How to File a Maritime Lawsuit

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There are more than 400,000 maritime workers across the country. In Louisiana, an estimated one in five jobs is connected to the maritime industry, which has an $11 billion total annual economic impact in the state.

Maritime workers work in industries such as fishing, shipping, commercial diving, transportation, and more. While lucrative, workers in these fields face increased risks of fatality, injury, and illness than the average American worker.

If you’re a Louisiana resident who has suffered a maritime injury while working offshore, call 337-436-6611 to speak to a personal injury attorney at Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson.

Common maritime hazards and injuries

There are, unfortunately, a number of injuries and hazards common in maritime work. Many dangers are unique to maritime industries, such as:

  • Extreme cold or heat exposure
  • Drowning
  • Hypothermia
  • Use of machines and large power tools
  • Trauma to eyes and/or ears
  • Exposure to hazardous chemicals or materials
  • Stress and mental/emotional health

Maritime work can be quite challenging and dangerous. Commercial fishing is regarded as one of the most dangerous jobs in the country, while the water transportation industry has a fatality rate 4.7 times higher than the rate for all U.S. workers.

If you’ve received one of these injuries, or a different one, during maritime work, you may be able to seek compensation.

How to file a claim for your maritime injury

If you’ve been injured in the course of your maritime work, your first step should be to seek medical attention immediately. Not only is it important to care for your health, a doctor’s visit can serve as an official record if you choose to file a claim.

Take photos of where you were injured and of your injuries themselves. Get contact information from any witnesses present. These can serve as evidence in your claim later.

Next, make sure to report the injury to your employer. This is important in proving your claim, and may also guide the insurance company or parties you file a claim against. Next, you’ll need to check for coverage based on your specific injury.

Check for coverage under the Jones Act

You are able to file a lawsuit against your employers under the Jones Act.

 The Jones Act enables seamen who have suffered work-related injuries at sea to file personal injury lawsuits against their employers. If a seaman dies from work-related causes, a family member or personal representative can also file a lawsuit.

To be covered under the Jones Act, you must qualify as a “seaman.” Generally, a seaman is a person who spends most of their work hours aboard a vessel in navigation. A “vessel in navigation” means a vessel that is in operation, afloat, capable of moving, and on navigable waters. Navigable waters means waters that can be used for commerce. Even lakes in landlocked states can qualify if they’re connected to a river that flows out of state.

What isn’t considered a vessel in navigation? An oil drilling platform is not afloat; it’s anchored. Another example may be a casino barge, which is afloat, but not required to sail around a body of water.

Figuring out if the place you were injured qualifies as a vessel in navigation can be exceptionally tricky, which is why a personal injury lawyer experienced with maritime lawsuits can help.

Check for coverage under LHWCA

If you don’t qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, you may be covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), which provides benefits and rights to other maritime workers.

The LHWCA covers maritime employees such as:

  • Longshore workers
  • Ship-repairers or ship-breakers
  • Shipbuilders
  • Harbor construction workers

The type of work you perform and the location where you generally work will decide if you fall under the Jones Act or LHWCA. Additionally, civilian employees working on military bases are usually covered under a separate federal law called the Defense Base Act.

File before your deadline

After you’ve figured out which Act you qualify for, it’s imperative that you file a claim before the statute of limitations ends.

In Louisiana, you have three years from the date of your injury, or the date the injury became apparent, to file a lawsuit. Your injury must be reported to your employer before you can file a claim.

If you were injured on a U.S. government vessel, 46 U.S.C.A. § 30101 et seq. also states that maritime employees must submit their claim in writing to the government before filing a lawsuit. From there, you must wait six months before filing a lawsuit to allow the claim to be investigated.

Get help from a personal injury attorney

Under the Jones Act or LHWCA, you can file a lawsuit in federal district court or in Louisiana state court. You’re also entitled to a jury trial. The best course of action depends on the specifics of your case, which is why having a personal injury attorney at your side can be beneficial.

An attorney can:

  • Ensure you’re covered under the Jones Act or LHWCA
  • Help you decide whether to sue in federal or state court
  • Figure out what you’re able to sue for, such as negligence
  • Navigate complicated laws that protect employers or vessel owners
  • File within the three year statute of limitations in Louisiana
  • Get you compensation you deserve to cover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more

At Cox, Cox, Filo, Camel & Wilson, we have an experienced team of maritime accident attorneys ready to help. Call 337-436-6611 to schedule your free consultation today.

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