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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Does maritime law cover my case if I was hurt when my vessel was docked?
Maritime laws allow compensation for a worker’s medical bills, lost wages, living expenses, and out-of-pocket costs, but determining which law applies to your case can be a difficult process. Seamen, oil rig workers, and harbor employees could potentially be covered under different maritime statutes, each one with its own guidelines and benefit requirements—and these claims become even murkier if a worker has been injured on a docked vessel.
Dock Injury Compensation Under Maritime Law
Docks are bustling environments, filled with sailors, harbor workers, passengers, cargo containers, heavy equipment, and vehicles. Since they involve the constant movement of tons of cargo and hundreds of people, it is no wonder that docks and piers are the sites of many severe and fatal injuries for maritime workers.
Potential compensation for dockside injuries may depend on:
- Role of the worker. A worker who is assigned to a specific vessel (or spends a significant portion of his or her time on the vessel) may be considered a Jones Act seamen, allowing a victim to collect maintenance and cure benefits.
- Condition of the vessel. If a seaman or harbor worker is injured due to a dangerous condition on the ship, he or she may be able to make a claim for negligence on the part of the shipowner. A vessel may be deemed unseaworthy due to faulty machinery (such as cranes or lifts used for loading cargo), improper training, inadequate gangways, or any other condition that posed an unreasonably high risk of injury.
- Nature of the work. Jones Act employees may be able to claim compensation if they were injured on the dock, but were performing an action in service of the vessel, such as unloading or refueling. Likewise, if a harbor worker had been invited aboard a docked ship and suffered a fall onboard, he or she may file a claim against the shipowner for negligence.
If you were injured on a docked vessel, our injury attorneys can determine who may be liable for your accident and what you are owed under the law. Call (800) 362-9329 today to speak with a maritime lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights today.
Who is responsible when an injury results from improper safety equipment?
Although safety measures prevent hundreds of construction worker deaths every year, some employers still prioritize speed over safety. Employees who are injured due to lax construction site safety are not only eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, they may also have a negligence claim against the site owner, construction manager, contractor, or even the employer.
Liability for Injuries Due to Faulty Construction Safety Equipment
The first thing an employer should do is perform a hazard assessment for the job site and the specific work being performed. For example, if painting or welding is taking place on the facade of a structure, employers are required to install and provide safety harnesses and adequate scaffolding.
Construction worker injuries can often result from safety violations such as:
- Failure to provide PPE. Both state and federal laws require construction employees to wear personal protective equipment (PPE). A 2008 OSHA ruling mandated that employers pay for certain personal protective equipment for all of its workers, including metatarsal foot protection, rubber boots with steel toes, hard hats, hearing protection, non-prescription eye protection (goggles and face shields), welding PPE, all firefighting PPE (helmets, gloves, boots, proximity suits, full gear), and any necessary prescription eyewear inserts or lenses for full-face respirators. If a worker provides his or her own PPE, the employer has a duty to ensure that the equipment is adequate to protect the worker from the specific hazards of the workplace.
- Failure to provide adequate safety equipment. Contractors and employers can be liable when equipment fails or is never issued, but also for their failure to instruct employees on the proper use of safety equipment, failing to ensure compliance in wearing PPE and following safety measures at all times, failing to ensure attendance for safety training sessions, failing to inspect safety equipment regularly, and failing to repair or replace any safety measure that has been reported as faulty.
- Unsafe working conditions. Site owners may be held partially responsible for allowing an unsafe work environment to continue operating, especially if the owner has a degree of influence of control over the work being performed. Common oversights such as a lack of emergency first aid kits or the required number of fire alarms or extinguishers can lead to code violations and potential liability in an injury case.
If you have been injured on a New York City construction site, our attorneys can fight 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 personal injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today, or read through our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.
I live in New York, but I was hurt off the coast of a different state. Can you represent me?
Our maritime law offices are based in New York City, but we can fight for clients injured in New Jersey, off the Eastern Seaboard, or even halfway around the world. Our knowledge of federal and state injury proceedings allows us to recover the highest amount of compensation possible for medical bills, lost wages, living expenses, and out-of-pocket costs.
Benefits of Hiring a Maritime Injury Lawyer Close to Home
Maritime employees are covered under federal benefit laws. Not only do these workers have access to generous work injury programs, but they also have the freedom to choose the state in which to file an injury claim.
