Maritime Injury Lawyers

maritime injury

If you’ve been injured in an accident as a maritime worker and wish to seek legal compensation from the person or company responsible for your injuries, then it is crucial that you work with an experienced maritime injury attorney.

Here at Russell & Hill, we offer expert legal advice for victims of maritime injuries. We have offices throughout Snohomish, Pierce, Spokane, and King counties as well as Alaska, and are here to ensure that you get the results you deserve.

Maritime injury cases can be difficult to argue in court due to the complexities of maritime law. Because of this, make sure the attorney you choose to represent you has the knowledge and experience needed to win your case.

To help you find the right law firm, this article will explain some of the legal terms associated with maritime cases, as well as your rights as a maritime worker.

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Maritime Attorneys

The Jones Act, or Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is by far one of the most important laws for protecting the rights of crewmembers who have sustained an injury on the job.  The Jones Act gives sea-based maritime workers a right to recover damages for an injury caused by the employer’s negligence. 
The general maritime law doctrine of seaworthiness also provides crewmembers a right to recover damages for an injury caused by the unseaworthiness of the ship.  This includes injuries caused by not only the ship itself, but equipment aboard or attached to the ship that is not reasonably fit for its intended use.  An insufficient number of crew or other issues can also lead to unseaworthiness of a ship.
In addition to the above laws providing for injury claims against a maritime employer and vessel owner, maritime law also requires maritime employers to provide injured or ill crewmembers with maintenance and cure.  Maintenance is a daily stipend paid to the injured or ill crewmember while he is seeking medical treatment and recovering on shore. Cure is that cost of that medical treatment. 

Passengers and Recreational Boaters

Many residents of the Seattle and Everett areas participate in recreational fishing and boating activities due to our vicinity to the Puget Sound. However, spending lots of time on water poses the threat of having an accident and sustaining an injury. This could fall under maritime law and would carry all the complications of taking maritime injuries to court.

If you have been injured in a recreational accident and wish to file a claim, it is important to have certain elements to support your claim. These elements include the following:

  • Duty – the boat operator’s duty to their passengers and other boaters.
  • Breach – the boat operator acted in a way that directly violated his/her duty to you and other passengers.
  • Causation – the negligent act of the boat operator caused the injury.
  • Damages – you must have proof of damages which can include: medical costs, wage loss, pain, and suffering.

Be sure to contact Russell & Hill’s maritime injury attorneys if you have these elements and wish to make a claim.

Maritime Workers

If you work on or around water, there’s a good chance you may be considered a maritime worker. There are two categories of maritime workers; longshoremen and seamen.

It is important to understand which category you fall under as this will affect your legal rights and the resolutions you can seek under maritime law. While occasionally you may switch categories during your employment, you cannot be acting as both at the same time, so it is important to know what type of maritime laws benefit you specifically.

Category 1: Longshoremen

This category of maritime workers includes men and women whose jobs are to ensure that our ports and waterways continue to run smoothly and efficiently. This includes harbor laborers, ship engineers, stevedores, ship-breakers, ship repairmen, and marine construction workers.

Category 2: Seamen

Seamen are men and women whose jobs are aboard ships as crewmembers. Their jobs are not only challenging physically, but oftentimes are made even more dangerous because of unseaworthy vessels or carelessness on the part of other crewmembers, or even the employer.

Maritime Laws

Maritime laws affect maritime workers differently depending on their position aboard the maritime vessel. We already explained the differences between longshoremen and seamen, so now we will unpack how maritime law protects them both.

1. Longshoremen

A longshoreman who has sustained an injury under maritime law has the right to remedies available to them under the United States Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA or USL&H). This Act ensures that injured longshoremen are provided with wage replacement while they are recovering from their injury, and also covers the medical costs necessary for recovery. While most Longshoremen injured on the job do not have an action against their employer for negligence, the Act provides for such claims under specific circumstances. Contact our experienced maritime attorneys today to understand the laws applicable to your injury.

