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Our Miami Barge Injury and Tugboat Accident Lawyers are Here to Help You Recover Compensation

Our tug and barge accident attorneys exclusively represent employees who were injured while working. This line of work is physically demanding and dangerous. Crew members work long hours and encounter conditions which oftentimes put them at risk of injuries and sometimes death. Injuries and deaths which most commonly occur on tugs and barges are caused by:

  • Unseaworthy decks
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Poorly maintained docks, skids, winches & cranes
  • Improper or unmaintained tools
  • Line handling accidents
  • Unspooling wire rope
  • Falling objects
  • Parting tow-mooring lines & snapbacks
  • Understaffed crew
  • Insufficiently trained co-workers
  • Inadequate railings
  • Failure to follow load plans
  • Dock collisions
  • Working excessive hours

When an accident occurs, tug and barge companies contact their insurers who appoint lawyers to look after the interest of the employers and the insurance company. It is very important that if you were injured, or a loved one lost his or her life, in a tug and barge accident contact experienced maritime lawyers to work on your behalf.

We Protect the Rights of Seaman and Crew Members 

Our tug and barge accident attorneys have represented several workers who were injured on the job. When investigating these types of claims, we often find that our clients’ accidents almost always could have been avoided if the tug and barge companies had simply followed their internal safety policies, maritime safety regulations, provided sufficient and properly trained co-workers, and maintained tools and equipment in good working order. Fortunately, the law protects crew members and their families from the negligence of marine employers, co-workers, and the unseaworthiness of the vessels they are required to work aboard.

The law entitles injured seamen to receive prompt and proper medical treatment at the employers’ expense as well as a daily living stipend. These benefits continue until a qualified doctor, not the employer or employer’s attorney, finds the injury has reached maximum medical improvement. Injured seamen are also entitled to compensation due to the accident for physical and emotional pain and suffering experienced as well as lost wages the seaman sustained in the past and will likely sustain in the future.

Families of the seaman who die while working aboard tugs and barges are entitled to recover the loss of support, services, and guidance their loved ones would have provided. If the death occurred within state waters, the estate of the seaman is entitled to recover pre-death pain and suffering. Each case is different and we recommend you contact an attorney experienced with tug & barge accidents to advise you of your legal rights.

Common Causes of Tugboat and Barge Accidents

Tugboat and barge accidents can result from a wide range of causes. Some tugboats and barges are decades old, and they are desperately in need of maintenance and repairs. Some tugboats and barges are brand new, but their captains and crewmembers lack the training they need to operate them safely. Then, of course, there is the risk of being hit by a recreational boater who is distracted or drunk at the helm.

Our Miami barge injury lawyer represents crewmembers who have been injured in accidents involving all causes. This includes common causes of tugboat and barge accidents such as:

  • Capsizing – While tugboats and barges are designed to be extremely stable, they still can – and do – capsize. Capsizing accidents can result from barges being overloaded, tugs getting pulled, loads being unevenly distributed, hazardous sea conditions, and various other factors.
  • Collisions with Other Vessels – Collisions with other vessels are serious risks for crewmembers aboard tugboats and barges. This is especially true in crowded harbors, rivers, and marinas. Whether a collision involves another commercial vessel or a recreational boater, crewmembers who suffer injuries have clear legal rights.
  • Collisions with Stationary Objects – Tugboat and barge accidents can also result from collisions with stationary objects such as day markers, breakwaters, docks, and piers. Underwater objects such as pipelines and shipwrecks present major risks as well.
  • CoWorker Negligence – On a tugboat or barge, it is extremely important that all crew members know how to perform their jobs safely. Even simple mistakes can lead to serious accidents on the water. If one of your fellow crewmembers is responsible for your injuries, our Miami barge injury lawyers may be able to pursue a claim against your employer.
  • Mechanical Failures – On tugboats, deck barges, crane barges, hopper barges, and other vessels, mechanical failures can suddenly and unexpectedly put crewmembers in harm’s way. From engine failures to hawser winch malfunctions, all types of issues have the potential to cause all types of accidents.
  • OnBoard Hazards – From moving parts to slippery decks various on-board hazards can present risks for tugboat and barge crewmembers. In many cases, these hazards can classify a tugboat or barge as “unseaworthy,” which provides injured crewmembers with specific legal rights
  • NearDrowning Accidents – near-drowning accidents from falls overboard can have life-changing consequences. The risks of these accidents can be compounded when a tugboat or barge does not have appropriate safety equipment onboard.

