The maritime industry is a critical component of the economy in Louisiana, employing thousands of maritime workers. Given the inherent dangers of working on docks, ports, waterways, vessels, and oil rigs, maritime accidents frequently result in serious personal injuries and fatalities. Although injured workers are protected by a number of maritime laws, enforcing your rights requires the skills of an experienced maritime lawyer.
Koch & Schmidt, based in New Orleans, is a premier admiralty and maritime law practice serving clients in Southern Louisiana and the Texas Gulf Coast region. We are dedicated to helping injured maritime workers — seamen, longshoremen, oil rig workers, cruise ship employees — obtain the compensation and benefits they deserve. If you have been injured in a maritime accident, we will offer you the knowledge, compassion, and first-class representation.
Maritime Claims Handled by Koch & Schmidt
The Jones Act
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal law that allows seamen to file a lawsuit against an offshore employer for injuries on a vessel caused by the negligence of the employer or co-worker. To qualify for protection under the Jones Act, a seaman’s job must contribute to the function of the vessel and the completion of its mission. Moreover, the injured seaman’s connection to the vessel must be substantial in both nature and duration.
While this seems straightforward, pursuing a Jones Act can be complicated. The best way to protect your rights and obtain just compensation is to consult a knowledgeable maritime attorney. Although we prefer to resolve Jones Act claims through negotiated settlements, our trial lawyers have a proven history of achieving successful outcomes in court.
What is Maintenance and Cure?
Maintenance and cure is a form of workers’ compensation under the Jones Act that provides benefits to injured seamen until they are able to work again:
- Maintenance is money paid to an injured seaman to cover daily living expenses for each day he or she is unable to work. While employers typically attempt to pay minimal amounts, often as low as $15-to-$40 per day, the courts have ruled that maintenance must be the injured seamen’s actual expenses.
- Cure is the offshore employer’s obligation to pay all the injured seaman’s medical costs until he or she has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) — the point where a doctor determines that further medical treatment will not improve the injured worker’s condition.
If your employer fails to pay maintenance and cure, Koch & Schmidt can help. Our maritime attorneys will take your claim to court to help you obtain the benefits you deserve. In addition, if we can show that your employer was unreasonable and arbitrary, you may be awarded attorney fees and punitive damages.
The Longshoremen and Harbor Workers Claims Act
The Longshoremen and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) protects dockworkers and other land-based employees who have been injured in an accident while working on a pier, bridge, or harbor. This federal law is a no-fault system, similar to the state worker’s compensation program. The LHWCA provides medical and disability benefits to injured workers involved in an integral part of maritime activity, such as loading, unloading, repairing, or building a ship. The law also provides a death benefit to surviving family members of a worker who was killed in a job-related accident.
While the LHWCA is designed to protect injured maritime workers, obtaining benefits can be complicated. Injured workers are at a disadvantage against employers and insurance companies that often attempt to deny claims or pay as little as possible. The maritime lawyers at Koch & Schmidt have the skills and resources to level the playing field.
If you are seeking benefits under the LHWCA, we will work tirelessly to help you obtain the full value of your claim. In addition, we will also determine whether you should pursue a claim under the LHWCA or a Jones Act claim if negligence played a role in your injury.
What is the Doctrine of Unseaworthiness?
Under general maritime law, a shipowner is required to maintain a vessel that is seaworthy. In short, a ship or other vessel must be safe to transport goods, crew members, and passengers. In particular, a shipowner has a duty to provide adequate safety measures. There must also be enough crew members to safely handle their assigned tasks. A shipowner whose vessel is deemed to be unseaworthy can be held liable for injuries to workers and passengers alike. Claims that fall under the doctrine of unseaworthiness are the most common basis for maritime lawsuits.
Death on the High Seas Act
The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) protects surviving family members of seamen, crew members, cruise ship employees, passengers, and other individuals who sustain fatal injuries while working or traveling in international waters. It is important to note that a wrongful death claim under DOHSA must be brought by the personal representative of the decedent’s estate.
Under DOHSA, the spouse, children, and other dependents of the deceased individual may be entitled to damages such as:
- Loss of support and companionship
- Loss of services and parental guidance
- Medical expenses
- Loss of inheritance
- Funeral and burial expenses
If the decedent was considered a “seaman” under the Jones Act, additional damages may be available, including lost and future wages and the decedent’s pain and suffering prior to death.
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) extends the protections of the Jones Act and the LHWCA to workers involved in exploring and extracting resources on the outer continental shelf (OCS). In particular, workers on oil rigs, harbor workers, longshoremen, and individuals involved in ship repair and shipbuilding are covered under the OCSLA. The act allows such workers to recover compensation for personal injuries and also provides legal remedies to surviving family members of workers who sustain fatal injuries while working on the OCS.
Contact Our Experienced Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana Maritime Attorneys
The maritime lawyers at Koch & Schmidt have a well-earned reputation for providing our clients with powerful representation when they need it most. If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed in a maritime accident, we can help. Please contact our office today for a free evaluation of your case.