Portland Maritime Law Attorneys Helping Protect the Rights of Sailors Injured On the Job
Maritime law is one of the oldest types of law in the U.S., dating back many years before the Constitution. It deals with laws that govern commerce and navigation in waterways and open seas and provides the rules for any type of offense that happens on a vessel or anywhere in, on, or near a body of water. Maritime laws may include a mixture of local, federal, and even international laws, requiring maritime lawyers to be well-versed in several different sets of laws and regulations.
WHAT DOES A MARITIME LAWYER DO?
Maritime attorneys handle cases related to any activity on the sea or major bodies of water, such as rivers and lakes. The most common cases a maritime attorney deals with are personal injury, shipping, commerce, environmental, and recreational boating issues. Because state laws regarding workers’ compensation typically do not apply to sailors and employees working aboard vessels, maritime attorneys also handle personal injury and wrongful death claims under the Jones Act.
Maritime law can be quite complex, and claims can be brought in federal or state courts, depending on the nature of the claim and parties involved. A maritime attorney knows how to assist a client with understanding the specifics about their claim including local, state, federal, and even international laws that may affect it. A maritime attorney can also be instrumental in negotiating a settlement offer outside the courtroom or taking the case to trial when necessary.
AM I ENTITLED TO COMPENSATION AFTER AN INJURY AT-SEA?
Many personal injury claims on a vessel arise out of the shipowner or employer’s negligence. Slip and falls are the most common type of injury, but other issues such as improperly maintained equipment, unsafe work conditions, co-worker negligence or improper training may also result in serious and sometimes fatal injuries.
For you to qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, you must qualify as a “seaman,” meaning you need to spend at least 30% of your time working on a vessel in navigation. The Jones Act allows sailors and vessel workers to sue their employers for negligence, and to do so, they must prove that the employer or shipowner acted negligently and that their negligence was a direct cause of the worker’s injury. It is not uncommon for settlements under the Jones Act to be larger than regular workers’ comp settlements, because it is understood that workers on a vessel are at a considerably higher risk of injury, illness, or death than a worker on land. If you can prove that your employer contributed to your accident, even if the employer was only partially at fault, you may be able to receive compensation for both economic damages (medical bills, lost wages, etc) and non-economic damages (pain, suffering, emotional distress, and other subjective matters).
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE BEEN HURT IN AN ACCIDENT ON A VESSEL?
Just like in any personal injury case, your priority is to seek medical care as soon as you can. Whether your vessel has a medical professional on board or you receive care from a healthcare facility on land, it is important to get examined and retain a copy of your medical records, even if you don’t feel hurt right away and have no obvious symptoms following your injury. Many injuries take days, sometimes weeks to manifest themselves, even when you don’t notice anything wrong right after your accident. By seeing a doctor, you will have documented your injury, its severity, and necessary treatment, making it easier to link your injury directly to the accident.
Besides seeing a doctor, you may want to gather photos and other evidence of your vessel and the scene of the accident when you or a co-worker is safely able to do so. Even if you don’t intend on seeking a jury trial for your case, every piece of evidence is important to support your claim.
HOW CAN A MARITIME ATTORNEY HELP?
If you have suffered an injury on a vessel or working as a seaman, you should contact a maritime attorney to learn your rights and see if you have a claim. The personal injury attorneys in Portland at Gideon Asen have experiences successful prosecuting maritime claims, including representing multiple crew members who died on board the El Faro, which was one of the most significant maritime disaster events of the past thirty years.
We are ready to assist you and answer all your maritime law questions. Call us at (207) 977-2608 for a free consultation.