Accident and Injury Frequently Asked Questions

Many accident victims are overwhelmed by their injuries, and the thought of a legal case can seem daunting. At Hofmann & Schweitzer, our legal team understands these feelings, and we’ve compiled our thoughts on many common worries here to help you get started finding the answers you need to protect yourself and your family. If you’ve been hurt in a construction, maritime, or railroad accident, browse our FAQs today.

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  • Why are plate freezers so hazardous for commercial fishermen?

    Frozen Fish on a Fishing VesselFishermen face a wide range of hazards at sea, including the machinery used to haul and store the day’s catch. In fact, equipment accidents are a common cause of injuries to commercial fishermen, particularly the large industrial freezers found on trawlers and factory ships.

    The Dangers of Working Around Plate Freezers

    Like most maritime machinery accidents, an employer’s negligence is often to blame when a worker suffers an injury. Employees who were not properly trained to use plate freezers safely or who were forced to work with broken or outdated freezers could have an unseaworthiness claim against the shipowner.

    There are many risks associated with the use of plate freezers, including:

    • Finger and hand injuries. In order to keep harvested seafood fresh, it is frozen at extremely low temperatures (up to 40 degrees below zero). If workers are not issued adequate gloves or protective gear, they can suffer freezer burn or frostbite that causes the loss of a digit.
    • Back injuries. The daily loading and unloading of blocks of frozen fish can take a toll on workers’ backs. Years of lifting, turning, or twisting movements can cause irreparable damage to the bones and tissues in the spine, leading to early retirement or potential long-term disability.
    • Struck-by accidents. If the vessel is caught in a storm, a metallic pan full of frozen fish may be flung from the freezer unit without warning. As these pans can weigh over 25 pounds, the damage it causes when it hits a crew member can be deadly.
    • Suffocation. Plate freezers require a great deal of refrigerants to keep products cool, which can be deadly if released into an enclosed space. Poor maintenance of refrigeration units can case hazardous chemicals to leak into work areas, resulting in throat and lung injuries or deaths by suffocation.

    If you or someone you love has been hurt at sea, the maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can determine who may be liable for the accident and what you are owed under the law. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today to or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.

     

  • Can I get pain and suffering in my construction accident case?

    Injured Construction Worker Laying on the GroundAs a construction employee, you are guaranteed benefits under workers’ compensation after a construction site injury. While these benefits cover lost wages, medical bills, and partial or total disability payments, they do not pay workers for their pain and suffering. In order to recover these damages, you will have to pursue a third-party claim against someone other than your employer.

    Construction Injury Complications That May Qualify for Pain and Suffering

    The workers’ compensation system prevents employees from suing their employers after an injury, but allows employees to file lawsuits against third parties whose actions contributed to the injury. Third parties such as the manufacturer of a defective machine part, a negligent subcontractor, or an inspector who failed to identify a serious safety hazard could be liable for all losses related to the injury—including pain and suffering.

    While every injury causes some degree of pain or suffering, this category of damages is meant to compensate victims whose conditions have resulted in:

    • Psychological damages. Physical injuries can result in a wide range of debilitating mental and emotional symptoms, including mood swings, depression, sleep disturbances, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
    • Uncontrollable pain. Victims may be owed additional compensation for extreme physical pain and discomfort after the injury, during recovery, and in the future. Since pain is subjective, a doctor’s testimony could demonstrate the extent of the victim’s suffering and the limitations expected in the future.
    • Loss of enjoyment of life. A person may be unable to do the things they once enjoyed due to permanent consequences of the injury, such as extensive scarring, amputation of a leg or hand, sexual dysfunction, blindness, or loss of independence.

    Our construction accident attorneys can tell you who could be liable for your pain and suffering and calculate the full compensation you are owed—and we do not collect any fees until after your case is won. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today, or read through our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.

     

  • Do fish processing equipment accidents qualify as a maritime injury?

    Cleaning Fish on a Fishing VesselThe fishing industry requires all kinds of workers to remain afloat, from the fishermen who bring in the catch to the packers who prepare the stock for delivery. If you prepare fish for the freezing and packing process on a trawler or fish processing vessel, your injury may qualify you for benefits under the Jones Act.

    Common Types of Fish Processing Injuries

    Many fishermen, packers, and deckhands suffer serious injuries every year as a result of vessel hazards and unsafe working conditions. An injury at sea is likely to be fatal, but those who survive often have permanent disabilities that significantly limit their ability to earn a living.

