Ships from all over the world visit our many ports in the United States. In fact, in 2014, U.S. coastal ports were involved to some extent or another in some $4.5 trillion in economic activity in the United States. Thousands of Americans work in this enormous industry, many as seamen.
Unfortunately, being a seaman often involves working long hours around dangerous conditions. Every year, hundreds of seamen are seriously injured or even killed while fulfilling their duties. The injury statistics go hand-in-hand with the risky nature of the maritime industry. In fact, maritime injuries afflicting seamen are so commonplace that congress has passed a number of laws, particularly over the last 100 years or so, addressing the needs of injured seamen. Notably, modern laws protecting injured seamen may largely be found in the Jones Act and the general maritime law.
Our half of a century of experience is with Jones Act Seamen who serve on ocean-going vessels. These seamen sail for companies who operate within the United States Jones Act framework (these seamen are United States Citizens or have work permits and/or the vessels on which they serve have some American ownership) on dry cargo ships, bulkers, container ships, car carriers and of course tankers which call on Ports in the United States as well as in foreign countries. We represent injured captains, chief mates and other deck officers as well as chief engineers and others in the engine department. We also represent injured bosuns, able-bodied seamen as well as ordinary seamen and deck cadets. Riding crews have also been a focus of our litigation. Further, we represent the widows and families who are left behind when a Jones Act Seaman is tragically killed while on the way to work or of course while at work.
The Jones Act requires the owner of an ocean-going ship to pay a seaman for his or her medical expenses and living expenses when an injury or illness occurs in service of the ship (these payments are called “maintenance” and “cure”). In many instances, it also allows the seaman recovery for lost wages, as well as damages for the pain and suffering and mental anguish experienced during an accident, the pain and suffering felt during the recuperation from the accident and the pain and suffering and mental anguish experienced during and after any procedures and or surgeries which are necessary due to the accident. Moreover, under the Jones Act, a seaman may recover for future lost wages, future medical expenses, and future pain and suffering and mental anguish, for his work life if warranted by the facts. Some of these awards are mandatory and must be awarded to an injured seaman, regardless of whether the seaman was at fault or not, subject to very few exceptions.
The General Maritime Law of the United States also provides recovery for seamen onboard ships for unseaworthiness. That is the ship is substandard in repair or design, or understaffed or the crew is improperly trained. These damages are much the same as those specified under the Jones Act section above. What is important, is that, if the facts warrant and the ship can be shown to be unseaworthy, negligence is unimportant. That is, if we can prove unseaworthiness, a seaman’s negligence which may have contributed to the cause of the accident is not considered.
Unfortunately, many injured seamen are either not fully aware of their rights, or are unsure how to navigate the legal system to defend their rights. Unscrupulous vessel owners know this and sometimes take advantage of the legal inexperience of their injured employees by either shortchanging them or not offering any compensation at all. Maritime law is complex and evolving. What is more, to recover damages, even seamen with severe injuries and strong cases must painstakingly investigate their accidents, navigate a complex legal maze of overlapping (and sometimes conflicting) laws, and then present their cases before a judge in a credible manner. To the average seaman, who is not well experienced in maritime matters, a typical injury claim presents a minefield of traps and challenges. All too often, seamen attempt to handle their claims by themselves or with poorly qualified counsel, only to find out too late that they have mishandled their cases and must settle for a pittance (if any money at all).
We have handled hundreds of Jones Act and General Maritime cases and obviously have substantial expertise in the law as well as assessing damages in these cases. We will not only fight for your rights against the wrongdoer which caused your accident, but we will make sure that you are compensated to the fullest for your injury and the horrible consequences that it has caused in your life. We understand what you are going through and will provide personal attention to your case to make sure you are awarded what you deserve.
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