There are many benefits to filing your maritime injury claim in New York, including:
- State laws. If you are a resident of New York, some state laws may apply to your case, such as state workers’ compensation and maritime construction injury laws. In addition, there could be a variety of time limits that apply to the filing of your claim, especially if the claim is filed against a state government or municipality.
- Maximizing compensation. We can investigate the incident and determine who can be held liable under both federal and state laws. For example, state laws give victims the right to file claims against product manufacturers for an injury caused by a faulty piece of equipment, but also allow victims to collect maintenance and cure benefits under the Jones Act. An injury attorney in the state where you were hurt may only be familiar with that state’s injury statutes, potentially leaving money on the table.
- Local advantage. A legal team that is close to home relieves many travel-related burdens, especially for victims who are coping with a disability after an accident. We are also familiar with local doctors and hospitals who have experience treating occupational diseases, chemical exposure, slipped discs, and other maritime injuries.
If you are a New York resident who was hurt at sea, our injury attorneys can determine who may be liable for your accident and what you are owed under the law. Call (800) 362-9329 today to speak with a maritime lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights today.
How can I tell who is responsible for my construction injury?
New York employees are protected by state workers’ compensation laws, giving them no-fault access to payment for medical bills and lost income after a work injury. Although these benefits are invaluable to people who are struggling after an accident, the amount may not be enough to compensate for the full effects of a construction accident. For this reason, it is important to determine who was responsible for the injury and whether the potential exists for a third-party injury claim.
Parties That May Share Liability for a Construction Accident Injury
There are many benefits to investigating the true cause of a construction injury. First, it allows the dangerous condition on the site to be corrected, preventing future injuries. Second, it can determine whether multiple parties share blame for the accident. Third, it can form the basis of a third-party injury claim, which can provide payment for pain and suffering that is not available through workers’ compensation benefits
Our attorneys can perform a thorough investigation to identify all potentially liable parties in your construction accident case, including:
- At-fault drivers. Many construction workers are hurt every year in car accidents as they travel between job sites or run errands for their employers. Victims can file an injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver even when these crashes qualify an employee for workers’ compensation benefits.
- Contractors and subcontractors. Construction sites are often staffed by management or personnel companies who are not directly associated with an employer. A general contractor, subcontractor, or manager can be named in a lawsuit if he or she did not enforce safety regulations or follow proper procedures for injury prevention.
- Property owners. Property owners can bear responsibility for an accident if they had control over the site or the work being performed, if they failed to disclose a hazardous condition on the site, or if their negligence led to the employee’s injury.
- Equipment providers. The manufacturer of construction equipment and materials can be held liable for an injury if the product was poorly-designed, assembled incorrectly, or was not labeled with proper instructions or warnings.
- Employers and coworkers. Although employees are usually prohibited from suing an employer for a work injury, New York laws do allow a coworker or employer to be named in a work injury lawsuit (along with a third-party) if the construction worker suffered a grave injury.
If you have been injured in a construction accident, our experienced construction injury attorneys can advise you on your legal options—and we do not charge for our services until after we secure payment for you. We encourage you to contact us directly at 1-800-362-9329 and to read a FREE copy of our pamphlet, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.
I am a dockbuilder and was injured on the job. What should I do?
Maritime work can take place at sea and on shore, and employees injured in maritime construction may be protected under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). However, pursuing these claims can be a long and complex process, and dockbuilders who do not take steps immediately after an injury may be underpaid for their medical costs and income losses.
Steps to Take Immediately After a Maritime Injury
If your injury requires emergency care, the first thing you should do is to attend to your immediate medical needs. While you are waiting for an ambulance or for a coworker to drive you to the hospital, take photographs of the injury site with your cell phone—including any witnesses at the scene. This will help you recall the conditions that led to your injury, as well as the names of people present who can be called as witnesses.
After your injuries have been stabilized, it is vital that you:
- Report your accident. Your employer must submit an incident report before you can collect benefits, and if you don’t fill it out, somebody else will. If you complete the report, you can record your version of events and ensure that the report is accurate. You should also request a copy of the accident report for your own records.
- See a doctor. There are many good reasons to follow up with a doctor after a work injury. First, it creates a consistent medical record of your condition from the time of the injury to the present day. Second, it demonstrates that you are a conscientious employee who has done everything that a reasonable person would do after an accident. Third, it is the best way to protect your health and your recovery, since immediate intervention is the most effective treatment for a wide range of injuries.
- Call the law firm of Hofmann & Schweitzer. If you have suffered from a maritime injury, we encourage you to find out more about your rights to see who may owe you compensation for your recovery. Our attorneys can examine the details of your case and begin working to build a strong injury claim.
