Suffering an on-the-job injury can have devastating consequences for maritime workers. David Willis is a maritime injury lawyer with over 40 years’ experience helping workers recover the financial compensation they deserve.
When you work with your hands for a living, getting hurt on the job can mean substantial time missed from work and financial strain for your family. If you cannot work, you need another source of income, and fortunately maritime laws provide special protections for longshoremen, seamen and other maritime workers. But, securing benefits under these laws can be difficult. The insurance companies do not pay willingly; and, if you need to prove fault or unseaworthiness to succeed with your claim, you will need an experienced maritime injury lawyer who can effectively present your claim for compensation.
Maritime attorney David Willis has more than 40 years’ experience representing maritime workers and their families. He has recovered millions of dollars in compensation from some of the largest offshore and maritime employers in the maritime industry, and he pursues every claim with the personal attention needed to maximize each client’s financial recovery. When you need to seek compensation for a maritime injury, the Willis Law Firm is your choice for experienced and aggressive legal representation.
When Should You Hire a Maritime Injury Lawyer?
For many maritime workers, the decision to hire a lawyer does not come easily. In many cases, they are worried that filing a claim could jeopardize their employment, and they may fear that hiring a lawyer will cost more than they can afford to pay.
However, under federal law, maritime employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who file claims for injury compensation. Remember: All you are doing is enforcing your legal rights. If you get injured on the job, you are entitled to financial compensation, and your employer cannot take action against you for asserting your rights under the law.
Additionally, at the Willis Law Firm, it costs you nothing out of pocket to hire a maritime injury attorney. We handle all Jones Act maritime injury cases on “contingency,” which means that you pay nothing unless we win your case. Our fee is calculated as a percentage of your recovery; and, if we don’t win, you don’t pay.
We routinely represent maritime workers and their families in cases involving:
Common Maritime Accidents
- Accidents involving rough seas and bad weather
- Collisions with shifting cargo
- Crane, drill and other equipment malfunctions
- Falling tools, supplies and storage containers
- Falls overboard and falls at port
- Gangway and stairwell falls
- Slips and falls on deck
Common Maritime Injuries
- Broken bones
- Burns and lacerations that leave scars
- Exposure and inhalation injuries
- Soft tissue (muscle, ligament and tendon) injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
The Laws that Protect Maritime Workers
Depending upon where you work and how you were injured, there are several different maritime laws that may entitle you to financial compensation. These include:
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (more commonly known as the “Jones Act”) is a maritime law that applies to maritime employees who work offshore. Those who qualify as seamen are entitled to seek two forms of compensation for injuries suffered on the job:
- Maintenance and Cure Benefits – Maintenance and cure benefits cover injured seamen’s medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages.
- Compensation for Jones Act Negligence – Compensation for Jones Act negligence can include full coverage for medical expenses, lost income, lost future earning capacity, pain and suffering, and other losses.
Learn more in our Jones Act Information Center.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) applies to maritime employees who are injured while working on ports, docks, piers, terminals, wharfs and certain offshore drilling platforms. This includes:
- Dock men
- Harbor workers
- Ship repairmen
- Ship breakers
- Forklift operators
- Winch operators
The benefits available under the LHWCA are similar to those offered under state workers’ compensation statutes, and include the cost of necessary medical care as well as disability (partial income replacement) benefits. The LHWCA also provides an opportunity for injured workers to seek full compensation for negligence-based claims.
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) extends the protections of the LHWCA to maritime employees who work on the Outer Continental Shelf, which is the area beyond the coast that remains subject to United States jurisdiction. Like the LHWCA, the compensation available under the OCSLA includes medical and disability benefits, and in some cases injured workers will be able to seek full compensation through third-party claims.
Law of Seaworthiness
Maritime employees who work onboard vessels in rivers and offshore can often seek financial compensation under the law of seaworthiness. This law requires vessel owners to maintain their ships in “seaworthy” condition (in proper working order with functioning equipment and adequate safety precautions). If an unseaworthy condition causes an injury, the injured worker can seek compensation without the need to prove negligence on the part of the vessel owner. In other words, it is enough that the unseaworthy condition existed – you do not separately need to prove that the vessel owner knew about or failed to remedy the dangerous condition.
Other Maritime Laws a Maritime Injury Lawyer Can Assist With
In addition to the laws discussed above, there are a variety of other laws that are specifically designed to protect injured maritime workers and their loved ones. These include:
- The Admiralty Extension Act (AEA)
- The Defense Base Act (DBA)
- The Pubic Vessels Act (PVA)
- The Suits in Admiralty Act (SAA)
When you contact us about your case, we will thoroughly assess all of the laws that may apply to your situation so that we can seek maximum compensation for your injury-related losses.
