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Longshore and Harbor Workers' Claims

If you’re a longshoreman or dock worker who has been injured or disabled in a waterfront accident, call or e-mail the longshoreman injury attorneys at the Law Office of Derrick H. Muhammad.
The Federal Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) allows harbor workers (including stevedores, crane operators, longshore checkers, terminal workers, shipbuilders, marine construction workers, vessel repair workers, and others employed in shipyard or waterfront occupations) to recover the costs of medical care and two-thirds of their average weekly wages during periods of disability due to injury on the job.

The LHWCA also applies to certain gas or oil rig employees working from fixed offshore platforms.
While these benefits are payable without regard to an employer’s fault, in most cases they will be considerably less than the damages recovered in a negligence action. The LHWCA prohibits the injured dock worker from suing his or her employer, but allows the injured employee to sue a third party – such as a ship owner, or equipment manufacturer – for damages under the general maritime law, or state-law negligence proceedings.
The maritime injury attorneys of the Law Office of Derrick H. Muhammad can help you determine whether you have the right to sue a negligent third party for substantial damages. We can also advise you whether a maritime lawsuit represents a more complete recovery for you than a negligence claim under state law.
You don’t necessarily have to be right next to the water to recover negligence damages under maritime law. If you’re a forklift driver injured a quarter mile inland while stacking cargo pallets, and the accident was caused by poorly balanced loads due to unsafe handling or repacking at sea, you might have a claim for negligence against the owner of the vessel.

Seamen’s Personal Injury and Wrongful Death

Jones Act Litigation Attorneys for Working Seamen and Crewman’s Rights – Damages for Negligence or Unseaworthiness. Under the Jones Act, merchant mariners and working seamen enjoy certain advantages in recovering maintenance, cure, and damages for accidents or illness suffered while employed in aid of navigation of a vessel. To learn more about our ability to recover damages on your claim under the Jones Act, contact the Law Office of Derrick H. Muhammad. Most land employees are limited to worker’s compensation benefits for on-the-job accidents resulting in personal injury or permanent or temporary disability. By contrast, the Jones Act gives the working seaman the right to his or her full damages for the negligence of the owner, the master, or fellow crew members. In cases where the vessel’s unseaworthiness is found to have caused the injury, an independent ground of liability will support a claim for damages against the owner.

Negligence can include:
Failure to adequately hire, train, or staff the vessel. Not providing proper or adequate gear, protective clothing, or equipment for the job. Failure to follow or enforce safety measures, including the removal of safety features on machines. Improper maintenance of the ship or its equipment. Working in heavy weather.
Unseaworthiness can include: Poorly maintained decks, gangways, and passageways, including slippery surfaces. Dangerous or extreme work methods, including excessive lifting. Inadequate crewing or under manning of the vessel. Loose or improperly stored lines, wires, and cables. Defective hulls, rails, and bulkheads. Insufficient lifeboats and malfunctioning emergency response gear.

Insufficient lifeboats and malfunctioning emergency response gear.

The Law Office of Derrick H. Muhammad knows just how intricate the legal questions can be in cases involving serious injury or death at sea. We know what considerations govern the status of a “seaman” in cases where Jones Act coverage might be doubtful. We know how to analyze the factors of nationality, ownership, forum, locus, flag, and allegiance to determine whether the Jones Act will cover, for example, a foreign sailor in a foreign ship owned by the Honduran subsidiary of a Delaware corporation, and just where to file the lawsuit.

We also know how to gather and preserve evidence of negligence and unseaworthiness. We know how to prove all the elements of damages allowed in a Jones Act claim. In short, our long and conscientious experience with accidents at sea and in port enables us to make the best presentation possible of your Jones Act claim.

In fatal accidents, the next of kin or personal representative of the victim can seek recovery of wrongful death damages under any one of several approaches – a Jones Act wrongful death lawsuit, an action under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) for accidents that took place on the High Seas, or even general maritime law independent of any federal statute.

Offshore Oil and Gas Workers’ Claims

While offshore oil and gas worker accidents on fixed platforms are often not covered under the Jones Act, many offshore injuries and accidental deaths in the oil patch are eligible for compensation under the Jones Act and general maritime law. Contact an attorney at the Law Office of Derrick H. Muhammad to find out about your rights if you’ve been hurt on or near an offshore drilling rig, or while traveling to or from an offshore platform.

