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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What is the Public Vessels Act?
The Public Vessels Act (PVA) is a federal maritime law that was enacted to grant compensation to injured parties onboard U.S. government ships. Before the PVA, workers injured on “public” vessels (owned or operated by the federal government) could not sue for damages because the United States was immune from injury lawsuits. Today, domestic and foreign workers who are injured while working on a government-owned vessel can sue the government to recover medical payments, lost income, and other damages.
What Maritime Workers Should Know About the Public Vessels Act
The PVA applies to maritime cases where an injury occurred during the course of employment by the government, on board a government-operated vessel, or a government-owned vessel that is operated by a private contractor. Citizens of other countries may also qualify to file lawsuits under the PVA, as long as similar laws exist for the benefit of U.S. citizens in the non-U.S. citizen's country.
In order to recover compensation under the PVA, an injured worker will have to:
Show proof of negligence.
Just as in other types of injury cases, an employee will have to prove negligence to win maritime injury compensation. This includes providing evidence that the U.S. government's negligence contributed to a worker’s injury or death.
Overcome the discretionary function exemption.
The government may be exempt from liability in cases where the worker had the ability to use his or her own judgment in performing the action that led to an injury. An experienced maritime law attorney can carefully examine federal laws or policies to determine whether the worker had an element of choice in performing his or her duties.
File before the statute of limitations.
Although there is a three-year period in which to bring claims under general maritime law and the Jones Act, Public Vessels Act cases must be filed within two years after the injury or death occurs.
If you have suffered an injury aboard a government vessel, our maritime personal injury attorneys can determine who may be liable and what you are owed under the law. Contact us online or 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.
Can I pursue a third-party claim and a workers’ compensation claim?
New York construction workers should file for workers’ compensation as soon as possible after an injury in order to get payment for their medical bills and lost wages. However, workers’ compensation benefits are limited in how much compensation they provide—and the amount received may not cover the full costs of a serious construction accident. In these cases, a third-party claim could provide additional payment for a worker’s pain and suffering, permanent losses, and reduced quality of life.
Third-Party Injury Cases That May Be Filed After a Construction Accident
Construction employees can file third-party injury claims while they are receiving workers’ compensation benefits, but they should be aware that the two claims are very different. For one thing, employees are required to prove fault in an injury claim in order to receive damages. In addition, the negligent party will have to make a case to refute the charges against him or her, which may involve going to court.
Common examples of third-party injury cases include:
While construction workers are generally limited in their ability to sue an employer after a work injury in New York, they may be eligible to file an injury lawsuit against the general contractor, subcontractor, or owner of the property.
In addition to collecting workers’ compensation death benefits, surviving family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit against a negligent party to recover a construction worker’s medical care related to the fatal accident and permanent loss of income and support.
Injuries or deaths involving construction equipment could lead to a product liability claim against the manufacturer or distributor of the equipment. A manufacturer may be liable if the equipment was defective, poorly designed, assembled improperly, inadequately tested, or did not warn users of the risks involved.
One caveat with pursuing a third-party claim is that courts generally do not allow double recoveries for the same injury. Simply put, if your workers’ compensation benefits paid for your medical bills and your third-party settlement includes payment for medical bills, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company may place a lien on the proceeds of your injury case. However, the workers’ compensation insurance company is only entitled to recoup the benefits they have already paid to an injured worker.
If you have been injured on a New York City construction site, our attorneys can get you the compensation you are owed. Simply fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a personal injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today. We also invite you to read through our FREE brochure, Hurt in a Construction Accident? You’re Not Alone.
What is the status test for compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
Since 1927, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) has provided federal benefits to some maritime workers who are hurt on the job. According to Section 2(3), only maritime workers who are performing certain job-related tasks are eligible for LHWCA benefits.
This Is Known as the Status Test
Generally, in order to qualify for LHWCA benefits, a worker must perform maritime-related job duties. Some maritime workers who are eligible for LHWCA benefits include:
- Shipbuilders and repairmen
- Shipyard workers
- Waterfront crane operators
- Terminal workers
- Maritime construction workers
- Civilian workers on overseas military bases
- Workers on oil wells, natural gas wells, and other offshore facilities dealing with the natural resources of the Outer Continental Shelf
- Civilians employed in post exchanges on military bases and those who are paid to boost the morale of United States military troops
Some of the workers who are not covered by the LHWCA include:
- Workers covered by the Jones Act
- People who perform office tasks such as secretarial work
- Security personnel
- Maritime workers who got hurt while they were drunk
- Maritime workers who meant to hurt themselves or others
- Government employees
- People who work in businesses near harbors and ports and who are covered by state workers’ compensation laws
These people may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits in other ways. However, if you are one of the people who does qualify for LHWCA benefits pursuant to the status test, then it is time to consider whether you also meet the requirements for the situs test found in section 3(a) of the law.
