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Maritime law

Federal maritime law governs ship travel and transport within the navigable waters of the United States. Landlocked lakes, however, are a matter of state law.

Sean Joseph O'Bryan | Sep 17, 2019

What Are Your Maritime Rights under the Doctrine of Maintenance and Cure?

What are the Meanings Behind "Maintenance" and "Cure"? Under the General Maritime Law, Maintenance and Cure refers to a generous contractual form of compensation for a seaman, much like workmen’s compensation to a land worker. In the event that a seaman falls ill or is injured in the course of his employment, maintenance and cure binds a shipping company by law to provide two major things to the seaman, without regard to the fault of the seaman or the employer: (1) Maintenance – “Maintenance” means the cost of the seaman’s living expenses, including, but not limited to food, rent or mortgage, and utilities. In essence, a shipping company must ensure that an injured seaman be maintained in no better or worse condition than at sea. (2) Cure – “Cure” means the care that is needed for a seaman while injured or sick, and includes the costs of nursing, medical attention, and transportation to and from treatment. Who is Entitled to Payments of Maintenance and Cure If you were wondering if you apply as a seaman entitled to Maintenance and Cure, you must only be an employee of a vessel in navigation who is naturally and primarily on board to aid in the navigation and have a somewhat permanent connection with the ship. What Amounts am I due under Maintenance and Cure? Maintenance and Cure cannot be contracted away in an employment agreement. The maintenance due to the seaman must be comparable to that which the seaman is entitled while at sea, and cure includes nursing and medical, until and only until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement. Final Thoughts In general, maintenance and cure is not compensation for an injury that a seaman experiences on a vessel. It is neither an award for a seaman’s injury or disability nor represents damages for pain and suffering which he may have endured. Rather, maintenance and cure is an additional remedy, offered as incentive for employees to undertake dangerous employment on sea, as a way to afford them medical care and treatment and reimbursements for the cost of living while in their disabled or injured state.

Joseph Stephen Stacey | Jul 9, 2019

The First 6 Steps If You Are Injured at Sea

Report the Accident It is imperative that you let your supervisor or captain know immediately that you have been injured. Jones Act or Maritime Law requires the injured party to report any work-related injury within seven (7) days, but don’t wait that long. The insurance company may assume that if you didn’t report the accident right away, it wasn’t very serious, so don’t wait. If you get hurt while working and you believe that your injuries need medical attention or have even the slightest chance of causing you to miss work, report it right away. Seek Medical Attention The law requires your employer to see that you receive medical treatment for your injuries. If you are at sea and your injuries are serious, the ship should have the Coast Guard medevac you to a hospital. If you are far out at sea or in international waters, a Coast Guard helicopter may be able to pick you up as soon as you are within range of the United States. The ship has the ability to consult with a physician by phone or radio if your condition is serious. And, if you are in a foreign country, your employer must get you proper medical treatment and get you back home at their expense. Your employer must pay for all medical attention that you need if you are injured or become ill while in the service of the vessel. Choose Your Own Doctor You have the right to choose your own doctor. It may be tempting to see a doctor recommended by your employer or your employer’s insurance company, but we recommend you see a doctor of your choosing for an impartial assessment. Make certain that the doctor or healthcare worker documents everything. Your medical records will be used as evidence if a claim needs to be filed. Follow Doctor’s Orders Follow all your doctor’s recommendations. Do not miss any appointments with your doctor, as missed appointments send a signal to the insurance company and the employer that you have completely recovered or that your injuries were not severe. It is common for insurance companies to send investigators to monitor your progress without your knowledge. They may take photos or video to document your actions while you recover from your injuries. Do Not Give a Recorded Statement Never give a recorded statement. The insurance company is in the business of making money for their shareholders, and their goal is to pay out as little on your claim as possible. The insurance company is not working on your behalf, no matter how nice they are to you when they call. They will ask leading questions and create their own story about your accident, which may not be accurate. Consult a Maritime Lawyer You need a lawyer who understands Maritime Law and who is on your side. By consulting a lawyer, you will have a better understanding of your rights and your options. Most maritime lawyers offer a free consultation, and most will give you a fair assessment of your case. Knowing your rights and your employer’s obligation to pay certain benefits is the crucial baseline in making decisions on how to proceed.

