Maritime Personal Injury Law: Intensely Fact-Driven
Savannah, GA Maritime Injury Lawyers - Charleston, SC Maritime Injury Lawyers
Because of the many potentially applicable laws, remedies, and defenses that are available to all or some of the parties involved, maritime personal injury law is intensely fact-driven. One small difference in the facts as placed into the evidentiary record can create a large difference in the result, including if the worker may even bring a lawsuit in the first place.
One such seemingly unimportant difference may be seen in the example of a seriously injured shipyard worker seeking compensation beyond the typical federal workers’ compensation remedy allowed under the LHWCA. General Maritime Law allows such a worker to bring a lawsuit to recover his full damages, including pain and suffering, against any vessel interest (owner, charterer, etc.) and other non-vessel third parties. 33 U.S.C. Sections 905(b) and 933.
Occasionally, the vessel interest is the employer itself. Such a lawsuit is called a dual capacity claim against the employer. The basic concept is that the employer wears two hats: one as the employer and the other as the vessel interest. However, the employee is not entitled to bring such a dual capacity lawsuit if he is a ship repairman. He is only entitled to bring the lawsuit if he is a shipyard worker engaged in maintenance.
The question then becomes what duties constitute repair versus what constitutes maintenance. The determination of this seemingly insignificant factual question can have a significant impact on the outcome of the case.
As insurance companies know, this fact-driven aspect of maritime personal injury law provides an advantage to the party—employer, vessel, or worker—who is able to gather reliable information quickly. Speed is critical.
Such information can be photographs, witness statements, accident reports, safety plans, deck logs, engine logs, pilot cards, production schedules, and similar items. Speed in gathering the information is vital. That is why, nine times out of ten, an insurance investigative file is open before our clients ever walk in the door.
The insurance companies already have armies of attorneys waiting in the wings.
If you have sustained a serious injury, you should seek competent legal counsel who can inform you about your rights.