2. Seamen

For seamen who have been injured during the course of their employment, there are a number of statutes and common laws that are set in place to assist them as they seek legal action or compensation for their injury. These laws and statutes are:

General Maritime Law

General maritime law provides seamen with the ability to take legal action against the shipowner or their employer who caused their injury.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act, as mentioned previously, provides seamen with a cause of action, allowing them a legal recourse against their employer for negligence that resulted in their injury.

Doctrine of Unseaworthiness

Similar to general maritime law, the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness also allows seamen to take action against a shipowner for being the cause of an injury.

Doctrine of Maintenance and Cure

The Doctrine of Maintenance and Cure provides medical care (cure) to seamen who have sustained an injury or become ill while working aboard a vessel and also provides a daily stipend (maintenance) to the seaman while they are recovering.

Damages for Seamen

Some damages an injured seaman could seek to receive from their employer to compensate an injury are:

Lost Wages

A seaman who becomes injured or ill during the course of his/her employment aboard a ship can recover the wages that he/she would have earned during the remainder of his/her contract aboard the vessel.

Maintenance and Cure

Employers of maritime workers must pay for the medical costs and treatment for seamen who have been injured or become ill aboard the ship; this is referred to as “cure.” The employer is also obligated to give a daily stipend to the incapacitated seaman from the date that he/she leaves the vessel to receive treatment, until he/she returns to work or reaches maximum medical improvement. This daily stipend that the employer is required to pay is called “maintenance.”

Future Medical Expenses

Cure covers a seaman’s initial medical expenses, but in some cases a seaman may need future treatment, such as physical therapy, that exceeds the point of what is considered maximum medical improvement or is beyond the time when the claim has been resolved. In such a case as this, the injured seaman can seek additional compensation for his future medical costs.

Pain and Suffering

An injured seaman can seek damages from his/her employer for physical pain and suffering caused by a personal injury. However, these damages are not available to injured longshoremen under the LHWCA.

Punitive Damages

Whereas the above-mentioned damages are all purposed to assist maritime injury victims towards recovery, both financially and physically, punitive damages are designed to punish the offender in order to prevent future negligence and misconduct.

Under maritime general law, a victim of maritime injury can seek punitive damages in just two situations:

  1. Willful and Wanton Failure to Properly Administer Maintenance and Cure: If an injured seaman is not provided with sufficient Maintenance and Cure by his/her employer, and if the employer willfully, wantonly, or arbitrarily denies the seaman of Maintenance and Cure, the seaman may seek punitive damages in addition to the Maintenance and Cure already owed.
  2. Unseaworthiness of the Vessel: Which jurisdiction you are in at the time of your injury will determine whether or not you can make a claim for punitive damages due to an unseaworthy vessel. 

In a recent case (Tabingo v. Am. Triumph LLC,) the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in favor of a seaman who had been injured due to an unseaworthy vessel and was seeking punitive damages. 188 Wn.2d 41, 391 P.3d 434, 441 (2017), as amended (May 2, 2017), reconsideration denied (May 10, 2017).

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Examples of Seamen Injuries

Some examples of injuries a seaman might sustain are (but not limited to) as follows:

  • Back and neck injuries
  • Shoulder injuries
  • Burns
  • Frostbite
  • Slip and falls
  • Severed fingers or limbs
  • Illnesses – MRSA, pneumonia, etc.
  • Heavy lifting injuries
  • Falling objects
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Processing equipment injuries
  • Pressure sprayer injuries
  • Fish asthma

As you can see, the laws surrounding maritime personal injuries are complicated. If you are a maritime worker or have suffered a maritime injury, it is important to understand your rights and the legal routes for compensation available to you. Here at Russell & Hill, our team of personal injury attorneys has worked with many victims of maritime injury throughout the Pacific Northwest (including Snohomish, Pierce, and King counties), so we understand the intricacies surrounding such cases.

If you have sustained a maritime injury through the negligence of your employer or during a recreational boating or fishing activity and wish to seek legal compensation for your injuries, contact Russell & Hill, PLLC today for legal advice. We will give you an honest, professional opinion about your case and are happy to answer any questions you might have about the legal process of making a claim.