The Lifecycle of a Maritime Injury Claim
An accident at work can change your life in the blink of an eye. Unfortunately, getting compensated for your injuries is not a simple or straightforward process. It can take months, if not a year or longer, to recover the compensation you deserve—and this is with an experienced maritime injury lawyer on your side.
With this in mind, it is important to understand the lifecycle of a maritime injury claim. Knowing what to expect along the way can help the process go more smoothly, and it can help you avoid mistakes that could jeopardize your financial recovery. Here is an overview of the process from start to end:
- You Get Injured at Work – Your maritime injury claim starts when you get injured at work. At this point, the clock is already ticking. The steps you need to take depend on whether you have a claim under the Jones Act or another statute, so it is extremely important that you speak with a maritime injury attorney promptly.
- You Report Your Injury to Your Employer – After getting injured at work, you should report your injury to your employer. This is a requirement to file a claim under the Jones Act and other statutes. When you file your report, you should be as detailed and accurate as possible.
- Your Employer Conducts an Investigation – Shortly after you report your injury, your employer should conduct an investigation. While this process shouldn’t take long, companies often drag out the investigation process for years or months. It is important not to get discouraged during this stage, and you need to make sure you keep doing the right things to protect your legal rights.
- You Hire a Maritime Injury Attorney to Conduct an Investigation – Your employer will investigate with its own best interests in mind. As a result, you will need to hire a maritime injury lawyer to investigate also. Your lawyer will focus on gathering the evidence required to prove your legal rights, and then your lawyer will use this evidence to prove your right to just compensation.
- You Get the Treatment You Need – When you have a maritime injury claim, it is extremely important to take care of your medical needs. Under the Jones Act and many other laws, you have the right to see a doctor of your own choosing. You should prioritize your recovery, and you should not return to work until your doctor says you are ready.
- Your Lawyer Negotiates for a Fair Settlement – While you focus on getting better, your lawyer will focus on negotiating a fair settlement on your behalf. If your employer (or its insurance company) makes a settlement offer, your lawyer will discuss the offer with you, and you will have the opportunity to make an informed decision about whether to accept.
- Your Maritime Injury Lawyer Goes to Court if Necessary – If you don’t receive a fair settlement offer, your maritime injury attorney may need to take your claim to court. In this scenario, it can take significantly longer to receive the compensation you deserve. But, you need to stay committed to recovering just compensation, and you should continue working with your lawyer to present the strongest case possible.
- Your Claim Gets Resolved – Whether through settlement negotiations or a verdict at trial, at some point, your claim will get resolved. If you receive just compensation, you can take care of your bills and move on with your life. If you do not receive just compensation, you can consult with your lawyer about the other options you have available.
- You File an Appeal if Necessary – If you lose your maritime injury claim, one option may be to file an appeal. This is a unique process with a lifecycle of its own. But, if going through this process means finally recovering just compensation, it will be well worth the time and effort involved.
More Details on Negotiating a Fair Maritime Injury Settlement
Most successful maritime injury claims are resolved via settlement. While going to trial is always a possibility, it is far more likely that your case will end in a settlement. This is especially true if you have an experienced maritime injury lawyer representing you (although there are no guarantees).
But, what does it really mean to settle your maritime injury claim?
A settlement is a formal, written agreement between an injured worker and his or her employer (or the employer’s insurance company). It says that the worker agrees to accept a certain amount of money for his or her injury, and the company agrees to pay that amount promptly. In exchange for making payment, the company is relieved of any further liability—meaning that the worker can no longer go back and ask for more.
With this in mind, you cannot afford to take the settlement process lightly. You need to make sure you have a clear understanding of your current and future losses so that you don’t settle for too little. Your maritime injury attorney can help you decide when (and if) to settle, and it is extremely important that you avoid letting your employer (or its insurance company) talk you into settling for less than you deserve.
How Does a Maritime Injury Lawyer Get Paid?
Maritime injury lawyers represent injured workers on a contingency fee basis. This means they only get paid if they win. As a result, when you hire a maritime injury attorney to represent you:
- You pay nothing out of pocket. Your initial consultation is free, and you do not have to pay a retainer or any other up-front legal fees when you hire a maritime injury lawyer.
- You will not receive monthly legal bills. Your maritime injury lawyer only earns his or her fee if you receive financial compensation for your maritime injury.
Your legal fees (if any) will be calculated as a percentage of your award. Whether you accept a settlement or receive a favorable verdict in court, your lawyer’s fees will be deducted after your case is resolved, and they will be calculated as a percentage of your financial recovery.
