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Injured at Sea? Retain an Experienced Attorney; Maritime Lawsuit Funding Available

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Maritime laws (the laws of the sea), apply not only to injured workers, but, also to passengers. Passengers on cruise ships, ferries, riverboat casinos, recreational boats, or other vessels may qualify. Ships or boats may be maintained in an unsafe condition; as such, owners may be liable for on-board passengers’ injuries caused or contributed to by those unsafe conditions. Operating or maintaining a ship or boat in a negligent or careless manner may also create liability for injuries to passengers. Thus, a passenger injured in a Maritime accident may qualify for financial compensation.

As previously indicated, working on a commercial vessel fishing boat, ocean liner, cruise ship, oil rig, or another type of commercial vessel can result in injury, sometimes even serious injury or death. Maritime laws create a system of compensation for these injured workers or for the survivors of those workers who are killed in the performance of their duties at sea or, even, while the ship or boat is docked. The most common injuries include slip and fall accidents, falling cargo, and loading and unloading incidents, which usually result in back injuries. In some instances, the injured worker must show that he/she was injured as the result of the negligence of his/her employer. Negligence may be proven if the employee can show unsafe work conditions, negligent navigation (collision with another ship, the dock, and iceberg, or other sea object). There are also laws that protect dock workers, i.e. longshoremen and other maritime employees who are considered "land-based".

Maritime laws cover a wide variety of on-the-job injuries. Financial compensation may be available under maritime workers’ compensation laws if the employee works on vessels on the Oceans, Intra-coastal waterways, wharfs, docks or piers, or terminals. Injuries occurring in adjoining areas used for loading, unloading, repair, building and/or dismantling also qualify for compensation.

The two main laws that cover or insure most maritime accidents are the Jones Act (aka the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. These laws provide for specific rights and protections to workers who are injured while at sea. Injured at sea or injured on the dock workers qualify for compensation for time off work, costs of medical care, medication and/or physical therapy, living expenses, and, if necessary, job training for a new career if they are unable to return to their previous employment. Examples of qualifying occupations are employees on ships, offshore oil rigs and platforms, tugboats, barges, fishing and/or seafood boats, riverboats (including gambling boats), ferries, water taxis, coastguard vessels, and other ocean, intra-coastal or canal vessel.

Classes of "employee" would include crew members, captains, cooks, maintenance employees, and other vessel employees. The main, very plaintiff-friendly, difference between on-land state workers compensation laws and Maritime laws is that the employee can receive intangible damages for "pain and suffering" in Maritime cases, whereas in land based state workers compensation cases, only out of pocket medical, wage loss and retraining expenses are available. Under both systems, transportation costs for medical care are also available.

Whether you are injured as a passenger or an employee at sea, you may need retain the services of an experienced attorney to pursue your Maritime case. Serious injuries usually cause long-term disability, and insurance companies often deny benefits so that you will be desperate to settle for their offer when it finally comes. Companies like Lawsuit Financial may be able to offer lawsuit funding to help pay medical expenses, mortgage or rent payments, car payments, food, utilities or other important expenses. This can bridge the gap between the insurance company’s low first offer and a fair settlement at the end of the case.

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  1. Gerry McGill says:
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    I could not agree more with the recommendation that if someone is injured in a maritime setting that he or she should consult with an experienced maritime attorney as soon as possible. But how do you find such a lawyer? Certainly not from the “yellow pages” or TV advertising alone. The truth about lawyer advertising is that any lawyer can advertise for any type of case even if they have never handled even one of that type of case before. And most private lawyer referral services list lawyers for a set fee without any inquiry into the lawyer’s qualifications and experience.

    One good way is to ask any lawyer you know if they know a lawyer that specializes in your particular type case. Another good way is to consult your local or state bar association lawyer referral service. Finally, use the web to see if any lawyers have posted anything about your type of case. Once you have found two or three lawyers of interest, set up an appointment to talk with them. All personal injury lawyers who may be interested in handling you case will talk with you for no charge for your first visit.

    Some state bar associations help by allowing lawyers to become Board Certified in specialty areas and to advertise that fact. Most states have only a few areas of certification but the Florida Bar has many areas including Board Certification in Admiralty and Maritime Law.

    Finally, keep in mind that the best medical malpractice attorney may know very little about SUV rollover cases. Maritime law differs greatly from other areas of law so in your interviews you should ask the attorney specific questions about the types and numbers of maritime cases he or she has handled. Any qualified attorney should be happy to give you this information.