Maritime injuries refer to injuries and even illnesses sustained on U.S. navigable waters, typically due to negligence from various parties like vessel owners, operators, crew members, passengers, or those working on shoreside activities. Individuals aboard any vessel can fall victim to such injuries, ranging from captains and officers to fishermen, boaters, pilots, engineers, and more. It’s crucial to note that those suffering from maritime injuries may be eligible for compensation under maritime law. Given the complexities involved, seeking assistance from an experienced maritime attorney is essential.
Common Types of Maritime Injuries
Slip and Fall Accidents
Onboard a vessel, no matter if it’s on the open ocean or docked in a U.S. port, there can be many fall hazards. The wet deck of a vessel that’s prone to rock can cause a slip or make the seaman lose his balance. Other floors inside the ship may also become slippery wet from spills, leaks, or poor cleaning and maintenance—causing someone to slip, fall, and suffer and injury.
Various branches of maritime business depend heavily on many different tools and heavy equipment that help seamen and longshore workers perform their jobs quickly and more efficiently. Some tools, including conveyor belts, cranes, and trawl winches, are dangerous to work around and often, unfortunately, fail in one way or another and injure or kill maritime workers.
Drowning and Near-Drowning Incidents
Drowning and near-drowning are significant risks for all maritime workers just performing work on or rig workers on the outer continental shelf are all at risk of falling into the water and drowning or suffering a near-drowning incident.
Fires and Explosions
Marine fires and explosions can pose a substantial risk to mariners and their equipment. There are several types of marine fires and explosions, but most result from the use of flammable liquids. For example, fires and explosions can arise from the overuse or misuse of chemicals, fuels, and lubricants.
Exposure to toxic chemicals, smoke, or other harmful substances on board or near a vessel can cause health problems—although some may not show symptoms for years. Sometimes, exposure to maritime-related chemicals can immediately affect breathing, causing a cough and irritation of the throat and lungs.
Laws and Regulations Governing Maritime Injuries
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act, was passed in 1920 to facilitate a seamen’s recovery following a workplace injury and to incentivize vessel owners and operators to maintain a safe working environment. When negligence or unsafe conditions could lead to significant employee payouts, companies are more inclined to prioritize worker safety. Under the Jones Act, injured seamen, including crew members on ships, oil rig workers, and other offshore employees, are entitled to several financial compensation benefits, such as:
- Physical pain, suffering, and disfigurement
- Mental anguish
- Medical care
- Cost of living during recovery
- Compensation for lost wages as well as lost earning capacity
Under the Jones Act, injured maritime workers can file a lawsuit against their employer to receive these benefits.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal law enacted in 1927. It provides workers’ compensation benefits to maritime workers who are not covered by state workers’ compensation laws.
The LHWCA covers longshore workers, harbor workers, and other maritime employees who work on or near navigable waters or in maritime-related occupations. It ensures that these workers receive compensation for injuries, disabilities, or occupational diseases resulting from their work. The act also provides benefits to survivors of workers who have died due to work-related incidents.
Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
Enacted in 1920, The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) is a federal statute governing the ability to recover damages for wrongful death that occurs beyond three nautical miles from the United States coastline. It applies exclusively to cases that involve fatalities in international waters.
Under DOHSA, the primary beneficiaries eligible to file a wrongful death claim are the deceased’s surviving spouses, children, or dependent relatives. Unlike some state laws, DOHSA typically does not provide compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. Instead, it focuses on economic losses, such as financial support and inheritance the survivors would have received from the deceased.
Limitation of Liability Act
The Limitation of Liability Act is a U.S. federal law enacted in 1851. It allows vessel owners to limit their liability for maritime incidents, such as shipwrecks or collisions, to the value of the vessel and its freight at the end of the voyage.
This means that the owner’s personal assets are protected from being used to cover damages beyond the vessel’s value. The act was originally intended to encourage investment in the maritime industry by limiting the financial risks for ship owners. However, it can sometimes shield negligent ship owners from fully compensating victims of maritime accidents. This is one reason why injured seamen need the representation of a skilled maritime injury lawyer.
What to Do If You Suffer a Maritime Injury in Illinois
If you find yourself suffering a maritime injury, it’s crucial to take immediate action. First, seek prompt medical attention to address your injuries. If you need to seek emergency medical care, do so without worrying about the expense. Don’t ignore your symptoms or any pain you experience.
Next, report the incident to your employer, ensuring it’s adequately documented according to their policies and the law. Then, it’s imperative to get in touch with a skilled maritime injury lawyer who can guide you through the legal process. The sooner you contact them, the better they can help you maximize your potential compensation.
You should also thoroughly document the incident and your injuries, as this information will be crucial in building a strong case for your compensation. Taking these steps promptly can significantly improve your chances of receiving financial recovery for your injuries.
How a Maritime Injury Lawyer Can Help You
A Illinois maritime injury lawyer is vital in ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve. Federal and Illinois maritime law can be complex and may involve various regulations and jurisdictions. A seasoned lawyer who is well-versed in these intricacies and can navigate the legal system on your behalf. They start by thoroughly investigating the incident, examining all relevant details, and gathering crucial evidence to strengthen your case. This can include medical records, accident reports, safety protocols, and any other relevant information.
Your attorney can skillfully negotiate with insurance companies, working to secure the best possible outcome for you. In cases where a fair settlement cannot be achieved, a maritime injury lawyer is prepared to file a lawsuit, ensuring your rights are protected. Their experience and advocacy are invaluable in navigating the complexities of maritime law and securing the support you need for your recovery.
At Armbruster Dripps Blotevogel, our maritime injury lawyers know how devastating these types of injuries can be. You deserve compensation for your injuries or wrongful death compensation if you lost a loved one in a maritime accident. Contact us today to schedule a free case consultation and learn how we can help you. By enlisting the services of a skilled maritime injury lawyer, you increase your chances of obtaining fair compensation for your injuries and related losses.