Questions and Answers about Maritime and Personal Injury Claims

Ship

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
ABOUT PERSONAL INJURY AND WRONGFUL DEATH

ABOUT DEFENSE BASE ACT CLAIMS

LONGSHORE AND HARBOR

ABOUT THE JONES ACT

Do I need a personal injury attorney?

Medical problems caused by an accident may not be fully recognized for months or even years after the accident. Losses from medical bills, decreased earning potential, and many other problems can pile up unexpectedly. An attorney with experience representing personal injury victims and negotiating with insurance companies can analyze your case and determine fair compensation for your losses.

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How much is my case worth?

Compensation for your injuries depends on several factors, including the extent of your injuries, physical and mental pain and suffering, the amount and length of medical treatment, economic hardship or financial loss, decreased earning potential, and physical impairment and/or disfigurement.

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Should I accept an insurance company's settlement offer?  

Before accepting a settlement, it is always in your best interest to consult an attorney. Adjusters work for the insurance company, not for you. Their job is to settle the matter for the lowest possible cost to the company. An attorney will work for you and ensure that a settlement results in full compensation for your injuries. You don't want to sign away your rights only to later discover that your injuries and losses were worse than you originally thought.

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Will I be able to recover money even if I am partly at fault? 

Yes. In most cases accident victims can recover money even if they are partly to blame for the accident.

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Will I have to go to court?

Many injury claims can be settled for their full value through negotiation, mediation or arbitration, without you having to go to court. However, some complex cases may require that you participate in legal proceedings.

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When should I call an attorney?

You should consult an attorney as soon as possible after being injured. In most cases there are time limits for filing claims after an injury occurs, and if this deadline passes, your claim could be dismissed. In addition, finding witnesses and gathering evidence to support your case becomes more difficult the longer you wait.

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How do I choose an attorney?

The success of personal injury attorneys is based on several factors, including education, legal skill and experience. The attorney you retain should have a proven record of winning cases similar to yours and should be willing to thoroughly explain his or her recommendations based on the specific details of your case. Your attorney should also have extensive experience settling cases through negotiation and trying cases in court. Another very important factor is for you to feel comfortable with your attorney, and confident that your interests will be a top priority.

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Why should I retain your firm?

Our firm carefully selects its personal injury cases, allowing us to focus more of our substantial resources and expertise on each client. Our attorneys offer the professionalism, integrity and compassion clients deserve. They personally will handle your case from its inception through resolution and will not turn over your case to a paralegal.

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How much will the legal process cost?

We will be happy to provide you with a free, no obligation evaluation of your prospective personal injury claim.

We accept personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis because we understand that families can be ruined, both physically and financially, when a loved one is seriously injured in an accident. Medical bills can mount quickly, and in many instances, the injured family member misses work because of the injuries, causing even greater financial hardship on the family. A contingency fee arrangement allows you and your family to receive assistance at a time you need it most. We also accept cases on an hourly basis.

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What does it mean to be AV-Rated by Martindale Hubbell?

Martindale Hubbell Law Directory completes far-reaching, confidential reviews of members of a legal community and assigns ratings to law firms and lawyers. Howard S. Grossman, P.A. has earned the highest rating available, and AV rating.

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What is the Defense Base Act (DBA)?
The DBA is an extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) which provides disability compensation and medical benefits to employees and death benefits to eligible survivors of employees of U.S. government contractors who perform work overseas. With a few exceptions, the DBA incorporates the provisions of the LHWCA.

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Who is covered under the DBA? The Defense Base Act covers the following employment activities:
Work for private employers on U.S. military bases or on any lands used by the U.S. for military purposes outside of the United States, including those in U.S. Territories and possessions;
Work on public work contracts with any U.S. government agency, including construction and service contracts in connection with national defense or with war activities outside the United States;
Work on contracts approved and funded by the U.S. under the Foreign Assistance Act, which among other things provides for cash sale of military equipment, materials, and services to its allies, if the contract is performed outside of the United States;
Work for American employers providing welfare or similar services outside the United States for the benefit of the Armed Services, e.g. the United Service Organizations (USO).
If any one of the above criteria is met, all employees engaged in such employment, regardless of nationality (including U.S. citizens and residents, host country nationals (local hires), and third country nationals (individuals hired from another country to work in the host country)), are covered under the Act.

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What does "public work" mean?
"Public work" is defined in the Act as any fixed improvement or any project, whether or not fixed, involving construction, alteration, removal or repair for the public use of the United States or its allies. However, "public work" is not limited to construction. It includes any project or operation under service contracts and projects in connection with the national defense or with war activities.