The Jones Act and general maritime law can cover your claim and significantly increase your recovery under many circumstances, such as the following:

Injuries or fatalities suffered in transit to or from the platform, whether the transporting craft is a ship, boat, crane, or helicopter (including personnel basket or “widow maker” injuries or deaths).

Injuries or fatalities suffered on a drilling vessel, floating platform, or barge.
Accidents suffered on or near a fixed oil or gas platform, if the victim spends 30 percent or more of his time on a vessel.

Maritime Wrongful Death

If you’re the personal representative, surviving spouse, parent, or dependent relative of someone who has died at sea or near the water, you might consider a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages for your loved one’s fatal accident.
Jones Act Seamen. We can advise and represent the survivors of merchant mariners, working seamen, and commercial fisheries workers who have died at sea while covered under the Jones Act. While this statute allows the personal representative, surviving spouse, and in some cases, parents or children to succeed to the deceased mariner’s Jones Act rights, the damages that can be recovered depend on many factors.
For example, if the death occurred outside the territorial waters of the United States, the claim is covered under the Death on the High Seas Act, which does not allow for recovery from the employer of non-pecuniary damages, such as loss of society, companionship, or consortium.
If the death occurred in U.S. territorial waters, however, the elements of damages that can be recovered are more inclusive. If the wrongful death claim can establish an allegation of unseaworthiness against the vessel owner (as opposed to the employer), then damages may include such factors as loss of society or consortium. These considerations can make a major difference in the overall value of your recovery.
Other Wrongful Death Claims.. Our approach to cases that do not involve working seamen can vary significantly depending on the facts of the particular case. The rights and options available in cases involving passenger cruises, ferry accidents, fatal boating accidents, and longshore or terminal fatalities can differ considerably from case to case.
Even a freshwater jet ski fatality can often be handled under federal maritime law, but it’s always advisable to analyze all of the competing factors to determine whether it’s better to invoke federal maritime law, or to proceed under state wrongful death statutes. Whatever the circumstances of your claim, you can rely on us to pursue and locate the necessary evidence, wherever in the world it might be found.

Maintenance and Cure Claims

Widely known as “the sacred right”, a working seaman’s entitlement to maintenance and cure from his employer while recovering from shipboard or sea-related injuries or illness is one of the few aspects of maritime law that normally lies beyond dispute. We’re continually surprised, however, by the difficulty many seamen encounter in collecting these basic benefits from their marine employer without skilled maritime legal counsel.
If you’ve been injured, or fallen ill at sea, or anywhere while in the service of the vessel or subject to the call of duty, contact the Law Office of Derrick H. Muhammad. We can help make sure you’re collecting all of the following, from the time of your injury forward:

Maintenance payments – a reasonable daily living allowance for all food and shelter.
Proper medical treatment, including hospitalization, medication, and where necessary, wheelchairs, prostheses, and therapeutic equipment. Physical therapy, and convalescent and rehabilitation services.

Attorney fees, costs and punitive damages in certain case where your benefits have been wrongfully denied or delayed. The injured seaman also has the right to choose his or her own treating physician -you’re not stuck with the doctor chosen by your employer or its insurer.

Maintenance and cure payments, somewhat like worker’s compensation benefits, are owed without regard to the fault or negligence of your employer or any third party, or any alleged assumption of risk or contributory negligence on the part of the injured seamen or mariner. The employer is strictly liable for your maintenance and cure.
Under the general maritime law to maintenance and cure benefits from the time of the injury up to the time of “maximum medical improvement”, which is when the seaman is completely recovered, or when further recovery is no longer possible – usually indicating a permanent disability.

Representation Guidelines for Benefits Review Board-(U.S. Department of Labor LHWCA Claims)

An attorney at law who is admitted to practice before the Federal Courts or before the highest court of any State, the District of Columbia, or any territory or commonwealth of the United States, may practice before the Board unless he or she has been disqualified from representing claimants under the Act pursuant to 33 U.S.C. 931(b)(2)(C), or unless authority to appear has been denied pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §802.202(e)(1) and (3). An attorney’s own representation that he or she is in good standing before any of such courts shall be sufficient proof thereof, unless otherwise ordered by the Board. (relevant portion of code)