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New York Maritime Law Blog

Maritime accidents and mental trauma

There are a number of ways in which people make a living at sea, whether they work on a cruise ship or are employed in the fishing industry. Unfortunately, there are many things that can go wrong in these environments and job-related injuries occur far too often. Not only can these accidents result in a significant amount of physical pain and financial hardship, but they can also cause other difficulties which may be more difficult to detect, such as mental trauma. Those recovering from a maritime accident may suffer from depression or anxiety, and these mental challenges can be very debilitating.

In some instances, those involved in a maritime accident may develop post-traumatic stress disorder. In fact, the mental and emotional toll of a maritime accident may be so serious that someone is not able to continue working in a particular field, prompting them to look for a new line of work that pays less. These mental difficulties can create all sorts of other problems in someone's life, whether they lead to the breakdown of a marriage or changes to one's personality. Sometimes, mental trauma is not apparent right away, and people do not fully realize the mental toll of an accident until a later time.

How does the Longshore Act define injury?

The great benefit of the Longshore Act is that it protects people who work on Manhattan docks or on the navigable waters of the United States if they should suffer injury. However, some in New York may wonder how far the Longshore Act goes in offering help to injured maritime workers. What exactly does this law mean by injury? Fortunately, the U.S. government explains how the Longshore Act defines injury, and thus makes it clear who can be compensated by this law.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, for the purposes of the Longshore Act, injury can be defined as injury caused by accident during a worker’s regular course of employment. A person doing maritime work at a dock who is injured from a piece of work equipment is one such example. Someone who is killed as a result of an accident also qualifies as an accidental injury.

What benefits are available under maintenance and cure?

If you sustained an injury while working on a barge, ship or another water-based vessel, you may have rights that extend beyond traditional workers' compensation benefits. New York workers' comp law grants injured workers the right to repayment for necessary medical treatment, lost wages and permanent partial disability. However, maritime law extends an injured party's rights to include benefits for maintenance, cure and unearned wages, and to allow injured seamen to file claims for unseaworthiness and negligence. FindLaw details what that means for you.

If you sustained an injury while working as a seaman, your employer must pay you maintenance. Maintenance refers to the payment necessary to reimburse you for the room and board generally provided to you aboard the vessel. Your employer must pay this benefit daily from the date on which you leave the vessel to the ate you reach maximum medical improvement. Currently, the maintenance rate is $20 to $30 per day. Though many attorneys have disputed this rate in recent years, the courts have yet to raise it. 

When a loved one passes away in a boat accident

Boating accidents occur for a myriad of reasons, from inexperience to intoxication and inclement weather. Regardless of why an accident takes place, the consequences can be devastating. Sometimes, those involved in an accident sustain serious injuries which can disrupt their lives in countless ways. In other instances, someone may even pass away in a boat accident. If your loved one recently lost their life in a boating accident, you may be going through an array of hardships, from emotional pain that you will never move forward from to to financial difficulties such as funeral costs and adjusting to life without your loved one's income.

If someone else's careless behavior caused the fatal accident, it is imperative to seek justice for the loved one you lost. For example, if someone collided with your loved one's boat while they were drunk, you may need to take legal action against them in order to secure the compensation that you need and deserve. Unfortunately, some people feel like giving up after losing someone they love in a boating accident, especially since the toll of the loss can be so devastating. However, this can lead to additional problems and it is vital for people who are facing this crisis to keep their head up.

Are you at risk of underwater electric shock?

There is no “on season” for those who work on cargo or fishing ships. You can be seriously injured any time of year doing your job. One of the risks you and other New York maritime workers can face is electric shock while working in or near water.

As the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association explains, electricity in the water is an invisible danger. Your employer may have already educated or warned you about this little-known, yet unfortunately common, risk near marinas, docks and boats. Why is it considered an invisible hazard? People are unable to see electricity travel through water, and it can be especially difficult to locate the source of an electrical leak from a boat or dock.

Boating accident leads to lawsuit for giving minors alcohol

As boating is typically viewed as a recreational activity by many in Manhattan, a common assumption may be that participants need not adhere to the same safety standards required to operate other vehicles. Many likely would not consider getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking, yet those same people may not see an issue with consuming alcohol while driving a boat. In reality, however, those operating watercraft often need to have the same level of acuity needed when behind the wheel of a landbound vehicle. When they do not, the consequences can be catastrophic. 

That was the case in a boating accident that occurred in South Carolina earlier this year. A young woman was thrown from the boat she was traveling in when it struck a bridge. Her body was recovered from the water a week later. All of those on the boat at that time of the accident were reportedly intoxicated (although no sobriety tests were administered). This fact was notable due to all of the occupants being minors. The woman's parents have since filed a wrongful death lawsuit against multiple parties they claim to be responsible for providing the occupants with alcohol. 

Uncertain future for the Jones Act

People in New York may well see billboards that reference the Jones Act, blaming it for excessive congestion on area roads. This is just one of the more recent efforts initiated by The Cato Institute to push for reform of the nation's laws governing domestic waterways. 

As explained by The Cato Institute, the Jones Act places strict limitations on which vessels are allowed to transport goods from one American port to another American port. The only vessels allowed to do this are those that are crewed predominately by American citizens, owned by American citizens, registered in the United States and built in the United States.

How should you approach a large wake?

If you are relatively new to boating and are trying to build your information reservation for how to handle various maritime encounters, one of the first things you should be learning about is how to approach large wakes. Having an understanding of how to control your boat when you end up in a situation where you are dealing with rough New York waters is critical to your ability to keep yourself and your crew safe. 

As you welcome members to your crew, it is important to give them adequate training so they are aware of how to handle various scenarios before they are in a situation and unaware of how to proceed without making the circumstances more dangerous. Reviews of training material are necessary so you can assess how well your crew understands the protocols for dealing with large wakes. 

American Waterways Operators gives congressional testimony

Safety should be the first priority of any industry and the shipping industry is no exception. Members of the American Waterways Operators (AWO) testified before congress on March 6 about the state of the maritime industry. The AWO advocates for the long-term economic viability of the industry, vessel safety and environmental issues among others.

Rear Admiral John P. Nadeau of the Coast Guard pushed the importance of vessel safety, putting responsibility on vessel owners to implement preventative safety measures. Nadeau advocated for Safety Management Systems that protects both vessel workers from potentially fatal accidents and the environment.

Cruise ship injuries due to negligence

Balmy breezes, fruity drinks and all you can eat buffets are what many New York residents think of when they plan their cruise vacation. While most passengers enjoy the trip with nothing more severe than a case of sea sickness, serious incidents can occur with devastating results. At Tabak Mellusi & Shisha LLP, we often represent clients injured while on vacation at sea.

According to FindLaw, you check the Terms and Conditions requirements on your ticket before filing a lawsuit. In some cases, you must provide notice of the injury and impending claim in writing within a specific timeframe. They may also have requirements about where you file the suit, such as a particular jurisdiction. The cruise line may have a mandate requiring arbitration instead of a court trial.

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