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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Who can be held liable for a wrongful death due to a crane accident?
Crane accidents cause hundreds of injuries to construction workers every year, many of which are fatal. According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI), 220 workers were killed in crane-related deaths between 2011 to 2015, most of them employed in the private construction industry. When a construction worker loses his or her life, family members have a right to know who was responsible—and who should pay for the financial and emotional losses they have suffered.
Common Causes of Crane Accidents in the Construction Industry
The most common causes of crane fatalities involve loads dropping suddenly from a height, workers struck by swinging loads, or crane collapse. When these accidents occur, state laws allow families to collect workers’ compensation death benefits, but also grant the right to sue property owners and contractors for a New York construction injury.
Surviving family members may be able to seek damages from third parties if the crane accident resulted from:
Crane foundations must be installed according to manufacturer and safety specifications, and contractors could be liable for crane moement due to shifting ground conditions or installing the crane too close to electrical power lines.
If the crane was badly designed, not tested thoroughly, or suffered defects in the manufacturing process, the maker of the crane can be held liable. In addition, a product manufacturer can be liable if its crane components failed (such as rigging, hooks, slings, pulleys, or wire rope).
Lack of Training or Supervision
Contractors may be liable for deaths caused by unqualified crane operators, failure to appoint a signalman, or allowing crane operations without adequate supervision.
Failure to Warn
Crane manufacturers must provide clear warnings of the dangers of crane operation, including the risks of exceeding the load capacity of the crane.
Improper Maintenance or Inspections
Cranes must undergo rigorous inspection to identify any defects before they can be used to hoist loads. Unfortunately, many components fail because faulty conditions are not corrected or maintenance is not adequately performed.
While nothing can make up for the loss of a loved one, a wrongful death lawsuit can give family members closure and comfort, as well as give them the resources they need to move on with their lives. As a surviving relative, you may be able to collect damages for your loved one’s medical bills, end-of-life costs, lost financial benefits, lost guidance and emotional support, and other consequences of an accidental death. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call 800-362-9329 to speak with a construction injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer about your legal rights and options.
Can I get workers' compensation for hearing loss on a construction site?
According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses among American workers. The good news is that hearing loss is a recognized occupational condition, and those afflicted may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages. However, since this condition may occur gradually over time, employees may have a difficult time proving that their condition is work-related.
Types of Occupational Hearing Loss Covered by Workers' Compensation
Daily exposure to industrial machinery on a construction site can cause many types of injury, including hearing loss. NIOSH warns that noise levels of 85 decibels or more have the potential to cause hearing damage—and constant exposure to high noise levels can cause irreversible hearing loss.
Hearing loss on a construction site can occur in a number of ways, including:
- Repetitive stress. The most common cause of occupational hearing loss is repetitive exposure in the work environment. Employees in New York are required to wait three months from their last date of employment before they can apply for workers’ compensation for repetitive stress injuries, including occupational hearing loss.
- Sudden trauma. If hearing loss occurred as a result of an accident (such as a blow to the head or near-drowning), the injured employee can apply for workers’ compensation immediately and has two years from the date of the injury to make a claim.
- Toxic chemicals. Some chemicals and solvents on construction sites may be ototoxic, meaning they can damage the structures of the ear canal. Hearing loss in these cases can be immediate or take weeks to develop, so medical evidence is usually necessary to link the condition to the workplace.
- Negligence. Most cases of occupational hearing loss could have been prevented if hearing protection had been provided. New York construction workers may be able to file a work injury lawsuit against a contractor or other third-party who failed to provide proper protective hearing equipment or train employees on hearing loss prevention.
Once you are eligible for workers’ compensation, you should make an appointment with a hearing loss specialist. This doctor will perform a number of tests to determine how much of your hearing ability remains, and discuss the nature of your job, your work environment, and the duties you perform. If the doctor believes that your hearing loss is work-related, he or she will fill out a workers’ compensation form so you can begin the process of filing your claim.
If you are being denied workers’ compensation for hearing loss, our attorneys can examine the facts of your case and get you the benefits you deserve. Contact us online or call us directly at (800) 362-9329 to speak with a construction injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today.
Should I see my own doctor after a maritime injury?
Maritime employers will often encourage employees to treat with a company doctor after an injury occurs at sea. However, you have the right to choose whichever doctor you want to treat your injuries—and seeing your own doctor can benefit both your health and your injury case.
Why You Should Choose Your Own Doctor for a Maritime Injury
Your employer can steer you toward a specific doctor in many different ways, such as insisting you see a company physician, recommending certain doctors who specialize in maritime injuries, or threatening not to pay medical bills unless you treat with a physician of the employer’s choice. Unfortunately, doctors who have a relationship with your employer are more likely to operate in the company’s best interests, not yours.