Stefan L. Jouret | Jan 9, 2019

Defective Yacht Litigation

Do You Have a Defective Yacht, a Lemon on the High Seas? Regardless whether a yacht is intended for pleasure or commercial use (such as occasional charters), yacht manufacturers and sellers need to be cognizant of the many ways in which things can go awry in the construction, outfitting, sale and servicing of yachts. Many areas of yacht acquisition may give rise to seller or manufacturer legal liability, as well as potential legal fee shifting to the defendant. Careful review of the governing factual and legal situation (including assessment of the applicable law for forum selection considerations) are essential components of making a sufficiently compelling pre-litigation claim and enhancing the prospects for a speedy, efficient and fair resolution of claims at minimal economic outlay. A Case Study In the summer of 2015, Stefan Jouret led a team of lawyers that won a $1,063,071 judgment against a major yacht manufacturer following a two-week federal jury trial in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The case involved a multi-million dollar luxury yacht owned by Stefan*s client. Winning the case required navigating a complex litigation path that included multiple parties from different states, numerous expert witnesses, many depositions and substantial pre- and post-trial motion practice. At trial, Stefan*s team used the latest in computerized graphics technology and employed high-tech trial consultants to help tell the client*s story in a compelling way. Potentially Actionable Areas Disconnects between seller/manufacturer promises and actual performance of the vessel in marine conditions. Warranties, express and implied (including warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose), and state and federal statutes barring unfair or deceptive acts or practices, which may allow for multiple damages and legal fee-shifting to the defendant. Inducements and promises about performance or characteristics such as construction quality or servicing, including re-sale value, workmanship, construction, materials, seaworthiness, outfitting, rigging and commissioning to industry standards, timeliness of the commissioning process, use of the vessel for extended ocean or blue-water cruising, or ease of handling. Seller performance or vessel characteristic promises can include those made at boat shows, other sales-oriented events or in dunning communications, promotional or inducement literature. Inadequate oversight and coordination between builder and suppliers. Defective or otherwise deficient design in any area of the yacht, which can, of course, cover every part from stem to stern, including: Mast and boom systems, including hydraulically-operated in*boom roller furling systems, vangs, rigging, spars, stays, lines, sails, sail feeders, fabricated or machined parts, componentry and fittings (gooseneck, wrap plates clevis, wrap plate, bolted joints and fasteners of all types), pawl assemblies, rachets and many other assemblies that can experience failure. Propulsion systems, including issues related to thrust-making capability and efficiency, power reserve margins for heavy weather scenarios, gearbox and propeller mismatches, gearbox reduction ratio problems, propeller selection, propeller cavitation and loss of thrust-making efficiency. Other issues include assessments about whether a system is operating in an overloaded state, with a reduced power margin against conditions of added drag (such as running in heavy weather). Electronics and hydraulic systems, mechanical and electromechanical components of all types. Claims Assessment Questions Whether commissioning, test sailing and shakedown of the vessel were conducted to industry standards; whether any departure from industry standards contributed to subsequent breakdown and failures; whether the commissioning process was understaffed and abbreviated. Whether the seller/manufacturer was short on technical staff (including naval architects and professional engineers), whether seller/manufacturer lacked sufficient technical expertise. Whether the project management was suitable for the vessel at issue. Whether the yacht itself was poorly designed and under-specified from an engineering perspective. Relevant here is a close analysis of design specifications, design intent, design coordination with manufacturing and outfitting, and the oversight and management process generally. Whether there was effective communication between manufacturer, subcontractors, suppliers (sometimes quite numerous) and riggers and whether failures of process, plan development or