Find Out If You Qualify for LHWCA Benefits ASAP
Your time to file for federal workers’ compensation benefits pursuant to the LHWCA is very short. Accordingly, we encourage you to contact our New York longshoreman injury lawyers today for a free and confidential consultation about your rights. We will make sure that you pursue a fair and just recovery pursuant to the right law. Call us or start a live chat with us now to learn more.
What is the situs test for compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal workers’ compensation law that provides benefits to some maritime workers who are hurt on the job. In order to qualify for LHWCA benefits, an injured maritime worker must meet the specific eligibility requirements of the law.
Where Were You Injured?
The situs test involves where you were when you suffered your injuries. When the LHWCA originally became law in 1927, it only applied to maritime workers who were hurt on boats that were on navigable waters. Over the years, this definition was found to be too limiting. It excluded maritime workers who were on land but who were working on building, fixing, loading, or unloading vessels.
Today, the LHWCA applies to maritime workers who are hurt on, near, or adjacent to navigable waters. It includes people who are on:
- Vessels, but are not considered seamen pursuant to the Jones Act
- Oil rigs
- Natural gas drilling platforms
- Marine railways
- Building ways
Maritime workers who are far from the water will, therefore, not be eligible for LHWCA benefits because of the situs test.
The Situs Test Is Just One LHWCA Requirement
You may meet the requirements of the situs test, but to qualify for LHWCA benefits, you are also going to have to meet the status test. If you satisfy the requirements of both the situs test and the status test, then you may be able to receive compensation for a good portion of your income and compensation for all of your injury-related medical expenses.
To learn more about your rights and about whether you may qualify for LHWCA compensation, please contact the experienced longshoreman injury lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer today. You have a very short amount of time to file an LHWCA claim, and you don’t want to miss the deadline. Call us or reach out to us via this website today to schedule your free initial consultation.
How much does a maritime injury lawyer cost?
Most injury victims hesitate to seek legal representation because they are unsure whether they can afford an attorney. The truth is that for many injured maritime workers, the amount they stand to gain is far greater than the costs of an attorney’s fees—and most of the legal costs can be paid after the case has been settled.
How Maritime Injury Lawyers Charge for Their Services
Some attorneys charge clients by the billable hour, assessing a flat fee for each hour spent working on the case. However, this method may not be ideal for injury victims who are struggling financially after to an accident. As a result, injury attorneys offer alternative fee structures to give victims access to their legal rights without incurring any upfront costs.
Injury attorneys can serve clients in ways that will not place an unreasonable burden on the victim, including:
The majority of injury cases are taken on a contingency fee basis, meaning the attorney receives a portion of the amount he or she recovers for the victim. The attorney covers all upfront expenses, including filing fees and court costs. If the victim’s case is not successful, the victim will only have to pay the attorney’s out-of-pocket expenses—the victim will not owe the attorney any fees.
Expenses After Settlement
Legal expenses (such as hiring experts to testify, hiring an investigator or photographer, document copying, and records requests) are not part of an attorney’s fees, and must be paid whether or not the case is successful. However, in a contingency fee arrangement, these costs can be deducted from the settlement rather than paid out of the victim’s pocket.
Free Initial Consultations
Injury attorneys will want to make sure a maritime injury or Jones Act case is valid before agreeing to represent the client. By offering a free consultation, the attorney can determine whether the maritime employee has a right to recover legal damages, and victims can get the legal advice they need at no cost to them.
Our nationwide maritime injury lawyers have experience in all aspects of maritime law and personal injury law, and can advise you on your rights free of charge. Contact us online or 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 determine whose negligence caused my construction injury?
A construction site is a bustling environment, and it can be difficult to tell exactly who could be responsible for the cost of medical bills and lost income when an injury occurs. An attorney can help discover why the accident happened, find the negligent party, and obtain justice and compensation for the victim.