    The most common injuries among fishermen and workers who process fish include:

    • Back and neck injuries. Long hours lifting heavy seafood boxes can cause irreparable damage to the spine, while the repetitive motions of bending and leaning over fish to be cleaned can put undue stress on the neck. As a result, commercial fishermen may suffer herniated discs, pinched nerves, and other painful back and neck conditions.
    • Lacerations and puncture wounds. The process of slicing, skinning, and gutting fish often causes cuts or penetrating wounds from blades, bones, and fish spines. A minor laceration on the hand can result in an infection caused by exposure to bacteria or parasites on the fish.
    • Fractures. Bone fractures in the arms and legs are especially common on fish processing vessels due to falls on slippery decks, conveyor belt accidents, struck-by injuries, and crush injuries.
    • Amputations. Vessels that process fish and other seafood products are equipped with heavy machinery, including augers, presses, bait choppers, and automatic deheaders to remove fish heads and tails. An overworked employee may accidentally lose a finger or even a hand due to automatic cutting tools.

    If you or someone you love has been hurt at sea, the maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can determine who may be liable for the accident and what you are owed under the law. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.

     

  • How do I start a third-party construction accident claim?

    Construction Worker With a Hurt HandConstruction sites are active workplaces that can involve employees from many different companies, unions, or government agencies. Construction crews often work shoulder-to-shoulder with workers under the employ of multiple contractors, making it difficult to know which party’s actions directly led to an injury. Our construction accident attorneys work diligently to determine the at-fault party, helping you recover all you are owed for your economic losses and pain and suffering.

    What to Expect in Your Third-Party Construction Accident Claim

    A third-party work injury claim is a civil lawsuit against someone other than your employer. This could be anyone on the site the day of the injury, a negligent subcontractor, the manufacturer of a defective product, or an owner who failed to make the site safe for workers.

    When you meet with us, we will:

    • Listen to your story and address your immediate concerns. It can take time to get you all that you are owed for your injury. We can discuss ways to pay bills while your case is pending, including filing for workers’ compensation, as well as protecting you from employer retaliation.
    • Investigate on your behalf. Workers are often too injured to collect evidence after an accident on the job. Unfortunately, a lot of evidence can be lost in the days and weeks after the incident. We will take steps to prevent the destruction of evidence, find out who was in charge of the location at the time of the accident, and discover what was happening on the site leading up to your injury.
    • Take legal matters off your plate. Your chief concern should be your own well-being. While you concentrate on your recovery, our team will examine all possible avenues of compensation based on the evidence we have collected, including determining the proper third-party to name in the lawsuit.
    • Fight for you until you get adequate compensation. Once our investigation is complete, we contact the liable party and file insurance claims to demand a fair payment for your suffering. If the at-fault party or insurer is unwilling to negotiate a fair settlement, our trial attorneys will prepare to take your case to court.

    Our attorneys will work to get you the compensation you are owed, and we do not collect any fees until after your case is won. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today, or read through our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.

     

  • Who is responsible for distraction-related maritime accidents?

    Maritime Workers on Ship DeckDistractions aren’t just a problem on the road, they are a major peril for employees who work on or near water. In a car, it is only the driver who could cause an accident—on a vessel, any crew member’s inattention can cause serious or fatal injuries. When distractions combine with the dangers of open water and heavy machinery, a maritime worker may suffer amputation, traumatic brain injury, lacerations, spinal damage, or hypothermia.

    Liability for Maritime Accidents Caused by Distraction

    Maritime workers have a duty to mitigate distractions while on duty, such as using their smartphones to talk or text or listening to loud music. On the other hand, vessel owners may be responsible if they did not make efforts to reduce distractions from noisy machinery, outdated systems, confusing instructions, or unseaworthy conditions aboard the ship.

    Distraction-related accidents can occur anywhere at any time, including:

    • Open water. There are many hazards on open water, including floating debris, sandbars, and the risk of falling overboard. If a crew member is more interested in checking his emails or social media accounts, he may fail to notice when a coworker falls overboard, increasing the time it takes to mount a rescue.
    • Shipping lanes. An accident in a crowded body of water can involve multiple vessels and injuries, and may be caused by a distracted crew member on another ship.
    • Docks and harbors. Pilots and navigators must pay close attention to their duties when bringing ships in and out of port to avoid dock collisions and grounding. Ship owners and operators should have strict policies in place prohibiting the use of electronic devices during potentially dangerous maneuvers.

    If you or someone you love has been hurt at sea, the maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can determine who may be liable for the accident and what you are owed under the law. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today to or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.

     

  • My loved one died while working on a construction site. Could I have a third party claim?

