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 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.

    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 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.

    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 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.

     

  • What are “navigable” waters?

    Navigable WatersThe 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:

    • Rivers
    • Lakes
    • Harbors
    • Wetlands
    • Streams
    • Mudflats
    • 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?

    Fishing Boat in the Middle of the Ocean Hofmann & SchweitzerMaritime 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?

    Worker on a Ship by the Water Hofmann and SchweitzerMaritime 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.