oversight contributed to errors or omissions giving rise to claims for damages. A lack of proactive project management can lead to seller/manufacturer liability. Whether issues giving rise to failures or warranty claims could have been addressed prior to delivery or at commissioning and during sea trials, test sails, and the *shakedown* process generally if adequate oversight had been in place. Other Claims-related Inquiries When you're contemplating litigation, you must be prepared to play chess, not checkers. Among the considerations you and your counsel must undertake are the following: Analyzing forum selection questions, choice of law and governing contractual issues. Anticipating defense arguments is a key part of this. These may include arguments that owners or their crew caused or contributed to failures through operator error or failure to maintain proper maintenance, or that weather or other force majeure events on the high seas or elsewhere operate to terminate or reduce seller, manufacturer or supplier liability. Determining whether one or more experts should be retained (and if so, which ones) in the pre-claim and demand phases in order to articulate the most persuasive arguments on liability and damages issues with the goal of obtaining a fast and fair settlement. Assessing what damages may be recoverable, including the following categories of potential damages: Lost profits, crew salaries and consequential damages including vessel downtime for repairs, needless travel, lost opportunities to enjoy the vessel or to earn chartering income to defray maintenance costs, and loss of practical use of the vessel for periods of time for pleasure or charter use. Lost commercial opportunities and reduced confidence by prospective charters or brokers, owners and crews in the safe operation of the yacht. Reimbursement of servicing costs paid by owners to third party services, including offshore providers in remote locations. An owners and crew*s lost time spent addressing required repairs and remedial design improvements, as well as out-of-pocket expenses for any such repairs. Damages to the vessel itself, or costs the owner incurred, such as unreimbursed expense to replace damaged and insufficiently engineered equipment. General Litigation Considerations The litigation process typically begins with a pre-claim investigation and preparation and service of any appropriate demand letters that may be statutory prerequisites to recovery for unfair or deceptive acts or practices. These steps include assessment of potential litigation venues and commencement of suit if the matter fails to resolve on acceptable terms. Among the earliest steps is to carefully preserve and gather evidence, including documentary, photographic and video evidence. Email communications are often essential to proving claims and disproving counterclaims in litigation. Parties frequently make admissions or statements in such communications that can be used later. These include many of the defendant*s relevant emails and other communications (voicemails, text, instant messaging systems and the like) with third parties. Careful and strategic planning must be done carefully and early in the process. This includes forming a litigation plan that sets forth tactical measures that can help achieve the objective. Litigation resembles a military campaign in important respects. A litigator needs to be prepared to try the case and must prepare early in the process. Organization and review of documentation is essential for efficient claim analysis and presentation of evidence at the pre-claim and subsequent claim and (if necessary) litigation process. Effective marshaling of documentary evidence is essential and can make the difference in the success or failure of claims. Acting quickly to preserve claims that may become time-barred is another key early consideration. Another area that must be assessed is the potential for multiparty claims, cross-claims, counterclaims by and against target defendants. Selection of the most compelling experts to aid resolution at the demand, litigation or mediation stage is also key to the successful resolution of legal disputes. This typically includes both liability and damages experts and using animation, graphics and visual presentation specialists present evidence in a compelling and understandable way to a lay jury and judge. In many cases, telling a story through easily understood visual timelines underscores the plaintiff*s theme of the case and helps to cement the plaintiff*s version of the factual narrative, sequence and timing of key events underlying and supporting the claims.