    Injured Construction Worker on the Side of the RoadThe loss of a family member is not only tragic—it can cause financial hardship for survivors for years into the future. While there are benefits available under workers’ compensation, they may fall far short of what a family needs to survive. For this reason, it is always worth investigating whether you could recover through a third-party claim after a relative is killed in a construction accident.

    Compensation for Families After a Fatal Construction Site Accident

    Construction workers are protected by many different safety and liability laws when performing work in New York City. They even have the right to sue their employers and coworkers in cases of grave injury—something that is usually prohibited under workers’ compensation law. In cases of fatal injury, the right to file a lawsuit to recover medical costs, funeral expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering passes to the worker’s family.

    Unfortunately, survivors are often overwhelmed by grief and unaware of what they are entitled to under the law. That is why our New York construction accident attorneys do everything we can to prevent you from being taken advantage of in your time of need.

    We help you:

    • Claim your workers’ compensation benefits. You and your family are entitled to death benefits under workers’ compensation law even if you file an injury lawsuit.
    • Identify who was responsible. Subcontractors, property owners, equipment manufacturers, and other third parties whose negligence causes an injury on the job could all be sued after a wrongful death. We perform a thorough investigation to get to the true cause of the accident and hold every negligent party accountable.
    • Meet required deadlines and filing requirements. Workers’ compensation claims and wrongful death claims have specific procedural requirements, and we ensure all paperwork is complete to preserve your right to recovery.
    • Deal with the employer and insurance company on your behalf. Throughout the course of your claim, the employer’s insurance company will do everything it can to pay you as little as possible. We negotiate with the company on your behalf, getting you what you deserve for your loss.

    Our attorneys will work to get you the compensation you are owed, and we do not collect any fees until after your case is won. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today, or read through our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.

     

  • What are the most common causes of electrical maritime injuries?

    Maritime Electrical Workers Working on a Ship's ElectricalElectrical systems are crucial to the safe and profitable operation of all vessels in the maritime industry. A ship is essentially a floating city, and electricity is needed to run everything from lights and navigation systems to heavy equipment such as winches, cranes, and conveyor belts. Unfortunately, a fault in any one of these systems could cause severe or even fatal electrical maritime injuries.

    Maritime Workers Can Suffer a Wide Range of Electrical Injuries

    Electrical hazards are generally a result of a live wire or a short circuit. Workers can suffer contact with live electrical parts many different ways, such as malfunctioning equipment, lack of fencing or posted warnings, inadequate repair or maintenance, or untrained workers attempting to fix electrical issues.

    Without proper safety precautions, seamen and harbor workers may suffer:

    • Fire injuries. Small sparks can quickly lead to open flames, and ship fires must be put out quickly in order to avoid a tragedy. Even a contained fire can lead to smoke inhalation injuries, burns, eye injuries, scarring, or falls overboard.
    • Electric shocks. Shocks occur when there is an unexpected flow of electricity through the human body, such as a saw blade striking an electric cable or brushing against frayed wiring or live circuit boards. When the voltage is extremely high, workers may suffer death by electric shock (electrocution).
    • Fall injuries. A sudden electric shock from live wires, circuit boards, or cables can propel a victim several feet, leading to fall injuries such as head trauma, broken bones, or drowning.
    • Collisions. If lights and navigation systems fail, a vessel may be invisible to other ships while sailing at night. The vessel may accidentally drift into docks, harbors, or other ships, especially if the power outage has affected radio and wireless communication systems.
    • Punctures and struck-by injuries. Defective electrical tools may suddenly stop and restart, causing an unintentional discharge from a nail or staple gun. A malfunctioning forklift may have its lights fail or engine stall, rolling over nearby workers.

    If you or someone you love has been hurt at sea, the maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can determine who may be liable for the accident and what you are owed under the law. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today to or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.

     

  • How can I tell if my construction injury was caused by negligent hiring?

    Construction Worker Being Hired on as an EmployeeConstruction sites are dangerous enough without employees worrying if their coworkers are up to the demands of the job. Workers rely on their teammates for everything to lifting heavy loads to pulling them to safety in an emergency—and if a fellow employee is unfit for his position, workers can suffer severe injury or even death. If you or someone you know has been injured due to the negligent hiring by an employer, our construction injury attorneys can help you recover.

    Hiring Negligence Causes Injuries on Construction Sites

    Employers are required to perform due diligence (a reasonable level of care) when hiring new employees to perform construction work. Due diligence can include checking an applicant’s references, ensuring the employee has the right training, and otherwise make reasonably sure a new hire will not cause harm to others. A failure to adequately investigate a potential employee can not only put other employees and the public at risk, it can open the employer up to negligence claims. 