Are You a “Seaman” if You Work on a Tugboat or Barge?

As a tugboat or barge crewmember, it is important to know if you qualify as a “seaman.” This term has a very specific – and important – meaning under the Jones Act. If you qualify as a seaman, you can file for maintenance and cure benefits regardless of how you got injured, and you may be able to collect additional compensation if your employer is responsible for your injury.

Generally speaking, tugboat and barge crewmembers qualify as seamen under the Jones Act. To qualify, you do not need to spend your days at sea. As long as you work onboard a vessel that is operating on navigable waters (i.e. a harbor, river, or marina), you should qualify for Jones Act compensation.

Red and White tugboat sailing in water passing by Miami downtown harbor in Florida

How Much Can Injured Seamen Recover After Tugboat and Barge Accidents?

When seeking financial compensation under the Jones Act, the amount you can recover depends on two primary factors. These are: (i) the cause of the accident, and (ii) the costs of your injury.

Maintenance and cure benefits are available to an injured tugboat and barge crewmembers under the Jones Act regardless of how they got injured (with only a few very limited exceptions). These “no-fault” benefits are intended to cover injured crewmembers’ medical bills and a portion of their lost wages.

While maintenance and cure benefits are helpful – and extremely important – they do not cover all of the costs of job-related injuries. Fortunately, the Jones Act also gives injured crewmembers the right to pursue claims for negligence. If your employer was even “slightly” negligent in creating the dangerous situation that led to your injury, a Miami barge injury lawyer can help you seek full compensation for your medical needs, lost earnings, pain, and suffering, and other losses.

5 Little-Known Facts about Tugboat and Barge Crewmembers’ Rights

When seeking financial compensation after a tugboat or barge accident, there is a lot you need to know. For example, here are five little-known facts about tugboat and barge crewmembers’ rights:

1. You Can File a Claim Regardless of How You Got Injured

Many crewmembers believe that they can only file a claim if someone else is responsible for their injuries. This is not the case. Even if you accidentally injured yourself at work, you are entitled to file a claim under the Jones Act.

2. You Don’t Need Proof that Your Employer is to Blame

As mentioned above, the Jones Act entitles injured tugboat and barge crewmembers to maintenance and cure on a “no-fault” basis. This means that you do not need proof that your employer is to blame. All you need is proof that you got injured on the job.

3. It Doesn’t Matter if You Have a Pre-Existing Condition

Another common misconception is that crewmembers cannot file claims when they have pre-existing conditions. While your employer (or its insurance company) may try to use your pre-existing condition against you, you still have every right to collect just compensation for your work-related injury.

4. You May Be Entitled to More Than Standard Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Standard workers’ compensation benefits for land-based workers cover medical expenses, lost wages, and certain other out-of-pocket costs. While maintenance and cure benefits under the Jones Act provide somewhat similar coverage, filing a negligence claim under the Jones Act affords the opportunity for eligible crewmembers to recover additional compensation.

5. There is a Time Limit to Assert Your Legal Rights

You can lose your rights under the Jones Act if you wait too long to file a claim. To make sure you don’t lose your rights, you should speak with a Miami barge injury lawyer as soon as possible. 

Contact the Firm for a Free Evaluation with an Experienced Tugboat and Barge Injury Lawyer 

The Florida tug and barge accident attorneys of the law firm at Brais Law Firm have the experience to protect your rights, the compassion to serve your needs, and the skills to obtain the compensation you deserve. Our firm’s primary office is located in Miami, FL, although we routinely handle claims throughout the state of Florida. To reach our lawyers call 305-416-2901 from within Florida, call 800-499-0551 from within the U.S., or click Contact Us to complete a form for a free evaluation of your case and to learn how the “AV” Preeminent, Multi-Million Dollar Advocates and Board Certified Maritime Attorneys with Brais Law Firm might be able to help you.

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