Justin Weinstein | Oct 19, 2018

What to Do after a Boat Accident in Fort Lauderdale

Assure the Safety of All Passengers As with any accident, the first step you should take after a boat accident is to secure the safety of yourself and your passengers. If the boat is still afloat and you and your passengers are aboard, first and foremost determine whether anyone needs medical attention. In the case that anyone has fallen overboard, your first step will be to assist the fallen passenger back onto the boat as soon as possible. If after the accident your vessel has broken apart or is sinking, climb onto the largest piece of floating debris available and begin signaling for help. Your life jacket should help keep you afloat while out in open water. Boat accidents can happen in the blink of an eye, and this is further evidence as to why wearing a life jacket is so important. Not only will it keep you safer, but wearing one in the case of an injury-causing accident can help your case if you choose to file a claim. Moving forward, provided all passengers are aboard, your priority should be keeping the boat out of harm's way. In order to effectively provide medical assistance or first aid to any injured passengers, the boat should be moved out of the path of oncoming vessels. The Coast Guard should be contacted immediately to inform them an accident has occurred, where the accident took place, and what medical assistance, if any, may be necessary. Once you've returned to land, it is advisable to see your doctor following a boating accident. Even if you do not initially believe you suffered any injuries, many times the shock of the accident can mask the symptoms. It is best to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention for yourself, as well as your passengers, as soon as possible. Report to the Coast Guard As we briefly mentioned in step 1, in the case of a boat accident in Fort Lauderdale, the Coast Guard should be contacted. Under the federal law, a boating accident report must be filed if: - A passenger was killed. - A passenger was injured badly enough to need immediate medical aid. - The vessel was completely lost or destroyed. - There is damage to the vessels or to property that equals or exceeds $2,000. - A passenger disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate an injury or death has occurred. In addition, if any of the above circumstances occurred during the accident, you should also file a boating accident report with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). When providing the report, bear in mind that while you should offer accurate information, you should never voluntarily admit guilt or accept responsibility for the accident. An accident report from the Coast Guard or the FWC may be used to help shed light on how the accident occurred, and speculating on the cause can jeopardize the investigation or your potential boating injury claim. To err on the side of caution, consult with an experienced boating accident lawyer who can aid you in compiling the appropriate reports and help you pursue your right to compensation if you've been injured as result of a boating accident. Obtain Necessary Information Once you've attended to the immediate needs of yourself and your passengers, you can move onto obtaining necessary legal information from those on the other vessel as well as from any witnesses. Recommended information that you should gather at the scene of the accident includes: - Names and contact information of the boat operators involved in the accident. - Names and contact information of the passengers involved or aboard any of the vessels in the crash. - Registration or identification number of the other vessels involved in the accident. - Insurance information of those who were involved in the accident. - Names and contact information of any eyewitnesses who may have witnessed the accident. Take Photographs It is highly advisable that you take photographs, both at the scene of the accident and once you've docked, to fully capture any damage done to the vessel. Also, try to take photos of where the accident occurred as well as the current weather conditions. If you plan on building a case to prove that the other boat operator was responsible for the accident, these images can prove very helpful. Making a Claim Following a boating accident, it's important to report it to your insurance carrier if you owned or operated one of the vessels involved. Regardless if you or another boater were to blame, you should still notify your insurance company, as you may need to file a claim for damages. As per your previous step of obtaining information, have the following information at the ready: - Policy number - Date, time, and location of the accident - Description of what happened - Description of damages - The current location of your boat - Contact information for any witnesses Typically, once a claim is filed it will be assigned to a claims representative. However, if you feel as though the other boater was careless, negligent, or broke the law in a way that led to the accident that caused your injuries, you may be able to take legal action for compensation. In this case, contact a qualified South Florida personal injury attorney who can use their expertise to fight for your compensation. Your attorney can help recover damages such as: - Emergency services and transportation to a medical facility - Medical expenses - Disfigurement and scarring - Loss of wages and benefits - Pain and suffering - Loss of quality of life Being Aware of Common Causes Being in a boating accident is a physically and emotionally traumatic experience. While being out on open water, a fellow boater could behave a variety of ways that could constitute as negligence. Common causes of boating accidents caused by negligent boaters include: - Driving the boat at a dangerous speed. - Riding a large wave or wake at a dangerous speed. - Failure to look out for others on the water, including those skiing and tubing. - Colliding with a fixed object. - Failure to follow rules and protocol for boat operators. - Boating under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. - Overloading the boat with too many occupants or too much cargo. - Failure to ensure proper maintenance of the boat. Fort Lauderdale is no stranger to accidents. With its ports, docks, marinas, and waterways brimming with yachts, sailboats, motorboats, rowboats, and other personal vessels, it seems accidents are almost unavoidable. While you can't prevent the negligence of other's, you can prepare what to do in the case of an accident. Armed with these tips and the help of a qualified attorney, you and your vessel can be back on the water in no time.