Who May Be Held Liable in a Construction Injury Case
The law applies a doctrine of negligence to establish the person or persons who may held liable for an injury. A person may be liable if he or she had a duty of care to the victim, breached that duty of care, and caused direct harm and losses as a result of that breach. However, not all parties owe the same level of care to construction workers, and establishing negligence may quickly become complicated.
Negligence for an injury or fatality on a NYC construction site could fall on many parties, including:
Construction Site Owners.
Construction site owners are more likely to be found negligent if they allow dangerous conditions to exist on the property, or if they are involved in the day-to-day operations of the work. Employees who are gravely injured can also include an employer in a construction injury lawsuit against the owner of the property.
The general contractor is tasked with ensuring the safety of all workers on the construction site, informing construction workers of any potential hazards or unsafe conditions, hiring competent employees, and enforcing safety regulations.
A subcontractor may be named in a lawsuit if he or she failed to perform safety regulations and duties for a specific task on the project.
Architects, Engineers, and Designers.
Design professionals have a responsibility to create plans that are in compliance with building regulations, perform routine inspections on the construction site, and ensure that the building is being erected according to specifications.
Our New York City construction accident attorneys can examine the details of your case to see which third parties may be responsible, as well as work to get you the workers’ compensation benefits you are owed. Simply fill out our quick online contact form, 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.
What is unseaworthiness?
Like all employers, shipowners are required to provide their employees with a reasonably safe work environment. If the vessel is not safe for navigation, the maritime employer or shipowner can be named in a negligence lawsuit, allowing the injured seaman to recover injury costs and punitive damages.
Understanding Unseaworthiness Under Maritime Law
A ship does not have to be in disrepair or completely unable to sail to be rendered “unseaworthy.” In order for a vessel to be considered seaworthy under maritime law, the vessel must be suitable and able to perform its specific and intended functions without placing seaman at unnecessary risk.
Some Examples of Unseaworthy Conditions
All parts of the ship, including the hull, structure, decks, and equipment, must be adequately maintained and regularly inspected to ensure they are fit for use.
A vessel may be unseaworthy if it attempts to perform work (such as towing or dredging) that it was not designed to do. A vessel may also be flawed if the original design specifications made the ship inherently unsafe.
Outdated or Failing Components
Any one component that is dangerous can render the entire vessel unseaworthy, such as cranes, winches, lines, cables, or other necessary equipment.
Untrained or Inadequate Crew Members
Since the crew is necessary to the function of the ship, an inadequate crew can be considered an unseaworthy condition. An inadequate crew member could be one that is drunk on the job, was not properly trained for the specific work being performed, or otherwise caused a seaman to be injured in the course of his duties.
In a Jones Act negligence case, the burden of proof on the injured seamen is very light. However, the injured seamen will still have to establish a direct link between the unseaworthy condition and the injury. Our maritime accident lawyers know what evidence is required to prove negligence in unseaworthiness claims, and can advise you of your rights at no cost to you. Contact us online or call (800) 362-9329 today to speak with a maritime lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer. You can also download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights today.
How does the Jones Act protect injured seamen from retaliation?
If you are a maritime employee who is assigned to a vessel, you are likely eligible to receive compensation under the Jones Act after an injury on the job. Like state workers’ compensation, the Jones Act is a federal law that provides wage and medical benefits (called maintenance and cure) after a work-related injury, and makes it illegal to retaliate against a worker who files a benefit claim. However, the Jones Act also gives injured seamen the right to sue their employers and shipowners for negligence.
Jones Act Protections Against Retaliation of an Injured Seaman
If you file for compensation under the Jones Act, it is illegal for a shipowner or employer to fire you for exercising your right to benefits. It is also illegal to threaten a seaman’s job to prevent him from filing a Jones Act claim. This is called “retaliatory discharge,” and it can carry serious consequences for the shipowner as well as benefits for the injured worker. Unfortunately, many employees do not know this, and attempt to cope with an injury with no way to pay for their medical bills.
In addition to payment for past and future medical expenses, physical pain, emotional distress, disability, and lost earning capacity, a case that involves retaliatory discharge may result in:
If you are terminated or laid off as a result of seeking injury or wage payments, you can collect additional damages for the hardship you suffered as a result of the discrimination in your injury case.