FAQs: Our Maritime Injury Lawyer Explains Compensation & Eligibility
When can I seek compensation for a maritime injury?
If you suffered an injury while working in a maritime occupation, there is a strong chance that you are entitled to financial compensation. The Jones Act, LHWCA, OCSLA and law of seaworthiness all provide “no-fault” benefits to injured maritime workers, which means that you do not need to prove fault in order to recover financially. However, in many cases an employer’s, contractor’s or vessel owner’s negligence is to blame, and in these cases injured workers can seek additional compensation for their financial and non-financial losses.
How are offshore workers’ rights and onshore workers’ rights different?
While different laws apply to offshore and onshore workers, in many cases the compensation available will be similar. For example, both offshore and onshore workers can seek limited no-fault benefits, and both offshore and onshore workers will have opportunities to seek full compensation for negligence-based claims.
But, there are some important differences. For example, the no-fault maintenance and cure benefits available under the Jones Act are generally less than those available under the LHWCA, OCSLA and state workers’ compensation laws. On the other hand, seamen have the right to sue their employers for negligence, while onshore employers are generally immune from employees’ negligence-based claims.
Am I eligible for workers’ compensation?
If you work on land, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation benefits exist under state law, and they apply to most land-based workers.
However, for workers covered by the maritime laws discussed above, these laws take the place of state workers’ compensation statutes. In other words, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits or compensation under maritime law, but not both.
How much compensation can I recover with the help of a maritime injury lawyer?
The amount of compensation available to you will depend on the cause and extent of your injuries. For example, if you slipped and fell on a seaworthy vessel and your employer was not to blame, your compensation may be limited to maintenance and cure benefits. On the other hand, if there is evidence to suggest that the vessel was unseaworthy or that your employer’s negligence caused or contributed to your fall, you may be able to seek full compensation for your:
- Medical expenses (current and future)
- Other out-of-pocket expenses
- Lost income and lost future earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of companionship, consortium and society
- Loss of enjoyment of life
How long will my case take?
It depends. Some claims will settle fairly quickly, while in other cases maritime workers may need to assert their rights in court. If your case goes to trial because the insurance company is unwilling to make a fair settlement offer, it could take much longer to recover benefits than if the insurance company had negotiated in good faith. However, there are options available for meeting your financial obligations while your case is pending, and it is important that you make an informed decision about whether to accept a settlement or fight to protect your rights in court with your family’s long-term needs in mind.
How long do I have to file my claim with a maritime injury attorney?
The period of time you have to file your claim (or the “statute of limitations”) depends upon the specific maritime law (or laws) that apply to your case. For example, the Jones Act has a three-year statute of limitations. On the other hand, if you have a claim under the OCSLA, the statute of limitations will be determined by the law of the “closest adjacent state.” So, if you are injured off the coast of Louisiana, a one-year statute of limitations will apply. If the closest state is Texas, the statute of limitations for your OCSLA claim will be two years.
In any case, it is important that you take action as soon as possible and not wait until the statute of limitations is about to expire. Acting quickly will help ensure that the key evidence is still available, and it will allow you to get the advice you need to avoid mistakes that could jeopardize your financial recovery.
Should I try to work while I am injured?
When it comes to returning to work after a maritime injury, you should follow your doctor’s advice. If your doctor prescribes rest, you should rest. If you try to return to work too soon and exacerbate your injuries, you could make it much harder to secure a full financial recovery.
Injured on the Job? Here’s What to Do
If you were injured on the job, there are some important steps you should take right away. These include:
- Report the Incident to Your Employer – Let your supervisor know you were injured, and follow your company’s procedures for reporting a job-related injury.
- See Your Own Doctor – Under maritime law, you have the right to see your own doctor. As soon as you are back on land, you should see your own doctor for a comprehensive diagnosis and any necessary treatment.
- Understand the Law(s) that Protect You – In addition to the summaries provided above, our website includes a wealth of information about the laws that protect you. You can search our blog to find information that applies to your personal circumstances.
- Avoid Common Mistakes – From seeing your company’s doctor to waiting too long to file your claim, there are a number of common mistakes you need to avoid. We can help you make smart decisions about protecting your legal rights.
- Seek Experienced Legal Representation – There is simply no substitute for hiring an experienced attorney to protect your legal rights. For a free consultation, contact us today.
Call 1-800-GOT-HURT or Contact Us Online for a Free Consultation with an Experienced Maritime Injury Lawyer
For more information about your rights after a maritime accident, please schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at the Willis Law Firm. You can call us 24/7 at 1-800-GOT-HURT, or tell us about the accident online and we will be in touch as soon as possible. No recovery, no fee.