist in finding appropriate doctors to treat your injury. An experienced maritime lawyer can hit the ground running to investigate your case before the witnesses to your injury are scattered across the country and possibly the world. The longer a case goes uninvestigated by the injured party, the less information will be available to assist that employee. Remember, the employer has lawyers and investigators that will immediately begin working to prepare a defense. If you are not represented, there is no one representing your interest.

What is Admiralty Law?

Admiralty law, which is also known as maritime law, regulates maritime activities, as well as the relationship between private entities that operate vessels on the sea. This body of law handles issues relating to maritime, such as maritime commerce, navigation, shipping, sailors and the transportation of passengers and goods by the ocean. It also governs various commercial activities, including land based, that are considered to be maritime related.

This law is different from the Law of the Sea, which is public international law that deals with navigational rights, mineral rights, jurisdiction and international law governing relationships between countries.

Admiralty law was adopted by the United States after admiralty cases began to arise following the establishment of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. Numerous United States attorneys who were prominent during the American Revolution were admiralty lawyers, including Alexander Hamilton and John Adams.

Admiralty law includes such features as maintenance and cure, which is compensation for injured seamen. Maintenance refers to basic living expenses, while cure refers to medical care. A seaman who has sustained a maritime injury can also pursue compensation based on the doctrine of unseaworthiness or the Jones Act.

In addition, the law allows injured passengers to pursue a lawsuit against the ship owner for any injuries incurred due to negligence. Based on admiralty law, the ship owner owes a duty of reasonable care to passengers.

How long will my suit take and where does my suit need to be filed?

The amount of time that it takes to conclude your case depends on where the case is filed. An injured marine worker is entitled to bring his case in either state or federal court. There are often several court locations or venues where a marine worker can bring his case. Once again, it is important to consult with an experienced maritime lawyer to know the very best place to bring a case. The length of time to conclude your case depends on where the case was filed. Some of the various places a suit can be filed can include your home town, the headquarters or main office of your employer, the site where the accident occurred, or a site where many of the witnesses live or work. Your attorney will select the best possible venue to bring your case.

Who is considered a seaman?

A seaman an individual who is a member of a crew of a vessel or is a member of a crew of vessels under common ownerships. One of the reasons it is important to hire experienced maritime counsel is that the determination of who is a seaman and who is not is often a very technical and detailed analysis that must be made to determine what type of compensation the injured party is entitled. If one is found to be a seaman, he is entitled to recovery under the Jones Act and the general maritime law. He is one of the few workers who have a direct cause of action against his or her employer. If you work on the water, but are not considered a seaman, you may have a Longshore Harbor Workers Compensation or State Compensation remedy in addition to what is known as a third-party suit if you were injured through the fault of a company or individual that is not your employer. Once again, this is often a very detailed and fact specific analysis that must be made by competent and experienced maritime counsel.

What questions should I ask my lawyer as far as his qualification?

You should ask your lawyer how many maritime cases he or she has handled, if he or she works with other firms in representing you, and how much money they have recovered on behalf of clients.

How do you charge? Are there any up front costs?

Our firm works on a contingency fee basis. That means we do not recover any fees unless we recover money on your behalf. We recover a percentage of your settlement or jury verdict. We also advance all of the case expenses and can advance living expenses in venues where it is permitted by law. In other words, you pay nothing unless you recover. You pay us no fee unless we recover money for you and you have no obligation to pay back expenses or advances unless we recover money on your behalf. Case expenses include, filing fees, deposition fees, medical record fees, and other costs normally associated with the prosecution of a maritime case.

Am I entitled to workers’ compensation?

If you are a member of a crew of a vessel, you are considered a Jones Act seaman. If you are a Jones Act seaman, you do not receive workers’ compensation, but rather receive a daily payment known as maintenance. Maintenance is designed reproduce your food and lodging while onboard a vessel or a rig. It is not designed to pay all of your living expenses. Many companies have a fixed rate of maintenance that can vary from $15 a day to up to approximately $50 a day. An experienced maritime lawyer can assist a seaman in getting the correct amount of maintenance which should include payment for your rent and/or mortgage, utilities, food, and travel back and forth to the physician. Maintenance should be paid to an injured seaman regardless of fault on your employer or other company. The employer is also responsible for paying cure which is medical treatment provided by a physician of your choice until you reach maximum medical improvement. There is often a battle to get maintenance and cure started and that is why it is important to hire an attorney as soon as possible after an injury. Once again, maintenance and cure is payable whether or not the injured employee can establish liability or fault on the employer, other company, or person.
If liability or fault can be established against the employer or other party, then other damages can be awarded. This fault is known as liability and can be established by proving negligence on the part of your employer or other person for directing or requiring an employee to do an unsafe act that causes an injury or if the employee can establish unseaworthiness, which means a part of the vessel is not fit for its intended purpose and that the unseaworthy condition caused the injury. On many occasions, the injured party can proved both negligence and unseaworthiness. For example, if an employee is ordered to lift an item that is too heavy for one person to lift by himself by his superior, that can be considered negligence. An example of unseaworthiness would be oil or grease on the deck of a vessel or a wire or cable that breaks and causes injury. An experienced maritime lawyer can explain in detail the requirements to prove liability and establish the Jones Act or other maritime case. On some worksites, a maritime employee is working on a platform or does not have the requisite time on a vessel to be considered a seaman and may have what is considered a third-party case.