Archive for January, 2011

Maritime workers who are negligently subjected to emotional harm by their employers or another shipping company may have a claim for compensation under the theory of negligent infliction of emotional distress. Emotional distress may occur if you witness an accident, death or other disturbing event that causes you to require psychiatric help or prevents you from working.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld a claim in favor of a maritime worker in the case Stacy v. Rederiet Otto Danielson. In that case, a maritime worker named Brian Stacy was operating a fishing vessel that he owned off the coast of California. A freighter, owned by Rederiet Otto Danielson, was headed toward Stacy’s vessel. Stacy sent out a danger signal to the freighter and it was able to closely navigate around Stacy’s vessel. Unfortunately, the freighter collided and destroyed another fishing boat, killing the captain of the ship.

Stacy contacted a maritime lawyer who filed a lawsuit on his behalf for the emotional distress that Stacy suffered as a result of the accident. Stacy’s maritime lawyer needed to successfully argue several points in order to make out his claim. First, the maritime lawyer needed to argue that the owner or operator of the freighter was negligent and that his negligence caused the collision. The idea behind negligence is that the ship owner or employer was irresponsible and created an unsafe situation. The maritime lawyer also needed to argue that Stacy was close enough to the accident to allow him to believe that he was about to be seriously injured and that this knowledge caused him to suffer serious emotional damage.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the maritime lawyer that Stacy had asserted a valid claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress, which could be compensated if the maritime lawyer was able to prove the freighter’s negligence and Stacy’s psychiatric injuries.

Wojciech Bielunas was a Polish immigrant that came to the United States and settled in Pennsylvania in 1995. Bielunas had previously worked on fishing boats before he came to the U.S. and was hired by Misty Dawn, Inc. as a commercial fisherman. Misty Dawn had a practice of storing clam cages in the walkways of the ship that Bielunas worked on. In order to get through the walkways, the crew was required to shimmy along an unguarded ledge overlooking a nine-foot drop.

While working on the ship, Bielunas was asked to close the hatch that covered the cargo hold of the vessel. This required him to stand in the cluttered walkway. Bielunas lost his balance and got his foot caught between the ledge of the walkway and the cover to the hatch. Bielunas’ foot was crushed in the accident. Despite undergoing numerous emergency surgeries, Bielunas permanently lost the use of his foot.

The maritime lawyers that represented the employee in Bielunas v. Misty Dawn, Inc., argued several key points that led to a multi-million dollar verdict in this case. First, the maritime lawyers contended that the company was negligent for storing clam crates in the walkways of the vessel and that they created a safety hazard. Second, due to the extent of the injury, Beilunas would not be able to perform any type of labor or physical work. Third, Beilunas’ English skills were extremely limited which would prevent him from getting a job in an office setting where he could sit down. Basically, Beilunas’ maritime lawyers built a case around the fact that it would be extremely difficult for him to secure future employment in any capacity.

The court agreed with Beilunas’ maritime lawyers that Misty Dawn was negligent and that the company’s negligence caused Beilunas’ injury. The maritime lawyers that represented Beilunas explained to the jury that their client’s medical bills and economic losses came to a total of $762,000. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Beilunas for $2,307,690. If you have been injured while working on a vessel or watercraft, you should contact the maritime lawyers in your area immediately to find out if you may have an injury claim against your employer.

In a recent case, Deering v. National Maintenance Repair, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld a prior decision, argued by Jones Act attorneys in a federal district court in Illinois, to dismiss an employer’s counterclaim against a maritime employee who had filed a Jones Act complaint.

Vincent Deering was employed by the National Maintenance Repair Company as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi River. Deering was attempting to move a barge along the river when the steering mechanism on the riverboat malfunctioned. He was instructed to continue operating the watercraft despite the malfunction. Deering later lost control of the vessel and it sank below an adjoining barge. Deering suffered severe injuries that prevented him from returning to work.

Deering contacted Jones Act attorneys who filed a claim against his employer alleging that his injury was caused by the employer’s negligence. His employer filed a counterclaim alleging the Deering caused the vessel to sink and requested that he pay the company $30,000 which was the salvage value of the vessel. Since Deering was not a particularly wealthy man and did not have the personal means to cover the cost of the vessel, the company requested to have the $30,000 deducted from any financial award that Deering received from the company for his Jones Act claim.