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Is work performed pursuant to a grant covered under the DBA?
Although this issue has been addressed by a court of law in only one instance, the Department of Labor has adopted a position consistent with the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in University of Rochester v. Hartman (Vishniac), 618 F.2d 170 (2nd Cir. 1980), that work performed pursuant to a grant is not covered under the DBA.

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Who administers the DBA?
The U. S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP), Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation (DLHWC), administers the DBA through eleven district offices located throughout the United States.

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Where should new Defense Base Act claims be filed?
Defense Base Act claims should be filed in the Longshore District Office responsible for the geographic area where the injury or death occurred. Our attorneys can file a claim on your behalf nationwide. View geographic boundaries of the District Offices.

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What types of benefits are available under the DBA?
The Defense Base Act provides disability and medical benefits to covered employees injured in the course of employment and death benefits to eligible survivors of employees killed in the course of employment. Compensation for total disability is two-thirds of the employee's average weekly earnings, up to a current maximum rate per week. Compensation is also payable for partial loss of earnings.
Death benefits are paid at the rate of one-half of the employee's average weekly earnings to a surviving spouse or one child, or two-thirds of average weekly earnings for two or more eligible survivors up to the current maximum rate of per week. The Defense Base Act also incorporates the LHWCA's provision for payment of reasonable funeral expenses not exceeding $3,000.00.
Permanent total disability and death benefits may be payable for life, and are subject to annual cost of living adjustments. The LHWCA minimum benefits rate, however, does not apply to DBA claims.
The injured employee is also entitled to medical treatment by a physician of his/her choice, as the injury may require.

Are there any payment provisions that are specific to aliens and non-U.S. residents?
Yes. There are two such provisions:

  1. Cases involving aliens and non-U.S. residents can be resolved by commuting benefits paid for permanent disability and death. In such cases, a one-time lump sum payment may be issued by the employer/carrier representing half of the present value of future compensation as determined by the OWCP district director. Medical benefits may not be commuted.
  2. Death benefits may be paid only to the surviving spouse or child or children, or if no surviving spouse or child or children, to dependent parents.

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What should I do if I get injured at work?
It is important that you notify your employer immediately. If you need medical treatment, ask your employer to authorize treatment by a doctor of your choice. It is advisable to speak with our attorneys who are experienced in Defense Base Act claims.

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How do I obtain medical treatment for my injuries?
If you need medical treatment for your work injury, ask your employer to authorize treatment by a doctor of your choice. If it is an emergency or if you are unable to contact your employer, go to the nearest hospital or physician, but be sure to let your employer know as soon as possible.

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How do I obtain compensation for my disability?
If you are disabled more than 3 days, contact your employer or the insurance company for payment of compensation, which is payable 14 days after your employer has knowledge of the injury. It is advisable to contact a lawyer experienced with handling Defense Base Act claims.  Consultations with our DBA attorneys are always free and we are available day or night.

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How do I give notice of my injury to my employer?
Give written notice of your injury to your employer on Form LS-201 (Notice of Employee's Injury or Death) within 30 days. Additional time is provided for certain hearing loss and occupational disease claims.  Our DBA lawyers can help you complete this form.

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How do I file a claim for compensation based on my injury?
Our attorneys can file a written claim for compensation on your behalf with the OWCP district office having jurisdiction of your claim on Form LS-203 (Employee's Claim for Compensation) within one year after the date of injury or last payment of compensation, whichever is later. The time for filing claims in certain occupational disease cases has been extended to two years.

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How do I obtain death benefits?
Our attorneys can file on your behalf written notice of the employee's death to the employer on Form LS-201 (Notice of Employee's Injury or Death) within 30 days. File a written claim for compensation on Form LS-262 (Claim for Death Benefits) with the OWCP district office having jurisdiction of your claim within one year after the date of the employee's death.

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What should an employer do upon notice of an employee's injury?
The employer should notify its insurance carrier or, if it is self insured, its claims administrator, as soon as it has knowledge of an injury. Medical treatment, if needed, should be authorized immediately. An Employer's First Report of Injury, Form LS-202, must be filed with the OWCP district office having jurisdiction within 10 days of the injury if it causes loss of one or more work shifts. The Form LS-202 may be filed electronically. View information and instructions here. Additional forms and notices, as well as medical reports, should be filed with the OWCP as regulations require.

