Fault & Evidence in Maritime Claims

Maritime Injuries Aug 17, 2022

If you’ve been injured on the job and need to file a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) or the Jones Act, you must be able to prove your right to compensation. Your employer (or its insurance company) isn’t going to pay voluntarily, so it is up to you to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.

There are two key aspects to proving your legal rights after a maritime injury. The first is fault: Does fault matter? If so, how does it affect your legal rights? The second is evidence of liability: What evidence do you need to prove that you are entitled to LHWCA or Jones Act benefits?

Fault in Maritime Injury Claims: When Does It Matter?

Maritime accidents can result from a broad range of factors. From failure to supply necessary safety equipment to failure to maintain a seaworthy vessel, employers and vessel owners can be deemed at fault for workers’ injuries in many cases. But, workers can be responsible for their own injuries as well in some cases.

So, when does fault matter? Injured maritime workers must be able to prove fault when filing the following types of claims:

  • Jones Act Negligence – Under the Jones Act, injured maritime workers can obtain full compensation for on-the-job injuries that result from their employers’ negligence. Jones Act negligence claims require evidence of “slight” negligence or minor fault.
  • Unseaworthiness – Maritime workers can also recover full compensation for injuries that result from unseaworthy vessels. Vessel owners have an obligation to maintain their vessels in seaworthy condition, and when they fail to do so, they can be held at fault for workers’ injuries.
  • Third Party Liability Claims – In some cases, injured maritime workers will have “third party” liability claims against companies like vessel manufacturers, PFD manufacturers, and maintenance providers. Filing a third-party claim requires proof of fault—whether this involves selling a defective product or making a mistake that leads to injury.

However, injured maritime workers do not need to prove fault in order to obtain the following benefits:

  • Jones Act Maintenance and Cure Benefits – The Jones Act makes maintenance and cure benefits available to injured seamen on a “no fault” basis. This means that evidence of fault is not required. Even if a seaman accidentally causes his or her own injury, the seaman can still file a claim. Maintenance and cure benefits cover seamen’s medical bills and provide a small stipend for their living expenses.
  • LHWCA Benefits – The LHWCA also provides “no fault” benefits to longshoremen, harbor workers, dock hands, shipbuilders, and other qualifying land-based maritime employees. Under the LHWCA, eligible workers can secure coverage for their medical bills and up to two-thirds of their lost wages.  

Evidence of Liability in Maritime Injury Claims: What Do You Need to Prove Your Rights?

Regardless of whether you need to prove fault, you will need evidence to prove your rights after suffering an injury on the job. Even to secure “no fault” benefits, you must be able to prove that you suffered your injury on the job. Some of the ways you can prove that your injury is job-related include:

  • Reporting the accident to your employer or the vessel owner as soon as possible (try to make sure your employer or the vessel owner documents the accident in writing)
  • Taking photos or videos at the scene of the accident with your cell phone
  • Remembering the names of any co-workers who saw what happened (and who may be able to provide statements on your behalf if necessary)
  • Seeking medical treatment for your injury as soon after the accident as possible
  • Taking notes to help you remember all of the details about your accident

To file a fault-based claim for additional compensation, you will need additional evidence. Not only must you be able to prove fault on the part of your employer, the vessel owner or a third party, but you must also be able to prove that this fault caused your injury. Depending on the circumstances involved, possible evidence of fault may include:

  • Lack of safety training
  • Lack of access to functional safety equipment
  • Employment records showing that crewmembers or other personnel are overworked and fatigued
  • Maintenance records showing that tools, equipment or the vessel had not received necessary service or repairs
  • An investigation report showing that the vessel was unseaworthy
  • An investigation report showing that tools, welding equipment, lifts, cranes, winches or other equipment had not been properly designed, manufactured or serviced
  • Records showing that employees were forced to work in hazardous sea or weather conditions
  • Surveillance camera footage or cell phone footage of the accident or the conditions at the time of the accident
  • Evidence that a vessel was operating without the required number of crew members
  • Evidence that an employer or vessel owner knowingly ignored potential risks to workers’ safety

Additional Evidence Needed in Maritime Injury Claims

There is another key type of evidence injured maritime workers need to prove their legal rights. This is evidence of how much they are entitled to recover.

Whether you are limited to filing for “no fault” benefits or you have a claim for full compensation, it is up to you to prove how much you are entitled to recover. Your employer, the vessel owner, or the insurance company handling your claim is not going to calculate your losses for you. You will need to make sure you receive full coverage for your injury-related medical expenses, and you will also need to make sure you are receiving the maximum compensation available for your lost wages and other losses. By collecting your medical records and employment records, following your doctor’s advice, and keeping a daily log of your injuries’ effects, you can make sure you don’t end up settling for less than you deserve.

Get Help with Your Maritime Injury Claim at No Out-of-Pocket Cost

If you have a maritime injury claim, you can hire a lawyer to represent you at no out-of-pocket cost. To get the help, you need to maximize your financial recovery, call 800-468-4878 or request a free consultation online now.

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