If you work in the maritime industry, whether as a seaman, as a longshoreman, or on offshore rigs and platforms on the outer continental shelf, you have rights. You have rights under maritime law to receive compensation in the event that an on-the-job accident leaves you injured. That compensation may cover your medical expenses, lost wages, and even pain and suffering depending on the situation. This compensation also extends to your dependent loved ones if you die because of a workplace accident.
In too many cases, employers and their insurers try to deny maritime workers their rights to accident compensation. They look for any angle or excuse to get out of the responsibility of compensating injured workers. If you find yourself in this situation, you may need to file a maritime lawsuit to get what you are owed. Doing so isn’t always easy or straightforward, but an experienced maritime lawyer can help guide you through the process and represent you in court or during arbitrations.
When to File a Lawsuit
When you get injured on the job, there are expenses to be paid, not least of which may be your lost wages if your injuries prevent you from going back to work, plus mounting medical bills. If you have been injured and your employer won’t compensate you, or is not compensating you adequately, you may be in a position to file a lawsuit under federal maritime law.
There are several laws that cover different kinds of maritime workers, and where and how you work in the industry determines which one covers your rights. Any time you are injured at work and you believe that you are not getting adequately compensated, you can file a lawsuit. Here are the laws that may cover you:
- The Jones Act. This law, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, covers seamen, and to file a lawsuit under this law you must qualify as this kind of maritime worker according to the definition. The requirements for being defined as a seaman under this law include spending at least 30 percent of your working time aboard a vessel that is on navigable waters. This includes ships at dock or in port. You also must have been injured while doing work that contributed to the maritime work of the vessel. The Jones Act is specifically designed to ensure you get compensation if your employer is negligent in causing the accident that injured you.
- The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. This law covers many of the maritime workers who do not qualify under the Jones Act. It was drafted specifically for this reason. Harbor workers face dangers too and were left out of the benefits of the Jones Act. If you work in a harbor setting, this law provides you with a federal workers’ compensation program, similar to state programs. You do not have to prove any negligence to qualify under this law.
- The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Finally maritime law had to be extended to cover another group of workers left out of the above two laws. Workers aboard oil rigs and platforms and on other permanent structures on the continental shelf regions of the oceans do not qualify as seamen under the Jones Act. For this reason, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act was drafted to provide a workers’ compensation program for these workers.
If you have been injured on the job in any of the above categories, you can file maritime lawsuits to get the compensation you need. There are other maritime laws as well, which may apply in your case. If you aren’t sure where you qualify or which law will be right for you to file a claim or start a lawsuit, an experienced attorney can guide you and help you get the lawsuit started.
Reasons for Filing
There is any number of reasons to file a lawsuit when you have been injured on the job. The main, broad reason is that you don’t believe you are getting the compensation you are owed. For instance, if you work aboard a ship and you were injured when a piece of equipment malfunctioned, you may be able to prove that your employer neglected to have the equipment repaired. If that negligence contributed to your injury, you may be able to file a successful lawsuit under the Jones Act to get the compensation your employer is trying to dodge paying out to you.
Under the broad category of being denied your rights, there are many specific reasons for filing a lawsuit. These include being denied a right to maintenance and cure, suffering an injury because you or someone else working with you were not trained adequately, being assaulted by a fellow worker, being struck by cargo that was improperly stored, or being denied survivor benefits if you lost a loved one to an accident while doing a maritime job. Generally, if you believe you are owed compensation under the law, and you aren’t getting it, you can start a lawsuit.
What You Need to File a Lawsuit
Any time you are injured on the job, you need to do a couple of things to ensure you can prove your right to get compensation. The first is to file an accident report as soon as possible. This is the responsibility of your superior, but you need to ensure it gets done and that it includes as much detail as possible from any witnesses. This will help give detail to your case and demonstrate that others saw what happened. You also need to be sure that you get immediate medical treatment and that you keep a record of that treatment. This also acts as proof that your injuries are real and were caused by the accident in question.
Both of these steps are important in proving that you were injured on the job and proving negligence if any was involved in the accident. If you can’t provide them in a lawsuit, you may not have much of a case. Doing these things quickly is also crucial, as there may be time limits and restrictions. It is also important to get them done in a timely fashion to ensure that witnesses are reliable and give you all the details necessary for the accident report.
The main reason to file a lawsuit when you’re injured on the job is to get compensatory damages, or money to cover your personal costs that arose from the injury. However, a maritime lawsuit may also result in punitive damages, which are meant to punish the responsible party. Whether or not these kinds of damages will be applied in your lawsuit depends on the jurisdiction and the individual judge overseeing your case.
Finding a Good Lawyer
Filing maritime lawsuits is complicated and can be costly too. If you make mistakes you could be wasting time and money and end up never getting the compensation that you are owed. A lawyer who has filed similar lawsuits before can help you determine which law you qualify for, file a claim, and start the process of a lawsuit if necessary. Only with such professional guidance can you be sure you are going to maximize the compensation you receive and avoid making crucial procedural mistakes.
When looking for a lawyer to file your suit, make sure you work with a maritime lawyer, someone experienced and well versed in maritime law. You should also select a lawyer with a good track record, someone who has helped clients in the past win the compensation they deserved. With this professional there to help you file and fight for your rights, you will have the best chance of getting money to help you get back on your feet and back to work.