The Jones Act attorneys who filed a claim on Deering’s behalf argued that Section 5 of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, which is incorporated into the Jones Act, did not allow the use of these types of set-offs by employers. The court agreed with the Jones Act attorneys. Section 5 of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act forbids common carriers, such as ships and vessels, from limiting their liability to an employee. This basically means that an employer cannot make you sign a waiver or a contract that would prevent them from compensating you for an injury that you received while working for them.

If the court had allowed Deering’s employer to offset his injury claim by $30,000, Deering would not have been compensated for the injuries that he received. In fact, he would have owed money to his employer. Deering’s Jones Act attorneys were able to convince the court that the employer’s counterclaim violated the law. The Jones Act attorneys also argued that failing to compensate Deering, who would not be able to return to work because of his injury, would be unjust.

If you have been involved in a maritime accident, you should contact the Jones Act attorneys in your area immediately to ensure that your right to compensation is protected. If your employer attempts to limit your right to recovery, experienced Jones Act attorneys may alert the court to this new development in the law to restrict the ability of your employer to offset the compensation that you are entitled to under the Jones Act.

The first step in filing a Jones Act claim is reporting your injury to your employer or supervisor. Your injury report may be used later by a Jones Act attorney to defend your claim in court. Some maritime employers and supervisors may attempt to prevent you from filing an official written incident report. If this occurs, you should contact a reputable Jones Act lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your right to compensation is protected. A Jones Act attorney will act as your legal representative throughout the reporting and claim filing process to make sure that your employer complies with the law.

Under the Jones Act, maritime employers are required to compensate employees who are injured while working at sea. The Jones Act is intended to work in a similar manner to the Workers’ Compensation laws that protect employees who work on land. Unfortunately, there is no central administrative government agency at the state level that handles maritime injury claims. This leaves many employees at a disadvantage since they must attempt to understand and enforce the complex provisions of the Jones Act law on their own.

If your employer refuses to pay for a Jones Act claim after you file your initial injury report, you will need to file a formal claim in court. This is where a Jones Act lawyer can be very useful and beneficial to your case. A Jones Act attorney will explain whether or not you may qualify to receive compensation benefits for your injury. In many cases, a seasoned Jones Act lawyer will find that an employee’s injury may be compensated under the law.

An experienced Jones Act attorney will guide you through the claim filing process which entails gathering evidence, reports, statements and medical evaluations, as well as, creating a written complaint document. This document is filed with a court that has jurisdiction or the ability to hear your case. Failing to follow legal procedures at this stage of the filing process could be detrimental to your claim. Obtaining the assistance of a knowledgeable Jones Act lawyer will give you peace of mind knowing that your case is being handled correctly.

Ordinarily, the law places a limit on the amount of time that an individual has to file a personal injury or work related claim. This time limit is commonly referred to as the “statute of limitations.” In such cases, once the statutory time period has passed, an injured person will be prevented fro­­m having his or her case decided by a court. Injuries that are covered under the Jones Act typically have a three-year limit for filing.

Employers may raise a defense or attempt to have an employee’s case dismissed if it is not filed within a reasonable amount of time, even if it is filed within the three-year statutory period.  This defense is an old legal principal called “laches.” Jones Act attorneys who are intimately familiar with this principal understand that a Jones Act injury claim should be filed as soon as possible. Under the laches defense, a claim will be dismissed or thrown out, if a judge finds an inexcusable delay in filing a claim that places the employer at a disadvantage.  ­

An inexcusable delay basically means that an injured employee failed to file a claim within a reasonable amount of time and there was no good reason to explain why he waited. Jones Act lawyers understand that excusable delays may occur if the employee was seriously injured and required intensive medical treatment for a long period of time.  A delay may also be excusable if the employee was threatened or pressured by his employer to not file a claim. If either of these scenarios applies to your situation, you should contact a Jones Act attorney immediately to discuss your case.

A Jones Act lawyer can evaluate an employee’s case and advise him on his rights under the Jones Act. Jones Act attorneys evaluate client cases by researching federal laws and prior court decisions that are relevant to the time limitations for filing a Jones Act claim. If you were injured while working at sea, you should contact a Jones Act lawyer as soon as possible to make sure that you follow the proper procedures for notifying your employer of your injury and filing a timely claim that will not be dismissed under the laches defense.