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Archive for the ‘Maritime’ Category

What Types of Monetary Compensation Would My Family and I Be Able to Request if I was Injured While Performing My Duties at Sea?

In Jones Act Law, LHWCA, Maritime on July 17, 2009 at 7:44 PM

The Longshoremen’s and Harbors’ Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides adequate compensation for seaman who are injured in their line of work.  This coverage provides payments for medical treatment, travel costs related to medical treatment, and services or supplies which are needed to help the recovery or treatment process.  There is, of course, a lot of legality that comes into play and seeking the help of a professional maritime lawyer will always be a good first step to take.

The definition of disability in a longshoreman clause simply means the inability to perform work and receive pre-injury wages.  This covers any form of disability which will entitle you to receive a weekly compensation every two weeks and will be based from a percentage of your biweekly income before you were injured.  In 2006, it was estimated that the minimum compensation was $278.61 while the maximum was $1114.44.

The compensation for complete or short term disability is calculated at 2/3s the workers weekly average income.  This average is determined by combining the previous 52 weeks of income.  This, of course, could mean that your average might be considerably less if you suffered any periods of unemployment.

Temporary partial disability is compensated at 2/3s the weekly income loss and is based on the loss of earning potential.  Permanent partial disability compensation is intended to cover the injured employee for the loss of a body part or function.  This form of compensation is based on the payout schedule that is specified in the Longshoreman Act.  Basically this schedule appoints a specified timeline as to how long the injured employee may receive compensation.

The LHWCA has worked to get people the coverage they need when working at sea.  There are still a lot of uncovered issues surrounding these matters and you will need to speak with a maritime law professional to get the most compensation for your injury.

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What Limitations Does the Jones Act Have?

In Jones Act History, Jones Act Law, Maritime on July 15, 2009 at 7:42 PM

While the Jones Act is great in its intentions it does not cover many issues that are surfacing around the world today with maritime law.  Since being put into federal law in 1920, the Jones Acts has undergone much scrutiny as times have changed and we see more people choosing a maritime life.

Initially, this act was designed to give rights to seamen who were serving their country and risking their lives to do so.  This was a law that was passed to protect seamen from shipmasters and other crew members.  While this is great in theory, we see it become outdated due to more people finding a maritime life outside of the military service.

This act was also designed for maritime people that would be out at sea for years.  This means they would never be stepping a foot on land.  This is the very essence of why this act was passed through Congress.  Life on land and life at sea are two completely different things.  People who are living at sea are susceptible to having many issues occur that endanger their lives.  Something needed to be done to make sure that, during these long ventures at sea; people were protected by the rule of law.

People had been asking for a reform for years and, during the 1980s, people were demanding the Supreme Court step in and clearly state who and what this act was covering.  Finally, in 1995, the Supreme Court made a ruling and modernized this – at the time – 75 year old bill.

The definition of a seaman had been reformatted to protect people who were also living on land as well as the sea.  The ruling, known as Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, stated that anyone who was contributing to the livelihood of a vessel would be protected under the Jones Act.  The other side of this coin covered any sea-person as long as they contain a connection with a vessel or group of vessels and maintains a substantial time of labor and duration.

This revise of the Jones Act still leaves a lot of unanswered questions and the only real way to know for sure is to seek consultation from a maritime lawyer.  So, you see, the drawbacks of the Jones Act are a product of the Supreme Court not making the necessary clarifications as to what means what in this ever changing world of maritime law.

What Are Considered Reasonable Requests Under the Jones Act?

In Jones Act Law, Maritime on July 4, 2009 at 7:40 PM

When you are employed as a seaman, you are protected in the event of an injury under federal law ruling and the Jones Act.  The right for a seaman that is injured during a period of employment is called “maintenance and cure”.  This basically defines medical benefits – known as cure – and living expenses – known as maintenance.

Being a seaman, the medical benefits you are entitled to cover hospitalization, physical therapy, doctors visits (or medical care), medication, and the facilitation of medical equipment.  If you are a seaman and are in need of any of these instances due to your employment as a seaman, your employer is required to cover these payments – end of story.

If unable to work as a result of an injury or work related health endangerment, a seaman is also entitled to payments for everyday living expenses which include:

– Grocery Bills

– Utility Bills

– Cosmetic and Toiletry Expenses

– Any Other Reasonable Expenses

The only reason any of this is possible is due, in part, to the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act of 1927.  This recognized that people were in need of a federal law to ensure seamen were protected in the same way as everyone else.  This was even more important because there are countless things that could go wrong while out at sea thus making employment at sea extremely dangerous even under the safest conditions.

Sadly, not every employer is going to adhere to the guidelines and practices of the Jones Act.  Due to there being so many uncovered issues with the maritime law, employers have the power to find loopholes in the act and the amendments.  When dealing with any maritime law, especially in affiliation with the Jones Act, you will always want to receive consultation and be represented by a maritime law professional.  An employer of seamen is required to support the legality of the Jones Act and, without proper representation; the employer could very well try to cheat you out of these compensations.

Will My Family Be Entitled to Adequate Benefits if I Am Injured or Killed While Working at Sea?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation, LHWCA, Maritime on June 26, 2009 at 7:46 PM

The Jones Act, with help from the Longshoremen’s and Harbors’ Workers Compensation Act, helps bring financial security to dependents of seamen who lose their life at sea.  This compensation extends to any dependants on that income and has been mandated to meet the needs of a seaman’s spouse, children, and family.  Due to the high risks and life threatening environment these workers find themselves in on a daily basis, you can see the need for some form of legal protection over these matters.