Justin Weinstein | Sep 13, 2018

What to Do after a Boat Accident in Fort Lauderdale

Steps to Take Following a Boat Accident In general, the sunshine and open water found abundantly in South Florida makes the area a boater's paradise. Yet in 2015, Broward County and the Florida Keys were rated the two deadliest places for boaters in Florida. From unpredictable weather to inexperienced boaters, the area is home to plenty of boating accidents. Fort Lauderdale experiences a large number of accidents. The "Yachting Capital of the World," Fort Lauderdale plays host to the International Boat Show, docks thousands of boats daily, and features sparkling waterways that are frequently dotted with vessels of all sizes. With this responsibility comes the uncertainty of what to do in the case of a boat accident. Fortunately for those unfamiliar with establishing fault and liability following a boating accident, the process is much like that of an auto accident. For further understanding on what to do after a boat accident in Fort Lauderdale, keep reading. Assure the Safety of All Passengers As with any accident, the first step you should take after a boat accident is to secure the safety of yourself and your passengers. If the boat is still afloat and you and your passengers are aboard, first and foremost determine whether anyone needs medical attention. In the case that anyone has fallen overboard, your first step will be to assist the fallen passenger back onto the boat as soon as possible. If after the accident your vessel has broken apart or is sinking, climb onto the largest piece of floating debris available and begin signaling for help. Your life jacket should help keep you afloat while out in open water. Boat accidents can happen in a blink of an eye, and this is further evidence as to why wearing a life jacket is so important. Not only will it keep you safer, but wearing one in the case of an injury-causing accident can help your case if you choose to file a claim. Moving forward, provided all passengers are aboard, your priority should be keeping the boat out of harm's way. In order to effectively provide medical assistance or first aid to any injured passengers, the boat should be moved out of the path of oncoming vessels. The Coast Guard should be contacted immediately to inform them an accident has occurred, where the accident took place, and what medical assistance, if any, may be necessary. Once you've returned to land, it is advisable to see your doctor following a boating accident. Even if you do not initially believe you suffered any injuries, many times the shock of the accident can mask the symptoms. It is best to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention for yourself, as well as your passengers, as soon as possible. Report to the Coast Guard As we briefly mentioned in step 1, in the case of a boat accident in Fort Lauderdale, the Coast Guard should be contacted. Under the federal law, a boating accident report must be filed if: A passenger was killed. A passenger was injured badly enough to need immediate medical aid. The vessel was completely lost or destroyed. There is damage to the vessels or to property that equals or exceeds $2,000. A passenger disappears from the vessel under circumstances that indicate an injury or death has occurred. In addition, if any of the above circumstances occurred during the accident, you should also file a boating accident report with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). When providing the report, bear in mind that while you should offer accurate information, you should never voluntarily admit guilt or accept responsibility for the accident. An accident report from the Coast Guard or the FWC may be used to help shed light on how the accident occurred, and speculating on the cause can jeopardize the investigation or your potential boating injury claim. To err on the side of caution, consult with an experienced boating accident lawyer who can aid you in compiling the appropriate reports and help you pursue your right to compensation if you've been injured as result of a boating accident. Obtain Necessary Information Once you've attended to the immediate needs of yourself and your passengers, you can move onto obtaining necessary legal information from those on the other vessel as well as from any witnesses. Recommended information that you should gather at the scene of the accident includes: Names and contact information of the boat operators involved in the accident. Names and contact information of the passengers involved or aboard any of the vessels in the crash. Registration or identification number of the other vessels involved in the accident. Insurance information of those who were involved in the accident. Names and contact information of any eyewitnesses who may have witnessed the accident. Take Photographs It is highly advisable that you take photographs, both at the scene of the accident and once you've docked, to fully capture any damage done to the vessel. Also try to take photos of where the accident occurred as well as the current weather conditions. If you plan on building a case to prove that the other boat operator was responsible for the accident, these images can prove very helpful. Making a Claim Following a boating accident, it's important to report it to your insurance carrier if you owned or operated one of the vessels involved. Regardless if you or another boater were to blame, you should still notify your insurance company, as you may need to file a claim for damages. As per your previous step of obtaining information, have the following information at the ready: Policy number Date, time, and location of the accident Description of what happened Description of damages Current location of your boat Contact information for any witnesses Typically, once a claim is filed it will be assigned to a claims representative. However, if you feel as though the other boater was careless, negligent, or broke the law in a way that led to the accident that caused your injuries, you may be able to take legal action for compensation. In this case, contact a qualified South Florida personal injury attorney who can use their expertise to fight for your compensation. Your attorney can help recover damages such as: Emergency services and transportation to a medical facility Medical expenses Disfigurement and scarring Loss of wages and benefits Pain and suffering Loss of quality of life Being Aware of Common Causes Being in a boating accident is a physically and emotionally traumatic experience. While being out on open water, a fellow boater could behave a variety of ways that could constitute as negligence. Common causes of boating accidents caused by negligent boaters include: Driving the boat at a dangerous speed. Riding a large wave or wake at a dangerous speed. Failure to look out for others on the water, including those skiing and tubing. Colliding with a fixed object. Failure to follow rules and protocol for boat operators. Boating under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Overloading the boat with too many occupants or too much cargo. Failure to ensure proper maintenance of the boat. Fort Lauderdale is no stranger to accidents. With its ports, docks, marinas, and waterways brimming with yachts, sailboats, motorboats, rowboats, and other personal vessels, it seems accidents are almost unavoidable. While you can't prevent the negligence of other's, you can prepare what to do in the case of an accident. Armed with these tips and the help of a qualified attorney, you and your vessel can be back on the water in no time.