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Snohomish County Maritime Injury Lawyer

Maritime work brings not only the promise of adventure and a reliable means to make a living, but also the looming threat of unforeseen accidents and injuries. In Washington State, where the maritime industry thrives, injuries sustained in these occupations demand a legal ally who is well-versed in the complexities of maritime law. Fortunately, if you’re reading this, you are in the right place. Contact a dedicated Snohomish County maritime injury lawyer from Amy C Brown Law, PLLC today so we can get started working on your case.

Maritime Injury Lawyer | Helping Injured Maritime Workers in Washington State

The nation, in many ways, is dependent on the maritime industry. Without competent and well-trained maritime workers, much of the nation’s function as a whole would come to a halt. For this reason, among others, we at Amy C Brown Law, PLLC believe that injured maritime workers deserve to be adequately compensated and provided with the resources they need to move on with their lives. If you’ve been hurt while holding a maritime occupation, please don’t hesitate to speak with a knowledgeable Everett personal injury lawyer from our legal team. We proudly handle a wide range of maritime injury cases, including the following, among others:

High-Risk Maritime Occupations

Within the maritime industry, certain occupations are more prone to serious injury than others. Most of the maritime injury cases we see stem from the following occupations:

  • Fishermen
  • Deckhands
  • Longshoremen
  • Seamen
  • Shipyard workers
  • Harbor pilots
  • Tugboat crew
  • Offshore platform workers
  • Commercial divers
  • Cruise ship crew
  • Maritime construction workers
  • Ferry operators
  • Maritime engineers
  • Port workers
  • Marine cargo handlers

Common Causes of Maritime Injuries

Maritime work is inherently risky, and various factors contribute to accidents and injuries in this sector. Understanding these causes is vital for prevention and also for identifying legal recourse in case of an injury. Some common causes include:

  • Slips, Trips, and Falls: The marine environment often involves slippery surfaces, whether on deck due to water or oil, or on docks and piers. Inadequate lighting, unsecured equipment, or uneven surfaces further exacerbate these hazards.
  • Equipment Failures: Malfunctioning or poorly maintained equipment, such as winches, cranes, ropes, and hoists, can lead to serious accidents. Regular maintenance and adherence to safety standards are crucial to prevent such incidents.
  • Human Error: Miscommunication, lack of proper training, or negligence can lead to errors in navigation, equipment handling, or emergency response, resulting in accidents.
  • Environmental Conditions: Severe weather, rough seas, and other natural conditions can pose significant risks to maritime workers, especially if not adequately prepared or equipped.
  • Chemical Exposure: Maritime workers may be exposed to hazardous substances, including fuels, solvents, and other chemicals, leading to both acute and chronic health issues.
  • Fires and Explosions: Given the nature of materials handled, especially in cargo ships and oil rigs, there is a risk of fires or explosions, which can have devastating consequences.
  • Lack of Safety Measures: Inadequate safety protocols, emergency procedures, or failure to provide safety gear contribute significantly to the occurrence of maritime injuries.

Important Maritime Laws

Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)

The LHWCA provides compensation and rehabilitation services to employees who are injured while working on navigable waters or in adjoining areas such as piers, docks, terminals, wharves, and shipyards. This includes compensation for lost wages, medical benefits, and rehabilitation services. In cases of permanent disability or death, additional benefits may be available to the worker or their family. This act fills the gap left by traditional workers’ compensation laws, which do not typically cover maritime workers. It ensures that workers involved in maritime activities, but who are not seamen, are adequately protected.

The Jones Act

Unlike the LHWCA, The Jones Act specifically protects “seamen” – those who spend a significant amount of their work time on a vessel or fleet of vessels in navigable waters. This act allows injured seamen to file negligence claims against their employers for injuries sustained due to unsafe conditions on board, lack of proper equipment, insufficient training, or crew errors.

Beyond negligence claims, the Jones Act also guarantees maintenance (living expenses during recovery) and cure (medical expenses) until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement. The Jones Act is crucial as it provides a higher level of protection to seamen, recognizing the unique and often hazardous conditions they face at sea. It empowers seamen to seek fair compensation and holds employers accountable for maintaining safe working environments.

