Do I Have A Case?
Almost all injury accidents that occur at sea are preventable through safe shipboard practices. Faulty or defective equipment, improper design, negligence of a fellow crewman, insufficient crew, improper training, and unsafe practices are all bases for maritime injury claims. If you have been injured through another person's negligence, you have a claim for potential money damages under admiralty and maritime law.
Determining the value of your potential case involves evaluating multiple factors. Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC prides itself on fairly evaluating clients' prospective injury claims. Getting you fair compensation for your injuries and telling you the truth about the strengths and weaknesses of your case is fundamental to our firm's philosophy.
Any lawyer can promise you a million dollars for your injury claims. The lawyers at Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC have proven over and over they can produce million dollar recoveries for their clients. The fact is, most injury cases are not million dollar claims. However, we are able to utilize many of the same techniques utilized in million dollar claims to get you the fair compensation you deserve. Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC fights for the rights of maritime injury victims, big and small.What law covers my injury?
Injuries occurring on vessels in navigable waters are governed by federal maritime law. Laws relating to passenger and guest injuries are different from laws governing seamen who earn their living working aboard vessels. Federal maritime law is uniform across the country and applies to all injury claims of a maritime nature. However, in a general sense, all maritime injury claims involve similar basic elements:
- There must be a duty to protect the injured party from harm or injury.
- There must be a breach of that duty.
- The breach of the duty must lead to the harm or injury.
If you have been injured working at sea, you are likely entitled to benefits under federal maritime law. Fishermen, tug boat workers, ferry boat workers, and offshore workers are, in almost all cases, Jones Act seamen entitled to coverage under federal maritime law. The Jones Act provides compensation to seamen injured while working aboard vessels through the negligence of their employer. Injured seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits. Additionally, if the seaman is injured as a result of unseaworthiness or negligence, the injured seaman may recover damages for pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, lost past and future wages, retraining costs, and future medical expenses.
Fully understanding what constitutes Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness under the law is essential to handling any Jones Act claim. Because of the high danger of injury working aboard a ship, the seaman's employer owes the seaman a high duty of care to protect him from injury. Defective equipment, unsafe practices and procedures, failure to provide a safe place to work, and a fellow crewman's negligence are all bases for Jones Act claims. What is a simple and safe act on land is a dangerous and negligent act aboard a ship working at sea.What evidence do you consider in evaluating a maritime injury claim?
There is no set method for evaluating maritime injury claims; each claim is different. The success of your claim turns on the ability to tell your story to a judge or a jury in a convincing manner. With your assistance, your lawyers must be able to explain how your accident occurred, why the accident was the result of negligence or unseaworthiness, and fully explain your damages.
Some of the evidence weighed when considering a Jones Act injury claim include:
- How were you injured?
- Was the ship or your employer at fault for your injuries?
- How old are you?
- How long have you worked as a seaman?
- What have been your average annual earnings as a seaman?
- Are your injuries permanent?
- How will your injuries impact your future earnings over your lifetime?
- Will you need future medical care?
- Will you need vocational retraining?
- Will you have future pain and suffering?
- Does your injury impact your interactions and family relationships?
If you were injured as a passenger or guest aboard a vessel, we would ask many of the same questions listed above to evaluate your claim.How much is my injury claim worth?
Everyone wants to know how much their injury claim may be worth. Experienced maritime lawyers consider all the evidence available when calculating the value of an injury claim. This may include evaluation of your medical records, earning records, and accident reports. It may be necessary to depose witnesses and hire medical, maritime, and economic experts to fully develop the potential of your claim. Changing facts and circumstances impact the value of your claim as your case develops. Establishing negligence and proving the extent and nature of your damages is critical to all maritime injury cases.
Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC has experience handling thousands of previous maritime injury claims. Because the firm's practice focuses on maritime personal injury claims, it is up to date on the maritime law and injury cases that may be similar to yours. They can compare the results in their prior cases to the damages you have suffered and make reasonable projections about the range of damages in your case. Before the lawyers can give you their professional opinion about what the value of your case may be, they will need to talk with you about the facts of your case and consider the evidence that is available and the evidence that may be developed. Experience matters when it comes to evaluating your maritime injury case.How long will it take to get my case to trial?
The length of time it takes to get a case to trial depends upon where and in which court a case is filed. From the point the case is filed until the trial date ranges between 12 months and 18 months. During this time, the lawyer will be working on preparing your case for trial. The reality is that, in serious injury cases, the extent of a seaman's injury may not be known for 12 to 16 months after his accident, and he may be undergoing medical treatment during this time. By filing your case at the appropriate time, you can obtain a trial date in the future which may correspond with the point where you will be reaching maximum medical improvement from your injuries.