Contact one of our New York and New Jersey maritime accident attorneys today via our online contact form, or call us at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY. For more information on your case, be sure to download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.
Is the settlement that I am being offered for my New York construction accident injuries fair?
One of the biggest problems construction workers face when accepting a settlement is knowing whether the amount offered is enough to cover all of their losses. Unfortunately, once you accept a settlement, it is likely binding—meaning you won’t be able to recover additional money for the same injuries in the future. For this reason, it is important to know how much of your accident costs will be covered in the settlement offer before accepting it.
Costs That Should Be Included in a Construction Injury Settlement
Much like injury costs, settlement offers can vary widely based on the specific facts of each construction accident case. However, there are a few basic costs and losses that should be included in the majority of accident cases.
Before you accept a settlement, you should consider whether it compensates you for:
- Past medical expenses. At the very least, a settlement offer should provide payment for all of the medical treatment that you have undergone as a result of the injury. This includes surgery, medications, rehabilitation, and assistive medical devices.
- Future medical expenses. If your injury is likely to require additional treatment in the future, your settlement should account for this anticipated cost.
- Lost income. A settlement should cover any lost time from work resulting from the accident. If your injury has resulted in a loss of future income, you may need to provide estimates of the loss to get payment.
- Disability. Permanent injuries are much harder to qualify than injuries that have fully healed. Disability costs can range from lost future income to pain and suffering and lost enjoyment of life—all factors that are difficult to assign a dollar value.
- Other damages. Any other losses or out-of-pocket costs resulting from your construction accident injury should be itemized and totaled so that the insurer can include them in the settlement.
If you have been injured in a construction accident, you don’t have to make this important decision alone. Our experienced construction injury attorneys can help you decide whether or not to accept a settlement, and we do not charge for our services until after we secure payment for you. We encourage you to contact us directly at 1-800-362-9329 and to read a FREE copy of our pamphlet, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.
What are “navigable” waters?
The Jones Act considers "navigable waters" to be any waterways that are capable of being used for interstate or foreign commerce. In order for a maritime worker to be considered a Jones Act seaman, he or she must spend over 30 percent of work time in the service of a vessel on a navigable waterway. If your injury took place in an area that does not meet the technical definition of “navigable waterways,” your Jones Act injury benefits may be denied.
Types of Navigable Waterways Under the Jones Act
The term “navigable waterways” is generally accepted to be any body of water that can be used for interstate or international transport of goods or passengers. Oceans, seas, and all waterways that are connected directly to them are considered to be navigable waters, as is the Gulf of Mexico and other large bodies of water. However, landlocked lakes may also qualify as navigable if they border more than one state or are connected to a river that flows into another state.
Nearly any type of waterway could potentially be considered “navigable,” including:
- Beaches and banks of any of the above
It is important to note that the vessel does not have to be actively engaged in operations or even in motion for an injury to be covered under the Jones Act. A ship that has been docked in a navigable harbor for routine maintenance may still be considered “in navigation,” and any worker who is injured onboard should be eligible for Jones Act injury compensation.
We're Here to Help!
If you have suffered from a maritime injury, we encourage you to find out more about your rights to see who may owe you compensation for your recovery. Contact one of our New York and New Jersey maritime accident attorneys today via our online contact form, or call us at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY. For more information on your case, be sure to download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.
What can be considered a vessel under the Jones Act?
Maritime work takes place in a variety of environments, and injuries can occur both at sea and on shore. Fortunately, employees who qualify as Jones Act seamen can collect payment for an injury regardless of where the accident occurred as long as they were performing duties related to their vessel. However, in order for the maritime worker to be considered a Jones Act seaman, the ship that an employee is assigned to will have to meet the legal definition of “vessel.”
Vessels Recognized Under the Jones Act
Since the precise definition of “Jones Act vessel” could be a deciding factor in whether your Jones Act injury benefits are approved or denied, it is vital to seek a maritime injury attorney’s help at the outset of your case. An attorney can examine the type of watercraft, your role as a crew member, and the nature of the injury to determine exactly who is to blame for the accident and how much you may be owed.
To qualify for benefits under the Jones Act, a crew member’s vessel must be:
Owned by an American company or individual.
The Jones Act is a U.S. federal law, and will only apply to vessels subject to U.S. government regulation.
Operated in navigable waters.
The Jones Act has a federal jurisdiction, meaning vessels that travel between areas of interstate or international commerce.