It is vital for you to choose your own physician to treat your maritime injuries because:
- You can get the care you need. Your employer is required to pay for any treatment for your injury that has been recommended by your doctor. This means paying for the costs of diagnostics (such as x-rays or MRIs) as well as prescription medications, assistive devices, and physical rehabilitation. A company doctor may neglect to order certain tests because they could mean higher medical bills for the employer, sacrificing your health for company profits.
- You can return to work at your own pace. Company doctors may give you clearance to return to work before you are ready or before your injury has fully healed, placing you at risk of aggravating the injury or suffering additional complications.
- It’s free. Your employer is required to pay for medical treatment regardless of which doctor you choose. This can be your regular doctor or a specialist with knowledge of your type of injury and the work that you do.
Our maritime injury lawyers are based in New York, but we are proud to represent clients across the country who have suffered an injury or illness at sea. Our attorneys can explain your options at no cost to you, and we do not collect any fees until we get you the compensation you deserve. Fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
My employer paid me an advance for my maritime injury. Is this the same as maintenance and cure?
Under maritime laws, injured seamen have a right to collect maintenance and cure payments for daily living expenses and medical bills until they can return to work. In some cases, seamen will receive additional payments from their employers while they are recovering, often called “advances.” These payments are not part of maintenance and cure, and may actually reduce the total amount the seaman receives.
Advances Are Not Part of Maintenance and Cure Payments
While it may seem generous of an employer to pay an injured seaman more than they are required during his recovery, advances have drawbacks. If an employee’s maintenance check contains the words “advance of settlement” or “partial settlement,” it is likely that some or all of the funds received will affect the final claim.
Advances differ from maintenance and cure, chiefly because advance payments:
- Are taxed. While most seamen are not required to pay taxes on maintenance payments, advances are considered wages and are taxed at the same rate as the seamen’s paychecks.
- Are voluntary. Maintenance payments are required by federal law, while advance payments are made at the employer’s will. By giving additional funds when a seaman needs it most, employers may be seen in a more favorable light if the case goes to court.
- Must be paid back. The legally-required maintenance you have received will not be deducted from your settlement. However, if you prevail in a maritime injury case, your settlement may be reduced by the amount received in advance payments.
Have You Been Injured At Your Maritime Job?
Maritime employers are legally liable for the costs of an injury or illness suffered in service of the ship, and failure to provide adequate maintenance and cure can be grounds for an injury claim. Our attorneys can explain your options and gather evidence of a maritime company's negligence, helping you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us online or call our office directly (800) 362-9329 to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
- Are taxed. While most seamen are not required to pay taxes on maintenance payments, advances are considered wages and are taxed at the same rate as the seamen’s paychecks.
What should I do If I get hurt on a cruise ship?
A cruise ship may conjure visions of good food, sunny days by the pool, and exciting excursions, but the reality can also include injuries. Passengers may suffer a wide range of conditions on a cruise, such as food poisoning, slips and falls, assault by another passenger or crew member, or falls overboard. Although cruise ships serve customers in the United States, they often travel in international waters or are registered in foreign countries—so maritime law applies when an injury or death occurs on a ship at sea.
What to Do in the Days Following an Accident on a Cruise Ship
Maritime law requires cruise ship operators to take reasonable steps to safeguard their passengers. Safety measures may include hiring adequate staff, installing security cameras and lights in public areas, and making sure the ship and everything on it is up to code. If the owner cut corners or the operator failed to provide a safe ship, these entities may be guilty of negligence.
After a cruise ship injury occurs, victims and their families should:
- Notify authorities. The first thing to do after an injury is to notify the cruise director, an officer or employee, or the ship’s medical doctor. Ask that a complete investigation take place. If you are the victim of an assault, report the incident to the police or U.S. officials at the next port of call.
- Collect evidence. In maritime cases, passengers are required to prove negligence in order to be awarded compensation. You should write down all the details you can remember about the accident, including time, location, witnesses present, and the conditions around you. If there are any security cameras in the area, note the identification numbers on the cameras so that you can request that specific footage be saved.
- Read your ticket. When cruise ship passengers purchase a ticket and board the ship, they are agreeing to abide by the terms included in the fine print. These stipulations may include the state where injury claims must be filed and how long the victim has to file a claim.
- Contact a maritime law attorney. An experienced attorney can explain when cruise ships are liable for injuries caused by crew members, construction defects, over-serving alcohol, inadequate rescue operations, or other forms of negligence.