Many people dread the thought of going to trial. Most cases that are filed in court are settled before they ever go to trial. When you file your case, it then becomes governed by the Court Rules. Under the Court Rules, the parties are entitled to obtain from the other party information about each other's claims and defenses. This exchange of information allows the parties to fairly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each other's case with a view toward reaching a fair settlement of the claim.
If the other side does not offer a fair settlement, your lawyers need to be fully prepared to go to trial to get you the compensation you deserve.How long before we can discuss settlement with the insurance company?
It is possible to talk settlement with the insurance company as soon as we have enough information to make reasonable judgments about the value of your case. This includes knowing the extent of your injuries, understanding how your accident happened, and knowing how your injuries will impact your future earnings. Ninety-five percent of all personal injury lawsuits settle prior to trial. Maximizing your settlement requires balancing timing and pretrial preparation. This allows you to keep the costs of litigation reasonable in proportion to your recovery.
Large injury cases may take extensive preparation before they are ready to be settled. In smaller cases, it may be possible to talk settlement within weeks or months of an injury. As a general rule, the more damages involved, the longer it will take to get your case ready to maximize your recovery with the settlement.What should I expect if I file a lawsuit?
Once a lawsuit is filed, it will be governed by the Court Rules. Each side is entitled to find out about the other side's case by procedures established by the Court. Our system of justice is based upon the right to full and complete disclosure of facts relevant to each party's claims and defenses. The lawyers at Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC will help you understand the purpose and intent of all pretrial procedures. We will strive to have you fully prepared to best present your case and maximize your recovery. It is imperative to tell the truth in lawsuits, as a party's credibility is vital to the success of his/her case.
To get this information about the other side's case, under the Court Rules the parties are entitled to utilize:
Interrogatories: These are written questions submitted by the opposing party which must be answered under oath. They are designed to learn information about your history and background and theories of your case, including theories of liability, negligence, and damages.
Requests For Production: Each side is entitled to send the other side requests to produce relevant documents. This may include requests for information to you about prior accidents, prior medical treatment, and earning history.
Medical Exam: Under the Court Rules, in personal injury cases, the other side is entitled to have you examined by a medical doctor of their own choosing. This is usually a one-time examination which does not involve invasive testing.
Depositions: The other side will want to take your oral statement under oath. This involves the opposing party's attorney asking you questions that are transcribed by a court reporter. You will meet with your lawyer in advance of the deposition to prepare for your deposition, and your lawyer will accompany you to the deposition to make any necessary objections. You should not be apprehensive about your deposition. Depositions are to gain information from the opposing party so they learn the facts about your accident and injuries. Strict rules govern the procedures that are to be followed at depositions by the lawyers and the type of questions that may be asked. Depositions may also be taken of key factual witnesses, medical witnesses, and economic witnesses in your case.
Experts: It likely will be necessary for you to meet with our experts and prepare your case for trail. This may include experts in the area of maritime safety, medical experts, and vocational experts. In most cases, we utilize experts to present your case to the court and maximize your recovery.
Mediation: Mediation is a formal settlement conference that is now widely utilized pretrial to attempt to resolve cases by agreed settlement. Mediation has proved highly effective in helping parties reach settlements in personal injury lawsuits. In most jurisdictions, mediation is required before trial. At mediation, a neutral mediator selected by the parties will discuss the strengths and weakness of each party's case, and back and forth negotiations will take place to try and find a settlement that all parties can accept. Clients frequently bring family members to the mediation to help them make decisions about settlement of their claims. The proper timing for mediation is different in each case. As a general rule, the better prepared a party is at mediation, the better the chance for a successful resolution of your claim. What goes on at mediation is privileged, and the court is not informed about the settlement discussions that take place at mediation or what the parties' final positions were.Where do I learn more about the Jones Act?
If you would like to learn more about the Jones Act, please go to our JONES ACT page.What is maintenance and cure?
Maintenance and cure is a no fault remedy available to injured seamen injured while employed aboard vessels. The seaman's employer must pay for all medical expenses related to any illness or injury that arises while a seaman is employed aboard its vessel. This duty to provide medical coverage to injured seamen continues to the point where the seamen reaches maximum medical cure. Maintenance is a daily living allowance for shelter and food while a seaman is recovering from his injuries and unable to work at his job as a seaman. Maintenance rates vary between approximately $25 and $35 a day. To learn more about rights to maintenance and cure, please click here.They are saying the accident was my fault. What is comparative fault?