Knowing what your rights are and getting the most compensation in the tragic event of losing a loved one at sea is something everyone should be entitled to.  The federal law recognizes this, even if sometimes an employer doesn’t.  If you are dependent on someone that is risking their life every time they go to work, you need to know that, if something were to happen, you are going to be taken care of after the grieving is over.

The system is basically designed to give percentages of your weekly wages to qualifying, dependant family members.  The death benefits that surround maritime law are not the most amazing compensation; however, the employers are required to compensate until the family member in question can achieve financial independence, be remarried, or turn 18.  There is even a $3000 dollar funeral expense that is covered under maritime law.

A surviving spouse is eligible to receive half of the weekly wage earned by the seaman.  If there are children involved, then this compensation obviously increases.  This is worked out by compensating the surviving dependants with half of the seaman’s weekly wage.  If you have more than one child you are eligible to get 2/3s the weekly income.  This will be paid until the child, or children, turn 18.  There are specific circumstances that see this get extended, but is normally on a case by case basis.

Sexual Assaults, or Worse, on Cruise Ships

In Maritime on June 22, 2009 at 1:44 PM

Newspapers, television and the Internet are reporting a number of assaults, injuries and deaths on cruise ships. Cruises are advertised as exciting and glitzy but nothing is said about the crimes that are committed on-board. Many cruise liners have larger populations than small cities and every form of crime and neglect can exist on even the best cruise lines. There have been recent reports of murder and rape along with assault, burglary and theft. When you think of a cruise, you think of the slick television ads instead of a reality that includes a mixture of different types of people from all over the world. Passengers and crew are thrown together in cramped quarters and often mix together on-board and on-shore. Cruise lines sometimes fail to properly investigate their employees’ records before hiring them and expose passengers to crew members with criminal backgrounds, usually from a country other than the United States.

Close quarters association with crew is a risk factor that must be taken into consideration in addition to the normal risk associated with binge drinking, drug experimentation and a party atmosphere. In addition to criminal behavior, there are on-board accidents such as falling overboard due to inadequately designed railings, slipping on wet decks, being hit by falling objects, food poisoning, being thrown about in rough seas due to the negligence of the captain and every conceivable type of injury common to people on land.

In the news recently, a cruise ship was alerted to a passenger overboard, but delayed action, resulting in the passenger’s death. In another case a young man barely twenty-one years old, on vacation with his friends, had too much to drink and fell overboard while leaning over the railing because he was sick. The event was captured by a ship surveillance camera. Cruise ships are promoted as the place to “party.” Cruise ships heavily promote the sale of liquor to passengers and do not effectively monitor or police underage passengers who bring alcohol on board, especially in foreign ports.

Injuries also occur when passengers leave the ship to visit ports of call. Cruise ships arrange and promote tours, trips, scuba, fishing and other activities and sometimes they do not check out or monitor the safety of these companies that provide the services the cruise ship sells to the passengers.

It is important passengers do the research on various cruise ship lines before making a choice. Internet searches can produce many incidents that point out the risk and danger involved in cruise ship vacations. No one should should take safety for granted just because they are passengers on an American cruise ship line. Most “American” cruise lines are not American at all. Most cruise lines are foreign companies with vessels flying flags of convenience.

Top 5 Pirate Regions in the World Today

In Jones Act Law, Maritime, Pirates on May 4, 2009 at 2:33 PM

People have for years had a romanticized and fantasized version of piracy floating around their heads due to a number of literary and film sources. However, recent events have brought pirates back into sharp focus, and shown that there are a number of places in the world where piracy is a very real and very dangerous issue. Although the US navy and coast-guard has all but eradicated piracy around the United States and in the Caribbean, these five locations all have very real threats to ocean vessels posed by pirates in the region.

  1. Somalia – Somali pirate attacks have been in the news a very large amount in the last year, and the region is extremely dangerous for foreign ships currently. The problem is so severe that there have been cases of multiple pirate attacks taking place in a single day.

  1. The Strait of Malacca – A strait of water which is patrolled by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. Although attacks have decreased, it is still a piracy hotbed. The amount of trade traffic and the locations for hiding a vessel make it ideal for piracy.

  1. Yemen – On the Asian side of the water that separates Africa from Asia, Yemen faces Somalia and Ethiopia and is subject to attacks by the same pirates.

  1. West Coast of Africa – Although there have been many less attacks here than on the east coast, there have still been reported attacks off the coasts of Nigeria, Cameroon, Togo, and Ghana.

  1. South America – Although a vast majority of attacks take place in the regions already mentioned, there have been some attacks in the last year in various coastal waters around the northern countries of South America. Waters belonging to countries like Venezuela, Peru, and Columbia have all seen pirate attacks within the last year.

References:

http://www.icc-ccs.org/index.php?option=com_fabrik&view=visualization&controller=visualization.googlemap&Itemid=219

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piracy#Modern_age

 

A place to start – the Jones Act

In FELA, Jones Act Law, Maritime on April 12, 2009 at 2:03 PM

This space will be used to assist those that have been injured while working in harbors and on our Earth’s oceans.  As the senior partner for Ogletree Abbott Law Firm in Houston, Texas I have led the cause in fighting for the rights of injured Maritime Workers across the United States.

I wish to use this blog to pass legal advice to those searching for an answer in their own legal strife but must first “pay the bills”.  Two years ago I published the book “Jones Act & Maritime Law for Injured Workers“.  The completion of this work inspired me to build a website dedicated to helping those hurt in such accidents.  People do not fully understand what the Jones Act entails and I encourage you to read the Wikipedia article that descibes each law that the “Act” commonly refers to.  If you wish to learn more please see shipguide.com for further writings by myself on the subject.