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What services do the OWCP district offices provide?
The OWCP district office monitors the payment of compensation and medical care to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Act. The district office staff also provides technical assistance to employers, insurance carriers, and claimants for the prompt delivery of benefits. In case of claim disputes, district office claims examiners conduct informal conferences to help the parties resolve their disputes by way of mutual agreement or compromise without formal litigation. The district director has authority to approve settlements and issue compensation awards in undisputed claims.

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What if the parties to the claim are unable to resolve their dispute(s) informally?
If the parties are unable to resolve their dispute(s) informally, they may request referral of the claim to the Office of Administrative Law Judges (OALJ) for formal hearing. Decisions rendered by the administrative law judge may be appealed to the Benefits Review Board and thereafter, depending on where the claim is administered, to the U.S. District Court or to the U.S. Court of Appeals. It is advisable that you contact an attorney to assist you in filing a DBA claim.

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How do I contact the OWCP district office?
The DBA jurisdictional boundaries and the corresponding district office contact information can be view at the Longshore Defense Base Act Jurisdiction page. The contact information for other Longshore district offices can be viewed at the DLHWC National and District Office Personnel page.

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What are the insurance requirements under the DBA?
The insurance requirements under the DBA are identical to those found in the LHWCA. The Longshore Act requires every employer (including contractors and subcontractors) either to secure insurance for the payment of workers' compensation benefits provided under the Act or to be permissibly self-insured. If a subcontractor fails to secure the payment of compensation, the contractor will be liable and will be required to secure the payment of such benefits.

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Who is authorized to write DBA coverage?
The OWCP is responsible for the authorization of insurance carriers and self-insurance of employers. Over one hundred insurance carriers have been authorized to write Defense Base Act coverage. View a list of the currently authorized insurance carriers.
Currently three major insurance carriers provide most of the Defense Base Act insurance coverage. They are ACE USA Companies, American International Group (AIG) Companies, and CNA.

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Must an employer acquire DBA coverage for foreign nationals?
Yes. Benefits under the DBA are payable regardless of nationality. Therefore, employers should secure insurance coverage for all of their employees working outside the United States under a U.S. government contract, including U.S. citizens and residents, host country nationals (local hires), and third country nationals (hired from another country to perform work in the host country).

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What if an employer fails to secure payment of compensation as required by the DBA?
If an employer fails to secure payment of compensation, an injured employee, or his/her survivors in case of death, may elect to sue the employer for tort damages on account of such injury or death. In such action the defendant may not plead as a defense that the injury was caused by the negligence of a fellow servant, or that the employee assumed the risk of his employment, or that the injury was due to the contributory negligence of the employee.
In addition, an employer who fails to secure the payment of compensation when required shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both. If the employer is a corporation, the president, secretary, and treasurer shall also be severally liable for such fine and imprisonment. These three corporate officers shall also be personally liable, jointly and severally with the corporation, for any compensation or other benefit payable under the Act with respect to the injury or death of any of its employees.

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Does the Department of Labor regulate DBA insurance premium rates?
The Department of Labor has no authority to regulate insurance premium rates. All authorized carriers are regulated by the states in which they operate.

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What is a waiver?
The Secretary of Labor may waive application of the Defense Base Act with respect to any contract, work location, or class of employees upon the written request of the head of any department or other agency of the United States. It is Department of Labor policy that waivers do not apply to citizens or legal residents of the U.S. or to employees hired in the U.S. In addition, once granted, the waiver is only valid if alternative workers' compensation benefits are provided to the waived employees pursuant to applicable local law. If there are no local workers' compensation laws, the waiver has no effect and local and foreign nationals working under a U.S. contract are covered under the DBA.

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How does one obtain a waiver?
The request for waiver must be made in writing on Form BEC 565, Request for Waiver - Defense Base Act, by the head of a department or agency of the United States government. The Form BEC 565 and other pertinent information should be submitted to the Director, OWCP, U.S. Department of Labor, ESA/OWCP, Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation, 200 Constitution Avenue NW, Rm C-4315, Washington, DC 20210.
Copies of the Form BEC 565 may be obtained in writing from the Director, Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation, at the same address, by e-mail, or by calling the Longshore National Office at (202) 693-0038.

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Can an employer voluntarily provide DBA benefits even if a waiver is in place?
Yes. There is no prohibition against providing DBA coverage for waived employees.