Wage loss payments with interest
If you lost your job because you were injured, you have the right to be compensated for the wages you would have earned if you had not been unfairly terminated, plus interest.
Any unfairly terminated employee must be reinstated to his or her former position with the same pay and privileges of original employment.
An employer who is found guilty of retaliatory discharge may be ordered to pay for the injured worker’s attorney fees, expert witness fees, and litigation costs.
If your employer fired you after you filed for benefits, it may lend extra weight to your injury claim. Call (800) 362-9329 today to speak with a Jones Act lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights today.
What are some common tactics insurance companies use to limit maritime injury claims?
After you have been injured on the job, you may be relying on your employer to provide payment for your medical bills and lost income. Unfortunately, many employers and their insurance companies will first look for ways to limit or deny claims instead of paying out.
5 Ways Insurers Deny Fair Payment for a Maritime Injury
Injury treatments can have expensive and long-lasting effects, and it is far more profitable for the insurance company to deny valid claims than pay for them. Some insurers may claim that the injury was caused by a pre-existing medical condition, or stop payments before the worker’s injuries have healed, forcing him to return to work too soon.
Insurers use many different tactics to deny maritime employees fair compensation, but the most common methods include:
Offering An Early Settlement For Your Maritime Injury
Insurance companies have teams of adjusters to calculate how much your claim could potentially cost them, allowing them to offer settlements for a fraction of the full amount. Once you accept a settlement, you cannot ask for more money later—even if your injury prevents you from earning a living.
Taking Statements Regarding Your Maritime Injury
Insurers will typically contact injured employees soon after the accident to obtain a recorded statement. While they may claim that these statements are used to document the incident, they are actually fact-finding missions to discover potential ways to deny benefits. For this reason, injured workers should never agree to give a recorded statement to an insurer or employer.
Refusing Your Choice of Physician
Injured maritime employees have the right to choose the physician who will perform and oversee their treatment. However, employers may attempt to steer the employee toward one of the company’s recommended physicians. These doctors may be on the company payroll or otherwise influenced by the employer, and may release you to return to work before you are ready.
Forcing You To See a Company Doctor
Even if you have already selected a doctor for your treatment, your employer may require you to see the company physician. However, submitting to this request can severely damage your maritime claim. Company physicians may not perform adequate or expensive diagnostic testing, advise you to resume working as early as possible, or make entries in your medical record that can be used against you in the future.
Attacking Your Credibility
If the insurer thinks you have a good chance at collecting compensation, the company may perform surveillance of your activities in order to convince a judge that you are lying about the extent of your injuries. The company may also use your own words against you, especially any statements or accusations you made early in your claim.
Our New York City maritime attorneys can fight on your side to get you the maximum you may be owed for your injury. Simply call (800) 362-9329 today to speak with a lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights today.
Can I sue my employer for a construction injury?
Under workers' compensation laws, an injured employee gives up the right to file an injury lawsuit against a co-worker or employer. Workers' compensation was created as a no-fault system, so it guarantees benefits regardless of who caused the injury. However, New York laws do allow a co-worker or employer to be named in a work injury lawsuit if the employee suffered a particularly serious injury.
NY Employees Can Sue Employers After a Grave Construction Injury
New York workers' compensation law contains a special provision allowing employers to be sued after a work accident. An employee who has suffered a "grave injury" can file a third-party lawsuit against a contractor, construction site owner, or other party whose negligence contributed to the injury. The third-party then has the right to bring the employer into the lawsuit to share liability for the injury and damages, adding to the injured worker’s potential recovery.
An employer may be brought into a work injury lawsuit if the employee suffered one or more of the following:
- Total and permanent blindness
- Total and permanent deafness
- Loss of a nose
- Loss of an ear
- Permanent and severe facial disfigurement
- Loss of an index finger
- Loss of multiple fingers
- Loss of multiple toes
- Permanent and total loss of use (including amputation) of an arm, leg, hand or foot
- Paraplegia or quadriplegia
- Injury to the brain caused by an external physical force resulting in permanent total disability
If you were injured while working on a New York City construction site, we can help you get the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve and determine whether you may be able to file a third-party claim. Our team will examine who may be to blame for the accident, gather the medical evidence that proves the extent of your injuries, and hire medical experts to determine how your injuries may affect your financial future. Fill out our quick online contact form or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with a construction injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer today.