Our New Jersey and New York cruise injury lawyers can advise you after an injury aboard a cruise ship, an accident at a port of call, or an injury during an excursion. We can examine regulations, collect evidence on your behalf, and pursue compensation for your medical expenses and lost wages. Fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with an attorney at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
Who is liable for a maritime accident caused by inadequate training?
Many maritime injuries that are labeled “accidents” are actually caused by human error. A lack of training can place a worker in danger of injuring himself, cause one worker to accidentally injure another, or cause the deaths of several employees at once. Since even one untrained person in a maritime work environment places the entire crew at risk, employers who do not train their workers properly can be held liable for negligence.
Maritime Laws Allow Workers to File Injury Lawsuits for Insufficient Training
Many different laws allow employees to take legal action when inadequate training causes an injury. Depending on your employment conditions, the Jones Act, general maritime law, Longshoremen and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA), or New York state labor laws can all provide avenues of compensation for medical bills and lost wages.
Different parties may be liable if the injury occurred while you were working:
- On a vessel. Under the Jones Act doctrine of seaworthiness, the employer and shipowner have a duty of care to make the ship as safe as possible for workers. This includes hiring competent crew members, providing sufficient occupational task and safety training, and drilling crew members on emergency procedures. A maritime company that fails to properly train and test its crew can be held liable in a negligence or unseaworthiness claim.
- On a dock. The LHWCA extends the maritime employer’s duty of care to shipyard and dock workers. Lack of training can include anything from the improper use of tools or poor lifting technique to failing to educate workers on repetitive strain injury prevention.
- On a bridge or tunnel. New York construction laws allow workers who are injured while performing maritime construction work to file a lawsuit against the contractor or owner of the job site. In addition, these workers have the right to collect state workers’ compensation benefits from an employer.
These kinds of cases are extremely complex, and the laws that apply will depend on your employment status, work location, and the circumstances of your injury. Our attorneys can explain your options and gather evidence of a maritime company's negligence, helping you get the compensation you deserve. Fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
How does NY Labor Law 200 apply to my construction injury case?
New York has many different labor laws to protect construction workers from severe injury and death. Under Labor Law 200, property owners and contractors are required to provide employees with a reasonably safe workplace. If the owner is in violation of the section, the state may impose fines and the injured employee could have grounds to file an injury lawsuit.
Provisions of NY Labor Law 200 for Construction Employees
Labor Law 200 requires that all areas of a worksite be “constructed, equipped, arranged, operated and conducted” in a way that will make the worksite as safe as possible for employees and visitors. The law has specific instructions regarding:
All machinery must be placed in a way that minimizes injury to workers, operated according to safe practices, and equipped with adequate safety guards. If the building commissioner posts a notice identifying a problem with a piece of machinery, the machinery may not be used until the dangerous condition is corrected. The owner must contact the commissioner for re-inspection and re-inspection must be completed before the notice may be removed.
Work areas must have adequate lighting in order to prevent trips or falls, and machinery must be lighted to allow workers to see active parts of the equipment.
Sanitation and Health
Contractors and owners should provide the employees with safe restroom facilities and access to first aid on site.
Owners should follow construction regulations to ensure that all elevators and escalators have been installed and are operating correctly.
Radiation and Fire Response
Sites should have adequate fire suppression systems, as well as radiation detection, to protect workers from industrial radiation.
Every worksite should have at least the minimum number of exits required to evacuate the worksite quickly.
If your construction injury was caused by a violation of this section or another unsafe condition on a construction site, we can help. Our attorneys will investigate who may be at fault for the accident, allowing you to get the compensation you deserve for your medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. Fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a construction injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
What if my Jones Act insurer will pay my medical bills, but nothing else?
Although injured workers are owed maintenance and cure benefits under the Jones Act, employers often use a number of tactics to reduce the amount of money they pay out in claims. One common method is to reduce or stop payments for necessary medical services or living expenses, paying for only a portion of what the employee is owed under the law.
Jones Act Insurers Could Pay Medical Costs, But No Wages
Maritime laws permits every seaman who becomes ill or injured during employment to collect a daily living stipend, all necessary medical payments related to the injury, and all past outstanding wages earned. The daily living allowance begins once the worker is off the vessel where the injury occurred, and these payments can be suspended for any time the employee is in a hospital (since room and board in these instances is already provided).
However, employers may dispute the amount of wages issued to seamen based on the misinterpretation of maritime wage laws. For example, seamen may suffer lower wage payments due to:
- Early discharge. Seamen who are discharged through no fault of their own before one month’s wages are earned are entitled to receive one full month’s wages as compensation from the employer. If the seaman is not aware of this rule, the employer may get away with denying fair payment.
