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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  • Can families file a lawsuit if a maritime worker drowned?

    Caution Drowning SignDespite the many safety advances and lifesaving precautions in the maritime industry, drowning remains a high risk for seamen and harbor workers. Fatal drowning accidents can happen while a vessel is at sea, when the vessel is approaching a harbor, or even when vessels are tied to a dock. While the inciting incidents in each case may vary, the majority of maritime workers who drown are the victims of someone else’s negligence.

    Common Reasons for Drowning Incidents in the Maritime Industry

    Drowning incidents can occur any time seamen enter the water, but are most likely to happen after an unwitnessed or unprotected fall overboard. If a loved one was killed after falling off of his or her vessel, family members should speak with a maritime injury attorney to determine whether the incident was caused by:

    • Lack of PPE. Employers are required to provide life vests to all crew members working on deck, ensure that flotation devices are worn, and replace any damaged or worn-out life-preserving equipment on vessels.
    • Training or staffing deficits. All vessels should be staffed with an adequate number of crew members. Understaffing can cause fatigue and exhaustion among workers, increasing the odds of an accident. Employers should also implement “buddy system” techniques to ensure that employees work in pairs during potentially dangerous maneuvers, decreasing the amount of time a person would spend in the water if he or she fell overboard. In addition, employers have a duty to ensure that all seamen have received training both on their job duties and on proper safety and resume measures.
    • Unseaworthiness. Vessel defects are a primary cause of slip or trip accidents that can cause a seaman to fall overboard. Owners may be held liable if damaged ladders, faulty lifeboats, slippery decks, or other unsafe equipment rendered the vessel unseaworthy.

    If someone you love was killed at sea, the maritime attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can determine who may be held liable 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.

     

  • Does the Jones Act cover falls overboard?

    Side Railing on a Large BoatFalls overboard are not only one of the most common kinds of injuries at sea, and they are also the most deadly. When these accidents happen, victims can claim benefits under the Jones Act for the costs of their injuries and lost wages, and may also pursue compensation for negligence and unseaworthiness.

    Maritime Injuries Sustained in Falls Overboard

    Crew members working on all types of vessels have a duty to follow rescue protocol when a seaman or passenger goes overboard. Once a person has fallen into the water, the ship must use all reasonable means available to retrieve him or her as long as the person could reasonably be found alive.

    If crews are not properly trained or do not witness the fall, a seaman can suffer severe injuries such as:

    • Hypothermia. Depending on the temperature of the water and length of time before rescue, a seaman’s body temperature can fall drastically, affecting his or her ability to swim or even remain afloat.
    • Coma. A person who has been rescued from the water should receive adequate first aid to bring up his or her body temperature safely. If heat is not applied quickly, the person’s heart and brain may slow down considerably, resulting in a coma. If heat is applied to the extremities rather than the torso, chilled blood could rush into the victim’s heart, resulting in cardiac arrest.
    • Drowning. Seaman who are not provided with a personal flotation device (PFD) while working on deck are much more likely to drown after falling into the water. Family members should always investigate the wrongful death of a maritime worker to see if the accident could have been prevented.

    If you or someone you love suffered an overboard incident, the maritime attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can determine who may be liable for your 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 should I expect if I file a Jones Act case?

    Injured Worker Looking at Information on the Computer After a Maritime InjuryIf you were injured while working at sea, you are likely owed benefits under the Jones Act, Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, or general maritime law. While some employers may pay for medical benefits and lost wages without much resistance, you should always be prepared for a fight as you move forward.

    What Happens After You File a Maritime Injury Case Under the Jones Act

    Most maritime employers and their insurance companies will try to pay you as little as possible for your injuries. It is always a good idea to speak with an experienced maritime injury attorney to advise you on your claim and ensure you get what you deserve. Your lawyer can help with the filing of the claim, including determining whether you qualify for Jones Act seaman status or could pursue a negligence claim in addition to collecting benefits.

    Once your claim is filed, your attorney can prepare you for what it will be like as your case progresses, including:

    • Ensuring you continue your medical treatment. You should continue your appointments with your chosen doctor, and follow your physician’s recommended treatment plan even if your benefits claim is still pending.
    • Submitting proper documentation. You will need to keep accurate and thorough records, including copies of forms you submit or sign, your medical records, your accident report, correspondence from your employer, pictures from the accident, a list of witnesses, and a diary of your injuries.
    • Fending off insurance representatives. You may be contacted regularly by insurance agents offering you quick settlements or requesting recorded statements. These are solely attempting to gather evidence against you, and should be reported to your attorney immediately.