Maritime law employs a system of comparative fault. This means that maritime law recognizes that there may be multiple causes of an accident. The injured person or crewman may be partially at fault for his own injury; however, this partial fault does not bar his claim. Damages are simply reduced by the percentage of the injured party's comparative fault.
Employers and their insurance company oftentimes attempt to shift all or a large portion of the fault for a seaman's injury to the seaman. Apportioning fault between an injured seaman and the employer requires a full understanding of maritime law. The employer owes the seaman a greater duty to protect him from harm. A seaman's duty is to follow orders and get the job done, not to find the safest tool or method of doing a particular task.What if I have had a prior injury?
Ship owners and their insurance companies also try to blame a seaman's injury on a prior injury or prior medical condition. Where a seaman has a preexisting injury and he is injured aboard ship through negligence or unseaworthiness, the seaman is entitled to compensation for any aggravation of the preexisting condition. A new accident can cause an old injury to light up. In this situation, the seaman is entitled to compensation.What if I was not working on my boat when I was injured?
Seamen are frequently injured while working shoreside or aboard another shipowner's boat. In most of these cases, the Jones Act continues to provide coverage to an injured seaman, provided the seaman is considered to be in the services of his own vessel at the time of his injury. So, if you are injured on the dock loading or unloading cargo or gear, you are still covered by the Jones Act because you are in the services of the ship. Similarly, if you are driving across town to pick up ship stores or replacement equipment and are in an automobile accident, you are covered by the Jones Act. The seaman may also have a third party action in these situations.
If you are injured going to or from work on a crew boat or helicopter, you are likely covered by the Jones Act at the time of the injury. Similarly, if you are aboard another vessel to take cargo tallies, or temporarily do the business of your own ship, you are Jones Act seaman and entitled to claim damages against your employer. In these instances, the crewman may also have a direct third party claim under the general maritime law against the owner of the vessel he was injured upon.How do you control the costs associated with litigation?
Experienced maritime personal injury lawyers are able to approach injury cases by balancing multiple factors and risks and keeping cases in proportion to the net recovery anticipated for your claim. It is imperative that the costs of processing a case be kept in proportion to the settlement or verdict potential for the injured party. Common sense dictates that in small cases where compensatory damages are limited, the case costs must be kept to a minimum. In more complex injury cases the costs of developing the case will be much larger. In all cases, advanced planning and preparation helps keep your case costs down. Knowing when to discuss settlement with the other side will also maximize your recovery.
Your attorney will spend many hours working to prepare your case for trial. In some complex cases, thousands of hours may be spent on obtaining fair compensation for a maritime injury victim. In addition to these hours, the attorneys will spend money obtaining evidence that will maximize your potential for a successful recovery. For example, experts may be hired. This may include doctors, economists, naval architects, maritime safety experts, and vocational experts. The vessel may need to be inspected, and witnesses will be deposed. Medical exhibits may be created to explain your injuries.
The measure of success of your claim will be measured by your net recovery. Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC has been successfully representing maritime injury victims for over two decades. The firm has thousands of satisfied clients who have relied upon it and trusted its judgment in how their cases have been managed through the litigation process.Should I sign a release of all claims?
We strongly urge all maritime injury victims to consult with a qualified maritime injury lawyer before signing any release settling their claim. If you sign a release of all claims, it will likely forever bar your claims and bring a final end to your case.
You do not have to sign a release before you go back to work. Unfortunately, many workers sign a release mistakenly thinking they can return to work. When they find out their injuries prevent them from working, or they need more medical attention, the release will prevent them from reopening their claims.
The ship owners and their insurance companies are highly sophisticated in handling injury claims. They attempt to pay as little money as possible to a maritime injury victim. This is how they make money. You need an experienced maritime personal injury lawyer on your side to level the playing field and negotiate fairly with the insurance companies.What is the maritime statute of limitations for personal injuries?
The statute of limitations in your maritime injury claim will vary depending upon the nature of your claim and who you may attempting to bring suit against. As a general rule, 46 USC Sec. 30106 sets a three-year time limit on the period in which you have to bring a claim for maritime personal injury. In cases involving Jones Act seamen, the three year statute of limitations will be applied in almost all cases.
