RIVER WORKER INJURIES AND DEATH
Living at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers, we have friends and family who make their living in the inland towing industry. They work in difficult and dangerous conditions to provide for their families. Unfortunately, many towing companies do not have much use for the employee who gets hurt working. The very people who the injured worker thought were friends quickly become adversaries. Few attorneys understand either maritime law or the industry itself. We know the towing companies and they know that we fight for our clients.
Unlike most workplace injuries, there is no Workers’ Compensation available for riverboat workers. Instead, they must bring lawsuits to obtain compensation for their injuries.
Depending upon the job duties of a worker, he may be either a seaman or a longshoreman.
Seaman claims are brought under the Jones Act and General Maritime Law.
The JONES ACT (46 U.S.C. § 30104) permits an injured seaman to recover civil monetary damages when a co-worker or superior acted NEGLIGENTLY in their job duties and caused injury or death. Negligence can occur in various scenarios, including but not limited to, navigation errors, line handling errors and the failure to remedy dangerous conditions on a vessel or tow.
The injured seaman can also recover civil monetary damages if his injury was due to the UNSEAWORTHINESS of a vessel or its tow. Unseaworthiness refers to various conditions aboard the vessel or its tow including, oil on a walkway, faulty lines, an unqualified or incompetent crew on a vessel, insufficient equipment , contaminated drinking water or other dangerous conditions aboard the vessel or tow.
An injured worker may recover MAINTENANCE AND CURE if he suffers an injury or illness aboard a vessel. To recover maintenance and cure, the worker need not prove either negligence or unseaworthiness, only that the condition was suffered in the course of his service of a vessel. Loosely defined, a worker can recover sums for his loss of his room and board aboard the vessel and all medical expenses suffered.
Land based workers may be classified as Longshoreman and are therefore subject to the The LONGSHORE AND HARBOR WORKERS COMPENSATION ACT (LHWCA) (33 U.S.C. § 901-950), a federal law that provides for the payment of compensation, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation services to employees disabled from on the job injuries that occur on the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining areas customarily used in the loading, unloading, repairing, or building of a vessel. The LHWCA also provides for payment of survivor benefits to dependents if the work injury causes, or contributes to, the employee’s death. Often, the industry wishes to classify seamen as longshoremen and push those workers into a less favorable compensation system. Litigation over “seaman status” is frequent and critical to the success of certain cases.
RECREATIONAL BOATING INJURIES AND DEATH
In addition to representing injured workers, we also represent people who are injured or killed in recreational boating incidents. We have appeared not only in West Virginia state courts but also in the United States District Courts in the States of West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky in pursuit of our clients’ rights.