    Employers may be held liable for injuries caused by employees who:

    • Were not properly trained for the position held
    • Did not have enough work experience
    • Had a past track record of violent behavior or abuse of authority
    • Were the subject of reports or concerns to the employer that were not properly investigated
    • Were promoted past their level of training or experience
    • Had a history of drug or alcohol abuse and caused injury due to intoxication on the job
    • Did not have the proper licensing or credentials to perform the work that led to injury
    • Did not have adequate safety training to minimize worksite risks
    • Did not meet legal requirements for employment or the position held
    • Were kept employed (or in a certain position) despite repeated warnings of improper conduct

    If you’ve been hurt on a New York construction site, our experienced attorneys can determine if you could collect pain and suffering compensation through a third-party claim—and we do not collect any fees until after your case is won. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today, or read through our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.

     

  • Can I file a Jones Act claim if my vessel did not have adequate medical equipment?

    Injured Maritime Worker With a Neck Brace on a StretcherIf a crew member becomes seriously ill or suffers an injury aboard a vessel, the employer has a duty to seek reasonable medical care. Unfortunately, many seamen suffer serious injury or death each year because an employer failed to provide them with necessary medical treatment.

    Failure to Provide Medical Care on a Vessel May Be a Form of Negligence

    In general maritime injury cases, employers and shipowners can be held liable if they fail to ensure a safe workplace at sea. While ship operators may not be able to predict or prevent all injuries, they are held to certain standards about how injured and ill crewmen should be treated.

    Crew members may be able to seek compensation from an employer or shipowner who did not provide:

    • Adequate medical supplies. A first aid kit may not be enough to treat the kinds of injuries that happen at sea. All vessels should be equipped with the types of medical supplies needed to address common emergencies on the water.
    • Sufficient emergency response training. Vessels can be miles from the nearest healthcare facility, and the crew must be prepared and trained to act when a seaman suffers a medical emergency. Operators of small and large vessels should ensure that the crew is properly trained in emergency first aid procedures, including when to evacuate the injured crew member for further treatment.
    • Onboard medical personnel. Larger ships may be required to carry a medic, nurse, or other licensed medical practitioner to attend to onboard injuries. These professionals may be held liable if they misdiagnose a condition or take actions that aggravate or worsen a seaman’s health.
    • Emergency transportation to shore. In severe cases, injured crewmen should be evacuated to a hospital for immediate medical intervention. The ship’s medic may be liable if he or she does not consult with the Coast Guard or medical consultants on shore or causes a delay in further medical care.

    If you or someone you love has been injured at sea, the maritime attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can determine who may be liable for the accident and what you are owed under the law. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY today to or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.

     

  • What are the most common causes of broken bones in construction work?

    Construction Worker With a Broken LegConstruction sites are inherently dangerous places, with workers facing the threat of serious injury every time they enter the job site. A broken bone may seem like a relatively minor injury in the construction industry, but fractures can result in a wide range of consequences for an accident victim. Unfortunately, the majority of construction fracture injuries require medical intervention, cause months or years of recovery, and can even result in death.

    Common Causes of Bone Fractures on Construction Sites

    Like many injuries, a broken bone can cause complications long after the initial injury has healed. Victims may need surgical insertion of pins, plates, or screws to stabilize the bone, causing lifting restrictions or osteoarthritis that can force the employee to leave the construction trade. If you have suffered a significant loss of income due to a bone fracture, you may need the help of a construction injury attorney to get you all that you are owed.

    The most common causes of bone fractures in the construction industry include:

    • Falls. Falls from heights on construction sites are a leading cause of broken bones, including shattered ribs that cause internal bleeding or spinal fractures that cause long-term disability. Even a trip or slip can cause a fracture in the wrist or ankle, requiring time off work and causing limited mobility.
    • Falling objects. Roofing materials, tools, masonry, and other objects can easily fall from upper levels onto workers below, causing skull fractures that require reconstructive surgery, extended rehabilitation, and sometimes future surgeries.
    • Machinery accidents. Unguarded machinery or malfunctioning power tools can result in compound fractures—broken bones that penetrate through the skin and open the body to potential infection.
    • Explosions. A sudden fire or explosion can not only cause multiple fractures, it may be an indication that the construction site was negligently maintained or was in violation of federal or state safety regulations. 

    If you’ve been hurt on a New York construction site, our experienced attorneys can help you obtain workers’ compensation benefits and determine if you could collect pain and suffering through a third party claim—and we do not collect any fees until after your case is won. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today, or read through our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.