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

     

  • Can my Jones Act employer have me followed to gather evidence against me?

    Insurance Investigator Taking Pictures of an Injured WorkerYou have enough to worry about after an accident at sea without worrying that your injury case will not be treated with the respect it deserves. Unfortunately, your employer’s insurer will be doing everything it can to build a case against you, including hiring a private investigator to follow you and record your daily activities.

    Surveillance Methods an Employer May Use After a Maritime Injury

    In general, maritime insurers or employers will invest in a private investigator if an injury claim has the potential to cost them a significant amount of money. Insurers are hoping for video clips that show you are capable of performing strenuous activities (and are therefore able to return to work), or that show you performing an activity that you have previously testified you can no longer do (thus hurting your credibility).

    It is worth noting that there are many ways an employer can gather evidence against you without the need to hire a professional investigator. For instance, an employer may:

    • Save your correspondence. Any interaction you have with an employer can be saved as evidence. This means your letters and emails, but also texts and instant messages that may be taken out of context. Employers may even record your phone calls to get you to talk about your injury, asking you leading questions in an effort to get you to say something that can be used against you.
    • Ask other employees to watch you. You should be wary of discussing your injury or your accident case with anyone other than your maritime injury attorney, especially people you work with. Even if you are friends with your coworkers, they can still be subpoenaed to give testimony in court.
    • Follow you on social media. These days, engaging in “spy” tactics is as easy as monitoring someone’s online activities. If you post photos or videos that show you on vacation, playing with your children, or even smiling, this evidence may be used to argue that your lifestyle has not changed much as a result of the injury.

    Our Maritime Injury Lawyers Will Fight For Your Full Compensation

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

     

  • Is it better to go to trial or settle my Jones Act claim?

    Lawyer Discussing Settlements and TrialOne of the questions we are often asked is whether we will take your maritime case to trial or settle the case out of court. The fact is, the majority—about 80%—of legal claims will settle without going to court. However, this does not mean that settlement is the best route to take in your particular case. The best determination of success is not whether you go through court or settlement, it is the one that secures the best possible outcome for you.

    Factors That Can Impact Whether Settlement or Trial Is Best for You

    It is important to remember that you will have many opportunities to settle as the case progresses. You can refuse the amount or propose new terms of a settlement several times, and your attorney should continue negotiations with the defendant even as you prepare for trial.

    There are pros and cons of each method used to resolve a legal case. If you have been offered a settlement, you should carefully consider:

    • Amount of the offer. Your attorney should ensure that the amount you are being offered will cover your outstanding medical costs, future treatment, and lost income at the very least.
    • Whether you can wait. One of the biggest benefits of accepting a settlement is that it takes less time than a trial, which can go on for months or even up to a year. If time is a concern, settlement may make more sense for you.
    • Likelihood of winning in court. There is no way of knowing who will be successful, or how much compensation will be awarded by the jury, if the case goes to trial. A settlement allows all parties to walk away from the table knowing exactly what they will get out of the transaction.
    • Your attorney’s trial record. Your attorney should be willing to go to court if it is in the best interests of your case. Always ask your lawyer about his or her track record winning cases as well as those that have settled before trial.

    Our Maritime Injury Lawyers Will Fight For Your Full Compensation

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

     

  • I wasn’t engaged in work duties when I was hurt on my vessel. Does maritime law apply?

    Large Ship and Workers at SeaIf you make your living on or near the water, there is a good chance that maritime laws will apply to your case. The high risk of injury on ships, fishing boats, floating platforms, and barges has led to a variety of federal statutes to provide accident coverage to victims, even if the workers were not “on the clock” when the injury occurred.

    Maritime Laws That May Pay for Off-the-Clock Injuries

    The Jones Act, The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA), and general maritime law all provide injury compensation and the right to file a lawsuit, so it may take an experienced maritime attorney to determine which one applies to your case. The details of your case also have a significant bearing on whether or not your injury qualifies for benefits, as well as the amount of payment you could collect.