Caution is warranted in calculating your statute of limitations in maritime personal injury claims as there are exceptions to the three-year statute of limitation rule. For example, in maritime personal injury cases that do not involve the Jones Act, the Supreme Court of the United States has indicated that vessel owners may contractually shorten the statute of limitations in passenger type cases. This is frequently seen in cruise ship tickets where the statute of limitations is frequently shortened to one year. In any cases involving a contractual statute of limitation issue, great caution is required to protect the injured party's rights.
Cases involving wages or discrimination issues also have a different statute of limitations than the three-year maritime personal injury statute. Fishermen wage claims against ships must be brought within six months by statute. Wages claims against a seaman's employer may also be governed by a shorter statute of limitations and possibly be contractually limited. Similarly, courts have ruled in some instances that discrimination claims are not personal injury claims and are governed by their own statutory statute of limitations periods.
Where a seaman is injured on a dock or pier and is seeking damages against a third party who is not his employer or the owner of his vessel, the statute of limitations may be governed by state law and be shorter than the three-year maritime personal injury statute.
Bringing a suit against the United States or any state involves highly complex issues relating to application of the statute of limitations. You may be required to file a notice of claim prior to filing suit. Furthermore, your statute of limitations may be two years or shorter. If you are injured while aboard a public vessel, or a vessel owned by the United States, BEWARE, as your statute of limitations is different than normal Jones Act or maritime personal injury claims.
Don't wait until the last minute to attempt to file your claim. As a general rule, injured parties should consult with a lawyer as soon as possible about filing their personal injury claims. A qualified maritime lawyer will help you understand the best timing for filing your injury claim.Where must my claim be filed?
Choosing where to file your maritime injury case is an important decision that may impact the outcome of your claim. There are some venues more favorable to personal injury lawsuits than others, and lawyers may battle to keep or oust a lawsuit from a particular venue. In most maritime personal injury cases, a complaint for damages may be filed where the accident arose or where the negligent party resides.
In cases involving injuries to seamen under the Jones Act, claims can be filed where the accident arises or where the employer resides or does business. Employment contracts that attempt to limit the location and courts where Jones Act seamen injury claims can be filed can be argued to be void as a matter of law. In Jones Act cases, a seaman has the right to choose to file his claim in State or Federal Court. In rem actions against the vessel on which a seaman is injured must be brought in the U.S. District Court where the vessel is arrested.
In most passenger and guest cases, under the general maritime law, an injured party may sue where the accident occurred or where the negligent party resides. Courts have ruled that, in a contract of passage, a vessel owner may designate where and in which court passenger claims for injuries must be brought. Failing to follow the terms of the contract of passage may be a basis for dismissal of your claim.Do I have a right to a jury trial?
Jones Act seamen have the right to have their cases tried to either a judge sitting alone or a jury, at their election. Maritime injury cases that do not involve the Jones Act may be tried only to a judge unless there is an independent basis of a right to a jury trial such as diversity of citizenship.
The Savings to Suitors clause may be utilized to demand a jury trial in some maritime cases filed in State Court.
Choosing whether to have your case tried to a judge or a jury is a tactical decision involving multiple factors. The facts of some cases will be better presented to a jury than to a judge and vice versa.Why should I hire an experienced maritime personal injury lawyer?
Experience matters when it comes to handling maritime personal injury law. The lawyers at Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC have handled thousands of maritime personal injury claims. To learn more about our experience, read about our attorneys.
There are many potential problems in dealing with lawyers inexperienced in maritime law. Based upon years of past experience in handling maritime personal injury claims, an experienced maritime lawyer is better able to understand and analyze the facts of your case. Experienced maritime lawyers are able to avoid commonly utilized defenses. They are able to focus their attention and time on the particular facts of your case, not on learning maritime law for the first time.
In almost all cases, an experienced maritime lawyer will be better able to establish liability and negligence than a lawyer who usually handles car wrecks, product liability claims, or medical negligence claims. Lawyers inexperienced in maritime law may also settle your claim for less than its full value, leaving you undercompensated for your injuries. Frequently, lawyers who are inexperienced may promise too much for an injury claim, setting expectations too high.
At Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC, we understand that clients want honest and frank answers about the strengths and weaknesses of their cases. When Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC gives you legal advice in a case, it is based upon years of handling nothing but Jones Act and maritime personal injury claims. We have not handled a few maritime injury claims; we have handled thousands. We have handled cases big and small. This experience allows the firm to fairly and successfully resolve even the most difficult maritime injury claims.What does it cost to contact a maritime lawyer to discuss my claim?
It doesn't cost you anything to contact Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC to discuss your claim. We offer free initial consultations. In most cases, our experience allows us to quickly perform a preliminary evaluation of your injury claim and its potential settlement value.