Accident and Injury Frequently Asked Questions

Many accident victims are overwhelmed by their injuries, and the thought of a legal case can seem daunting. At Hofmann & Schweitzer, our legal team understands these feelings, and we’ve compiled our thoughts on many common worries here to help you get started finding the answers you need to protect yourself and your family. If you’ve been hurt in a construction, maritime, or railroad accident, browse our FAQs today.

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

    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.

     

  • Who is covered under the Outer Continental Shelf Land Act?

    Oil Rig at Sea Hofmann and SchweitzerThere are many extensions to maritime law that provide compensation to maritime employees injured on land. One such law is the Outer Continental Shelf Land Act, commonly known as OCSLA, which allows non-seamen who work on submerged lands under U.S. jurisdiction to be covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). Maritime employees whose work is primarily offshore (such as oil rig workers) are covered by OCSLA, making them eligible for benefits regardless of who is at fault for the injury.  

    Benefits Provided to Employees Under OCSLA

    Under the OCSLA, federal jurisdiction is extended to “the subsoil and seabed of the outer Continental Shelf and to all artificial islands, and all installations and other devices permanently or temporarily attached to the seabed… for the purpose of exploring, developing, or producing resources therefrom, or any such installation or other device (other than a ship or vessel) for the purpose of transporting such resources.” This allows injuries in these cases to fall under federal statutes (such as OCSLA and LHWCA) rather than state workers’ compensation programs.

    Injury Benefits Under The OCSLA

    Medical care.

    Employees who are eligible for OCSLA benefits may be reimbursed for doctor’s visits, surgeries, hospital stays, medications, physical therapy, assistive devices and equipment, and specialist care arising from a work-related injury.

    Disability payments.

    If your injury is so severe that you cannot work, you may be eligible for partial or total disability payments.

    Vocational rehabilitation.

    If you are unable to return to your previous position as a result of an injury, you could be eligible for employment counseling, vocational testing, and job retraining through the U.S. Department of Labor.

    Death benefits.

    If an employee is covered under the OCSLA and dies as a result of a work-related injury, his or her children and surviving spouse are eligible for death benefits as well as up to $3,000 for funeral and burial expenses.

    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 1-800-3-MAY-DAY and let an experienced maritime injury lawyer provide you with an opinion about how much your maritime injury case is worth. 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 is the Admiralty Extension Act?

    Ships at a Busy New York Dock Hofmann and SchweitzerMaritime laws were created to allow injured workers to recover payment for lost wages and medical bills after an accident at sea. However, when they were first enacted, these laws only applied to accidents and injuries outside of the bounds of state borders. As a result, maritime employees who were hurt on land would only be able to recover compensation under that state’s injury laws. In 1948, admiralty jurisdiction was extended, protecting all maritime employees regardless of where their injuries occurred.

    How the Admiralty Extension Act Benefits Your Maritime Injury Case

    The Admiralty Extension Act (AEA) of 1948 brought admiralty and maritime jurisdiction inland, allowing the federal laws to include cases where damage on land is caused by a vessel on navigable water. Victims who suffer property damage or injuries due to a ship’s contact with land or objects near the shore have a right to bring claims under admiralty law, as do maritime employees injured on land by their vessel (or some appurtenance of the vessel).

    The AEA ensures that maritime injury laws extend to employees who are:

    • Injured on land while working near their vessels
    • Injured after a ship on navigable waters caused damage onshore
    • Hurt as a result of a vessel colliding with land or a land-based structure
    • Injured while performing work on bridges and piers
    • Injured during the loading, unloading, or storage of vessel cargo

    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 1-800-3-MAY-DAY and let an experienced maritime injury lawyer provide you with an opinion about how much your maritime injury case is worth. 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 is my maritime injury case worth?

    Lawyer Calculating Compensation in a Maritime Injury CaseThis is often one of the first questions that our clients ask us. Whether they are injured maritime workers or they have lost a loved one in a maritime accident, the people who come to us want an end to their financial and emotional burdens and proper payment for their pain and suffering.

    Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to how much a person may recover by filing a maritime injury lawsuit. Every case has its own variables, facts, and legal issues that will determine the potential value of the case. That said, there are certain types of damages that can be recovered, and typical factors that influence these kinds of cases.

    Factors That Can Affect Compensation in a Maritime Injury Case

    While each case is different, many of our clients are able to recover compensation for monetary losses related to the injury. This often includes medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, past wage losses, and the ability to earn a living in the future. There may also be an amount recoverable for pain and suffering damages.

    At Hofmann & Schweitzer, we examine the details of your case and estimate the value of the claim based on:

    • Liability. A case will not be worth anything if an injured party cannot prove fault. We examine whether negligence can be proven, and whether the strength of the evidence is sufficient to convince a defendant to settle or convince a judge of negligence.
    • The severity of the injury. We examine the total and combined costs of the injury, including how much they have already cost and how they are likely to impact the seaman’s future. If the injury has resulted in disability, we must estimate losses that result from the seamen’s inability to work again, or vocational losses caused by early retirement or changing jobs.
    • Defendant’s financial condition. The amount and limits of the defendant’s insurance greatly impact potential recovery, as does the defendant’s conduct with regard to safety and adherence to state and federal laws.

    We encourage you to find out more about your rights if you have suffered from a maritime injury. Contact one of our New York and New Jersey maritime accident attorneys today via our online contact form, or call 800-362-9329 and let an experienced maritime injury lawyer provide you with an opinion about how much your maritime injury case is worth. 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 is the Public Vessels Act?

    United States Government Ship in Harbor Hofmann & SchweitzerThe 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.

     

  • What is the status test for compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?

    Large Ship Being Loaded While DockedSince 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:

    • Longshoremen
    • 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.