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What is the employer's posting requirement under the DBA?
The DBA incorporates the LHWCA's provision that every employer who has secured compensation under the Act must keep posted in a conspicuous place in and about its place of business typewritten or printed notice on Forms LS-241 (Notice to Employees) or LS-242 (Notice to Employees for Self-Insured Employers). Such notice must also contain the name and address of the employer representative to whom notice of injury is given, and the carrier, if any, with whom the employer has secured payment of compensation and the date of the expiration of the policy.

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Why is the Form LS-241 or Form LS 242 not available for download from the internet?
The Forms LS-241, Notice to Employees and LS-242, Notice to Employees (for Self-Insured Employers), are controlled forms and are not available to the general public. The employer receives the LS-241 from its insurance carrier upon confirmation of insurance coverage or renewal. The self-insured employer receives the Form LS-242 from the OWCP upon confirmation of its self-insurance authorization. For further information, contact the OWCP Longshore National Office at (202)693-0038 or DLHWC-Public@dol.gov.

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Where can I obtain Longshore forms?
Some Longshore forms can be accessed electronically. Forms are also available at any Longshore district office. To request a form, or for additional information and assistance on how to complete the forms, you may also contact the district office having jurisdiction over your claim.  Our law firm can help you complete all Longshore forms.

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WORKER’S ACT CLAIMS

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How can I find out whether, as an employer, I'm required to purchase Longshore insurance coverage?
Longshore coverage can be a complex issue, depending on both the location and the nature of the employee's work. Because the answer depends entirely on the individual specifics of the job in question, it is best to discuss these details with your local District Director to get his or her best advice. Please see the list of district offices at our Longshore website.

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How can I find out whether my employer has Longshore insurance coverage for me?
The best way is to ask your employer and discuss your concerns with them. If you would prefer to check with your local Longshore district office staff, please see the list at our Longshore website.

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What are the benefits available to an injured worker under Longshore?
Longshore provides a number of benefits to injured workers, including medical care to tend to an injury or illness, weekly indemnity benefits to help support your family during your recovery, payments for certain permanent impairments, and vocational rehabilitation services if you cannot return to your previous employment. For a more detailed description of the benefits available, please see our Longshore website.

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Where can I get the forms needed to apply for Longshore benefits?
Our law firm has all Longshore forms you will need to file and will file them on your behalf.

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Where can I get assistance about my Longshore claim?
Our maritime lawyers can help you with your Longshore claim. Consultations are free of charge.

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What can I do if my employer refuses to pay my benefits?
The primary role of the Longshore district offices is to provide dispute resolution assistance to the parties. If you need assistance, please contact the nearest Longshore district office, listed at our Longshore website. Our Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act Attorneys can help you. Contact us for a free consultation.

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When are benefit payments supposed to be made under Longshore?
Benefits are due within 14 days of the filing of a claim unless the employer or its insurer file a notice of controversy. In such cases the local district office will intervene to help resolve the dispute. If you have neither received your benefits nor a response from the insurance company or employer about your claim, please contact our Defense Base Act attorneys for a free consultation.

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What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a law passed by Congress in 1920 (formerly the Merchant Marine Act) that was enacted to help clarify liability questions surrounding injuries suffered by workers at sea. The Jones Act is a federal maritime law that provides benefits to workers who are injured on sea going vessels on navigable waters and certain types of offshore oil and gas rigs (not permanently affixed). Whether you are a seaman, an officer, a harbor pilot, an oil or gas worker, work on a commercial fishing vessel,  work on a tugboat, cruise ship, jack-up drilling rig or even a helicopter pilot, it is advisable that you speak with a maritime attorney as soon as possible. Benefits available include “maintenance and cure”. “Maintenance” is daily pay to workers (seamen, etc.) who are unable to work pursuant to a physician’s order. “Cure” includes medical care, doctors, transportation, medical facilities, hospitals and medications.

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If I am injured while working at sea, how long do I have to file a claim under the Federal Jones Act?
The statute of limitations is 3 years, meaning you have only 3 years either from the date of your injury or illness (or from the date that you reasonably should have discovered your injury or illness), to file a claim.  If you do not file in this time, your claim will be dismissed.

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How will a Jones Act attorney help me?
Based on the facts of your case, a Jones Act attorney will be able to help guide you through the technicalities that are involved with every situation governed by the Jones Act. Your attorney will also be able to work with your employer and any insurance companies to make sure that your issue moves along in an expedient manner.

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To speak with one of our Maritime Injury attorneys today call 800-996-2748. If you would like us to contact you, please complete the contact us form. Our attorneys never charge a fee for consultations and are available at night and on the weekends.