Working in the maritime industry is tough and dangerous work. There are risks associated with working in maritime operations, even more so when employers cut corners or don’t take safety precautions seriously. If you are a maritime worker who was injured on the job, don’t hesitate to contact the Lake Charles personal injury attorneys at Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC.

According to numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, between 2011 and 2017 the annual rate of fatal injuries for the industry was 15.9 per 100,000 workers. That is a rate five times higher than that of the overall workforce in the United States. During that same period of time, there were also 4,916 nonfatal injuries per 100,000 maritime workers. Again, that is nearly double the rate for the overall workforce.

At Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC, we want maritime workers to understand that, although you work in a dangerous profession, if you get seriously injured, you have rights. There are a wide variety of maritime laws that may apply to your situation. It can be confusing trying to figure out which laws apply to you and how you can get the compensation you deserve.

That is where the experienced legal team of Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC comes into play. We have extensive knowledge of maritime law and how to apply it to today’s working conditions. If you or a loved one are a seaman or work in the maritime industry and have been hurt on the job, it’s time to call Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC for legal advice. Contact our office at 337-800-8800 to schedule your consultation today.

The Jones Act

There are a few main laws that dictate protections for maritime workers. One is the Jones Act. The Jones Act was once known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. This Act was originally intended to regulate maritime commerce and stimulate the shipping industry in the wake of World War I. It has since been revised and renamed several times, but at its core, it is still an Act meant to regulate commerce and the goods shipped between U.S. ports.

So how does a law on commerce impact health and safety for maritime workers? The Jones Act also includes provisions that give seamen (or an individual who spends at least 30 percent of their time working on a vessel at sea) the right to sue a negligent employer for personal injury damages. Unlike other U.S workers who can claim workers’ compensation benefits, injured seamen had no recourse when it came to getting compensation for their injuries. The Jones Act helped solve that.

The Jones Act also requires that employers must provide all seamen with a reasonably safe working environment. Seagoing vessels must be maintained in a reasonably safe and seaworthy condition. In terms of federal law, the Act is considered to be a very employee-friendly piece of legislation and places a greater burden on a seaman’s employer.

Some of the conditions that may be deemed unsafe and negligent under the Jones Act include:

  • Grease, oil, or unsafe, slippery materials on the deck
  • Improperly maintained equipment
  • Failure to provide proper equipment for stated jobs
  • Improper training of seamen
  • Unsafe working environment
  • Unsafe working methods
  • Negligence by a seaman’s co-workers
  • Assault or violence by co-workers

Just like with any other law, there is a statute of limitations on when a suit can be filed. The Jones Act stipulates that all lawsuits filed under the Act must be filed within three years of the date of injury. A seaman who files within this time frame and successfully proves their case is entitled to receive all the typical damages of a personal injury case. This can include compensation for medical costs, future medical expenses related to the injury, lost income, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)

Not all workers will fall under the legal definition of a “seaman.” Non-seamen are not entitled to protections under the Jones Act. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is meant to provide benefits to those who still work in the maritime industry but may not technically qualify as seamen. These workers may include people who work on the docks, work inside shipping terminals, or in shipyards themselves.

There are two different “tests” that determine if an employee is eligible for LHWCA benefits. The first is the status test, and the second is the situs test.

The status test looks at the nature of the work an employee performs for an employer. In order to qualify for LHWCA benefits, an employee’s maritime duties must comprise a significant portion of their work. Typical employees who may qualify for benefits include:

  • Longshoremen, those who help in loading and unloading vessels
  • Ship repairmen
  • Ship-breakers
  • Shipbuilders
  • Shipping container truck drivers and mechanics may also qualify

Shipbuilders who build recreational vessels smaller than 65-feet long, mechanics or repairmen for recreational vessels and aquaculture workers are excluded from receiving LHWCA benefits.

The situs test takes into consideration the location of the employee. Those who work near or adjacent to navigable waters can be covered by LHWCA. Employees who work on piers, wharves, and dry docks can be considered for benefits. As a rule of thumb, if an employee works more than a mile from the water or border of a major shipyard or terminal, they are typically unlikely to receive benefits.

It is important to understand who qualifies for LHWCA benefits because there can be some fundamental differences between LHWCA benefits and typical state workers’ compensation benefits. LHWCA can provide temporary total disability benefits, temporary partial disability, permanent total disability benefits, and permanent partial disability.

If you have questions about what benefits you may be eligible to receive, a qualified attorney from Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC will be able to point you in the right direction. An attorney can also help you maximize the amount of LHWCA or workers’ compensation benefits you can receive.

Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)

The Death on the High Seas Act was first introduced in 1920. It was legislation meant to protect the families of maritime workers in the event that a wrongful death accident at sea occurred. The act allows families to seek financial compensation for wrongful death if the death was the result of negligence or unseaworthiness beyond three nautical miles from the shore of the United States.

Examples of accidents that may be covered by this Act include:

  • Falling overboard
  • Machinery explosions
  • Electrical shocks
  • Piracy
  • Chemical exposure

Only personal representatives of the deceased or the victim’s family members, including the victim’s parents, spouse, or children, may recover damages under the Death on the High Seas Act. The damages that these family members may recover are only pecuniary losses. Those are damages such as the loss of financial support. Unlike typical wrongful death claims, the DOHSA does not allow family members to recover compensation for pre-death medical expenses related to the accident.

To determine if the circumstances of a loved one’s death meet the standards laid out in the Death on the High Seas Act, it is best to consult with an experienced attorney who can review the facts surrounding your case.

Types of Maritime Cases We Handle

The variety of accidents that occur at sea or near the water’s edge and the number of maritime specific laws and regulations that govern these accidents can make it confusing for workers to know what they are entitled to. At Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC, we have experience handling a wide variety of maritime cases. We understand the various laws and how to apply them to your specific case. That means we know how to find you the maximum compensation available. We also work diligently to make sure you have a solid case so that you have the best chance to receive that compensation.

These are just some of the types of claims we can handle:

  • Unseaworthy vessels
  • Unsafe equipment
  • Unsafe or inadequate equipment for job duties
  • Inadequate worker training
  • Failure to provide a safe working environment

If any of these or other forms of negligence led to a maritime accident that hurt you, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries. Contact an attorney with Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC to discuss the circumstances surrounding your accident and how we can help.

Contact an Experienced Maritime Injury Attorney Today

Maritime law can be complicated. How do you know what category you fall into and what compensation you may be owed? At Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC, our experienced legal team can review the specifics of your case and determine what benefits you are eligible for.

Not only that, but we want to help you get the maximum amount of compensation possible. We believe nothing should take priority over a worker’s health and safety. That’s why we fight to get you what you deserve and hold negligent employers accountable for their actions.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of a maritime accident, find out what your legal rights are by calling the office of Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson, LLC. Contact us at 337-800-8800 to schedule an initial consultation today.

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