- Presence on board. A seaman’s entitlement to wages begins on the date specified in his employment agreement or on the date the seaman begins work, whichever is earlier. If an injury occurs on the vessel before the contract begins, the employer may attempt to deny wages or benefits.
- Failure to perform work. Under Title 46 of the U.S. Labor Code, a seaman is not entitled to wages for any time in which he failed to work when required. Employers may claim that a seaman did not report for duty or refused to work in order to deny wages.
If you have been injured on a ship or as a harbor worker, we can examine the facts of your case and get you the all that you are owed under the Jones Act. Contact us online or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with an experienced Jones Act lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
Are there OSHA regulations to protect construction workers from chemical burns?
Millions of construction employees are at risk of severe or fatal injuries every day across the U.S., including the potential for dangerous exposure to chemicals. Working with paints, primers, adhesives, grouts, waterproofing agents, patching and leveling materials, coatings and sealants, lubricants, and cleaning formulas all place workers at risk of injury, including:
- Chemical burns. A caustic agent on a worker’s skin can cause a burn that requires grafting and results in permanent scarring.
- Blindness. Industrial agents can cause temporary or lifelong blindness if they enter a worker’s eye.
- Respiratory problems. In enclosed areas without proper ventilation, chemicals can push out breathable air and cause asphyxia or lung damage.
- Fires and explosions. Both the fumes and liquid forms of many industrial solvents are highly flammable, posing a risk of thermal burns or explosion.
OSHA Regulations Protect Construction Workers From Chemical Burns
In an effort to control the risks of chemical exposure, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that all chemical manufacturers and distributors provide Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for each chemical used on job sites. The SDS must be accessible to all employees, and all employees should be trained on how to use them.
Information required in Safety Data Sheets include:
- The properties of each chemical
- Manufacturer's instructions for the safe handling of the material
- All physical, health, and environmental hazards of the material
- Proper protective measures for handling, storing, and transporting the chemical
OSHA also requires employers to train employees about the risks of each hazardous chemical, have a written spill control plan and provide spill clean-up kits in storage areas, train employees on proper clean-up and disposal of chemical materials, and provide and enforce the use of proper personal protective equipment.
If you were injured at your construction site by a chemical, there is a good chance your employer could have done more to prevent it. The New York construction accident attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can examine the facts of your case and get you the maximum amount of compensation you are owed for your medical treatment and the lost ability to earn a living. Contact us online or call us directly at (800) 362-9329 today to schedule your free initial consultation.
What are the benefits of using an attorney experienced in maritime law?
Technically speaking, any lawyer who has been admitted to the state bar or federal court where you are filing your case could potentially represent you in your case. However, there is a big difference between hiring an attorney and hiring the right attorney. If the attorney who drafted your will is concentrated in estate planning law, he or she may not know the intricacies of maritime injuries and the laws that apply to them—even if he or she is willing to take the case.
Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer Experienced in Maritime Law
Maritime lawyers are aware of all the laws applying to both workers and employers, and that knowledge gives them bargaining power to get you the best possible outcome for your case. Think of it this way: would you have chosen your past attorney if he or she had no experience in that area? Would you hire an injury lawyer to draft your will, or a tax attorney to handle your car accident case? The question has even more weight for those who have suffered injuries on or near the water, as this is a specific area of law that rarely overlaps with other kinds of injury cases. As a result, few attorneys are fully versed in maritime law.
A maritime injury attorney will be able to explain your options and what you may be owed based on:
- Your classification as a worker. Your worker status depends on who may be held liable for your injury compensation. Federal workers’ compensation programs include the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) and the Jones Act, but NY workers’ compensation statutes could also apply to your claim. Identifying all forms of available compensation can significantly affect the value of your claim.
- The extent of your injuries. Injuries to maritime employees are often severe and can cause a complete change in the employee’s future abilities. A maritime lawyer can calculate the full extent of your losses, including reduced capacity for employment and the pain and suffering you have endured.
- Causation and liability laws. Maritime cases are usually filed at the federal level and involve a variety of laws that can affect the value of a claim. For example, maritime law has its own set of standards for proving fault for an injury, while the Limitation of Liability Act allows an employer to severely limit the amount owed to victims after a disaster.
- Negligence and unseaworthiness. In addition to providing compensation for your medical bills and lost income, federal laws allow employees to sue maritime employers for negligence and unsafe conditions that lead to injuries.
One of the most pressing reasons to consult with a maritime attorney is that your employer’s lawyers will definitely know every defense they can use under maritime law. Our firm can even the playing field, getting you the maximum amount of compensation you are owed for your medical treatment and lost ability to earn a living. Contact us online or call us directly at 212.465.8840 to speak with a maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.