Legal Guide

How to Pick an Offshore Injury Attorney That’s Best for You

If you live in America, you likely have some kind of relationship with the bodies of water that surround and inhabit the nation. Americans work on the water, live on the water, and party on the water. Americans also suffer injuries on the water. There are many different laws that govern recovery from an offshore injury, and finding the correct attorney to represent you in an offshore injury case is critical.

What Are the Risks of Injury Giving Rise to a Lawsuit?

Water-Related Injuries at Play

Annually, Americans spend about $887 billion on outdoor recreation, specifically spending more than $175 billion on fishing and water sports. With so much money going toward activities on the water, it is no surprise that the risk of an offshore injury is significant. In 2019, 4,168 boating accidents, 2,559 boating injuries, and 613 boating deaths were reported. Quick math tells you boating accidents can have a 61% injury rate. The risk is palpable, but you have options to recover from an at-fault party.

Water-Related Injuries at Work

Recent trends in offshore injuries for the labor force are disheartening. According to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, there were 222 injuries in the offshore energy industry in 2019. This figure is up approximately 23% from 2018. To put this statistic in perspective, there were 220 offshore injuries in 2010, which was the year we saw the largest marine oil drilling spill in history. Offshore accidents can also be especially devastating because they have significant potential for explosion, gas leaks, and chemical exposure.

If you are injured during an offshore activity, you have many recovery options, and you should speak to an attorney immediately.

But with so many causes of offshore injury, how will you know which attorney is best for you?

Recovery Options for Different Offshore Accidents

Different offshore injury recovery laws have different benefits and perks and can significantly affect the outcome of your case.

Recreational Accidents

An offshore injury suit for a recreational accident will likely rely on the following legal theories for recovery:

  • Negligence,
  • Intentional tort, or
  • Dangerous or defective product.

Your attorney can maximize your recovery by claiming you have a right to recover damages under all three legal theories. To argue multiple legal theories or to maximize your damages under one theory, your attorney needs lots of information from you, including all the details of your accident and all the individuals involved.

You cannot be hesitant to speak to your attorney if you want the best outcome in your case.

Work-Related Accidents

If you were working at the time of your offshore injury, multiple federal laws can govern your recovery.

Legal remedies for shipping crew members

If you are an injured crew member of an American shipping vessel, you have rights under The Jones Act. This act allows you to sue your employer for negligence, willful misconduct, or violations of maritime laws. Identifying whether The Jones Act applies to your case is important because the act may offer you more access to remedies than a regular tort case or workers’ compensation claim.

Many states have contributory negligence rules that could bar your recovery in a regular civil lawsuit. This means that if a judge or jury finds that you bear a certain percentage of responsibility for your accident, you recover nothing. But under The Jones Act, contributory negligence does not bar your right to recovery.

Though your negligence does not bar your recovery, it can still reduce your damages. To maximize your remedies, your attorney should have a good working knowledge of the maritime safety laws and regulations. Your negligence does not reduce your Jones Act remedies if your employer failed to follow safety laws and regulations. 

Legal remedies for longshore and harbor workers

A longshore worker can receive benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), but they cannot recover under The Jones Act. The acts are mutually exclusive. Under the LHWCA, you can receive medical care, two-thirds wage replacement, vocational rehabilitation, and compensation for permanent medical impairment.

Which Offshore Attorney Is Best for You?

Now that you know your options for filing suit for an offshore accident, you need to find an attorney who best suits your case. Your attorney should have multiple characteristics to make them the most fruitful choice for your case, and there are sevearl questions you should ask the attorney and yourself during an initial consultation.

Does Your Attorney Have Experience with All the Options for Offshore Injury Recovery?

You have three years to file a claim under The Jones Act and one to two years to file a claim under the LHWCA. Some state laws might afford you more time to start a regular personal injury suit. Therefore, it is crucial that your attorney understands how all the laws apply to you. If your attorney begins your case as a regular personal injury suit only realizing later that you qualify for recovery under The Jones Act, you may find yourself out of time. An offshore injury attorney  with diverse experience knows all the deadlines they must meet to preserve your rights.

Does Your Attorney Understand How Your Specific Injuries Will Likely Affect You Physically and Mentally?

With any kind of offshore injury, you can receive compensation for your medical impairment. In a regular tort case or a Jones Act case, permanent impairment can be the basis for your lost wages and pain and suffering. In an LHWCA case, your level of permanent impairment is the basis of your permanent disability benefits.

Your permanent impairment will likely be calculated using a version of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment . Your attorney should understand how these guides measure impairment for your specific condition. Sometimes a treating physician rates impairment too low, diminishing an injured claimant’s benefits. An attorney who understands the guides can see a physician’s misjudgment and seek additional expert opinion to maximize a rating and a recovery.

Is It Easy to Communicate with Your Attorney?

You should have great communication with your attorney, and you and your attorney should understand each other well. The better the communication with your attorney, the better your attorney can determine which arguments and strategy to use for your offshore injury suit. Some laws for offshore injury recovery are mutually exclusive, and your input can help your attorney determine which applies to you.

Offshore injuries are unique and present many options for recovery. Knowledge is power when selecting the right option for your case. Your attorney should have intimate knowledge of  your case and the intricacies of water-related injuries to bring you powerful results.

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