    For example, could you be owed compensation if you were:

    • On the ship, but off-duty? Probably. It’s difficult to ever really be off-duty at sea, since you are always on board the ship and therefore always at work. Under the Jones Act, any injury related to work or the work environment qualifies the victim for maintenance and cure benefits at the very least.
    • Hurt by a dangerous condition on the vessel? Possibly. Jones Act seamen have the right to file an unseaworthiness claim if they are injured due to unsafe conditions on the ship. Workers who are not considered seamen may still be able to file an injury claim for a shipowner’s negligence under general maritime law or the LHWCA.
    • Away from the vessel? Maybe. Both general maritime law and the Jones Act agree that a worker who is injured or becomes ill during the course and scope of employment shall qualify for compensation. If you were performing an action that directly benefitted your employer, you are likely to be owed compensation—even if you were on land, on a different vessel, or on the dock when the injury occurred.

    If you are a maritime worker who is coping with the effects of an injury, our attorneys can determine who may be liable for your accident and what you are owed under the law. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY 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.

     

  • What damages can I recover for injuries suffered in the collision between the ACX Crystal and USS Fitzgerald?

    Our maritime injury attorneys have spent over 40 years fighting for the rights of injured maritime employees nationwide, and are dedicated to helping U.S. Navy service members who were hurt in the 2017 collision with the ACX Crystal. If you or someone you know was aboard the USS Fitzgerald when the incident occurred, please call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or complete our online contact form today.

    Types of Damages Available in a Maritime Injury Lawsuit

    Rescue Boat at Work After the USS Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal CollisionAfter a tragedy at sea, federal maritime laws allow injured employees to file a lawsuit against the party whose negligence caused their suffering. In the case of the collision with the ACX Crystal, a pending USS Fitzgerald crew members’ lawsuit aims to hold NYK Line responsible for the unnecessary injuries and suffering caused by the shipping line’s failure to train a competent crew.

    While every case is different, typical damages recovered in maritime injury cases include:

    • Reimbursement for medical bills, including past doctor’s visits, physical therapy, and ongoing treatment to improve quality of life
    • Disability costs for those whose conditions have reached maximum medical improvement but will never fully heal
    • Lost wages suffered in the days and weeks following the collision  
    • Loss of future income for those who have been discharged from the Navy or will be leaving the service early  
    • Emotional injuries such as symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
    • Pain and suffering caused by the collision
    • Punitive damages above and beyond the dollar amount of the victims’ losses to compensate the sailors for unseaworthiness or willful or outrageous conduct

    If you are a service member who was aboard the USS Fitzgerald when it was struck, you may be owed a recovery from the shipping line. However, your right to compensation may be lost forever if you do not file your claim within three years from the date of the accident. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or complete our online contact form today to set up your free case evaluation.

     

  • How long do injured sailors from the USS Fitzgerald have to file a lawsuit?

    While several U.S. Navy service members have already filed injury claims in the 2017 USS Fitzgerald collision with the ACX Crystal, many sailors are still attempting to cope with the effects of the incident on their own. Unfortunately, the deadline to file a lawsuit is fast approaching, and these brave service members may soon lose their rights to compensation forever. If you or someone you know was aboard the USS Fitzgerald when the tragedy occurred, please call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or complete our online contact form today.

    There Is a Limited Time to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit Against NYK Line

    USS Fitzgerald at SeaFederal laws require that all maritime injury lawsuits be filed within three years of the date of the accident. In the case of the USS Fitzgerald, the deadline to bring a claim is June 17, 2020. However, injured sailors should not wait to speak to an attorney, since it takes some time to complete the steps necessary to file a claim.

    If you have not already sought representation for your injuries in this incident, you must contact our offices by May 30, 2020, so there is time to file the claim.

    Our maritime injury attorneys can:

    • Listen to your story and advise you on your next steps at no cost to you
    • Help you write down everything you remember about the incident and your recovery to ensure you are fully compensated
    • Ensure you are getting the medical help you need for your injuries
    • Prevent you from making mistakes in your case (such as giving a recorded statement or attempting to go back to work)
    • Protect your privacy while your claim is pending
    • Speak to insurers and medical bill collectors on your behalf
    • Wait until your case is successfully settled before we collect any fees from you

    Our law office has been fighting for injured maritime workers nationwide for over 40 years, including Navy personnel suffering from the effects of a deadly collision. If you are a service member who was aboard the USS Fitzgerald when it was struck, call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or complete our online contact form today to set up your free case evaluation.

     

  • Does maritime law cover my case if I was hurt when my vessel was docked?

    Docked Shipped Where Many Injuries Have OccurredMaritime 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.

     

  • I live in New York, but I was hurt off the coast of a different state. Can you represent me?

    Map of the United StatesOur 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.