General Maritime Law

General Maritime Law is a foundational aspect of U.S. maritime law, providing essential protections for maritime workers and serving as a basis for many maritime injury claims. It complements the LHWCA and the Jones Act, ensuring comprehensive coverage for maritime workers.

  • Unseaworthiness Claims: General Maritime Law allows maritime workers to make claims against vessel owners if an injury is caused by an unseaworthy condition – which means that the vessel, its equipment, or its crew was not reasonably fit for its intended use.
  • Comparative Negligence: This law considers the injured party’s own negligence when determining compensation, which can affect the total amount of recovery in a lawsuit.

State-Specific Regulations

A wide range of state-specific regulations affect the maritime industry and can impact an injured worker’s claim. Some of the most important regulations, in this context, are as follows:

Washington State Industrial Safety and Health Act (WISHA)

WISHA extends its coverage to all workplaces in Washington State, including maritime operations. It sets forth stringent safety standards to minimize workplace hazards. Workers are entitled to work in an environment free from recognized hazards. They also have the right to report safety violations without fear of retaliation. Employers are mandated to provide necessary training, equipment, and safety measures to ensure a safe workplace. Regular inspections and adherence to safety protocols are required. WISHA plays a critical role in preventing workplace injuries in the maritime sector by enforcing safety regulations and empowering workers to advocate for their safety.

Washington State Workers’ Compensation Act

This Act provides coverage to most workers in Washington State, including maritime employees, for work-related injuries or diseases. Benefits include medical treatment, wage replacement, vocational rehabilitation services, and compensation for permanent disabilities. In case of a fatality, it also provides benefits to dependents.

One of the key features of this Act is its no-fault system, meaning workers can receive benefits regardless of who was at fault for the injury. The process involves reporting the injury to the employer, seeking medical treatment, and filing a claim with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.

This Act is crucial for providing a safety net for maritime workers who suffer injuries or occupational diseases, ensuring they receive necessary medical care and financial support during recovery.

Key Elements in a Maritime Injury Case

To successfully navigate a maritime injury claim, certain key elements must be established. These elements form the cornerstone of building a strong legal case:

  • Establishing Negligence or Liability: The injured party must demonstrate that the injury was caused due to someone else’s negligence or a breach of statutory duty. This could be the employer, a crew member, or a third party.
  • Proving Employment and Worker Status: Accurate classification of the injured party as a ‘seaman,’ harbor worker, or another type of maritime employee is critical. Different laws apply depending on this classification.
  • Causation of Injury: Linking the injury directly to the maritime work environment or specific incident is crucial. Medical evidence and expert testimony often play a significant role here.
  • Determining Jurisdiction and Applicable Laws: Maritime cases can be complex due to overlapping federal, state, and sometimes international laws. Identifying the correct jurisdiction and applicable laws is essential for the case’s progression.
  • Calculating Damages: This involves assessing medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and, in some cases, punitive damages. The extent of the injury and its impact on the worker’s future earning capacity are significant factors.
  • Timely Filing and Compliance: Maritime injury claims are subject to specific time limits for filing, known as statutes of limitations. Adhering to these timelines is critical to avoid forfeiture of the right to claim.
  • Gathering Evidence: Collecting comprehensive evidence, including accident reports, witness statements, medical records, and expert opinions, is fundamental in substantiating the claim.

Statute of Limitations Filing a Maritime Injury Claim

If you’ve sustained an injury as a maritime worker and are looking to file a claim under the Jones Act, you will have to do so within three years of the date you were injured. Waiting longer than this will most likely result in you being permanently barred from suing. The three-year statute of limitations also applies to relatives of individuals who’ve lost their lives in maritime accidents and are looking to file a claim under the Death on High Seas Act.

That said, if you’re looking to file a claim under the Longshore Harbor and Workers’ Compensation Act, you will, typically, only have one year from the date of your accident to do so. Importantly, it’s always best to bring your claim to the attention of a competent maritime injury lawyer sooner, rather than later.

Contact a Snohomish County Maritime Injury Lawyer

If you’ve sustained a maritime injury, you need a competent legal team in your corner who can effectively fight for your rights and the compensation you deserve. Contact a Snohomish County maritime injury lawyer from Amy C Brown Law, PLLC today so we can get started working on your case.

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