Used to transport goods or passengers.
In 2005, the Supreme Court clarified the definition of the word “vessel” under the Jones Act as, "watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.” Some common examples of vessels include fishing boats, ferries, barges cruise ships, tankers, freighters, tugboats, and cargo ships.
Capable of movement.
In the past, unpowered floating structures were exempt from Jones Act status, but the 2005 Supreme Court decision removed the requirement that a vessel be self-propelled. Under the new rules, offshore drilling platforms, dredges, docks, jack-up rigs, semi-submersible rigs, and floating work platforms or dormitories could now be considered Jones Act vessels.
Have You Been Injured In A Maritime Accident?
If you've been hurt in a maritime accident you need to speak with an experienced maritime attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.465.8840 to schedule your free consultation.
You can also download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights today.
What is a Sieracki seaman?
Maritime laws include two specific workers’ compensation and injury statues: one to protect those who work on vessels, and one to protect those who work on land near water. Sieracki seamen are employees who perform maritime work, but do not meet benefit qualifications under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) or Jones Act.
Could I Be a Sieracki Seaman?
Any employee who is injured while aboard a vessel in navigable waters could have a potential maritime injury claim—whether he or she is a Jones Act seaman, Sieracki seaman, or is subject to the LHWCA. Since there are a variety of state and federal laws that may apply in your case, it is best to seek the advice of a maritime injury attorney to get the full amount of compensation you are owed.
You may be owed Sieracki seamen’s benefits if you:
Were injured due to a safety violation or defect of the ship.
The term "Sieracki seaman" was coined after a legal case (Seas Shipping Co. v. Sieracki) in which a seaman’s warranty of seaworthiness was extended to longshoremen injured aboard vessels. Although the LHWCA now excludes longshoreman from being designated as Sieracki seaman, other employees still retain the right to sue for injuries caused by unseaworthiness and negligence under general maritime law.
Perform a necessary function of the ship.
Courts have maintained that workers who perform a function essential to maritime service aboard are owed the warranty of seaworthiness, even if they are not covered by the LHWCA or other federal law.
Perform work on a location other than a ship.
Seaman are required to spend 30 percent or more of their work time on a vessel or fleet of vessels in order to be eligible for Jones Act benefits. However, harbor pilots, stevedores, mechanics, welders, and other workers who do not have a permanent connection to one vessel may qualify as Sieracki seaman.
Are the spouse of a worker claiming Sieracki-seaman status.
The spouse of a Sieracki-seaman status may be able to recover for loss of consortium, loss of society, and other damages in a wrongful death case.
Have You Been injured In A Maritime Accident?
If you've been hurt in a maritime accident you need to speak with an experienced maritime attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our New York City office directly at 212.465.8840 to schedule your free consultation.
For more information on your case, be sure to download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.
What if I was injured in New York City but live in a different state?
One of the first things you should do after receiving medical attention for your injury is to file a workers’ compensation claim. This can be done either in the state where the accident occurred, or in the state where you live if you commute to work from outside New York City. However, the state in which you file a workers’ compensation claim can have a huge impact on your construction injury case, so you should not make this decision lightly.
Benefits of Filing Your Construction Injury Case in New York
As each state is allowed to create its own workers’ compensation laws, the amount and duration of workers’ compensation benefits can vary widely from state to state. If you live in one state but are injured in another, you can choose which location (called jurisdiction) to file your claim.
There are many reasons New York City construction workers should consider filing their claims in New York, including:
Right to sue employer.
In most states, workers’ compensation claimants are barred from suing an employer under the exclusive remedy doctrine. However, New York laws allow some employers to be sued in work injury lawsuits.
State labor laws.
New York State Labor Laws 240, 241, and 200 provide grounds for construction accident victims to sue the general contractor and worksite owner for injuries caused by negligence. These laws can be applied to union and non-union employees, and out-of-state employees, day laborers, and even illegal immigrants.
If a worker is seriously injured to the negligence of a third party, he or she can file a construction accident lawsuit in addition to collecting workers’ compensation.
Right to file additional claims.
Employees can file for workers’ compensation in their home states and in the state where the injury occurred. However, typically one state will pay up to its benefit limits before the other will agree to make up the difference.
Have You Been Injured While Working On A Construction Site?
If you've been hurt while working at your construction job you need to speak with an experienced construction accident attorney as soon as possible. Please feel free to contact us online or call our New York City law office directly at 212.465.8840 to schedule your free consultation.
You can also read through our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.