Medical negligence can be devastating for a victim, leading to worsened health conditions, emotional trauma, and financial strain. Because of these life-altering consequences, victims have the right to seek compensation under federal maritime laws.

A medical malpractice lawyer plays a major role in the legal process, aiming to get maximum compensation and justice for the victim. Below, BoatLaw, LLP will explain important information about medical negligence, including types, causes, legal options for victims, potential compensation, and how a lawyer aids in this process.

Maritime Medical Negligence Lawyers

If you or a loved one have suffered injury as a result of medical negligence while at sea, then you deserve compensation. The personal maritime injury lawyers at Boatlaw, LLP are ready to represent you in a court of law and ensure that you receive the compensation that you deserve.

Call 1 (800) 262-8529 to schedule a confidential consultation. BoatLaw, LLP represents injured maritime workers in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska.

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Medical Emergencies at Sea

Medical problems at sea, especially near Alaska, Oregon, California, and Washington, can range from common issues like seasickness to life-threatening conditions like hypothermia and injuries from accidents. The isolation of maritime settings makes access to medical care challenging, prompting the need for well-equipped medical facilities on board larger vessels. In the cold waters of Alaska, for example, hypothermia is a significant risk for anyone falling overboard. Additionally, the physical demands of maritime work can lead to musculoskeletal injuries, which are common among seafarers. Mental health issues like depression and anxiety are also prevalent among those who spend extended periods at sea.

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Types of Maritime Medical Negligence

Maritime medical negligence involves failure in providing appropriate medical care to individuals on ships or in maritime environments. One type of negligence is misdiagnosis, where a medical professional incorrectly diagnoses a patient’s condition, leading to wrong or delayed treatment. Another type is medication errors, which occur when patients receive incorrect medications or dosages. Improper treatment is also a type of negligence, where the treatment provided does not align with the standard medical practices for a specific condition. Negligence can also occur because of failure to treat, where a medical professional does not provide any treatment for a condition, leading to worsening of the patient’s health. Lastly, surgical errors are a serious form of negligence that involve mistakes during surgical procedures.

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Causes of Maritime Medical Negligence

Limited access to medical resources and personnel on ships can lead to inadequate treatment or misdiagnosis. The isolated maritime environments often means that there are fewer options for medical care, which can contribute to negligence. Inexperience or lack of training among medical staff on board can also be a factor, as it may lead to errors in diagnosis or treatment. Furthermore, the demanding and stressful conditions in maritime settings can result in oversights or mistakes by healthcare professionals.

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Common Victims in Maritime Medical Negligence Cases

Victims of maritime medical negligence typically include seafarers, fishermen, cruise ship passengers, and other individuals working or traveling in maritime environments. These individuals are more susceptible to negligence because of the unique conditions at sea, like remote locations and limited access to medical care. Workers on oil rigs and in the commercial shipping industry are also at risk, as they often operate in environments far from traditional medical facilities.

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Where Maritime Medical Negligence Happens

Maritime medical negligence can happen in several locations, including along the West Coast of the United States. In Washington, it often occurs in busy port areas and on fishing vessels operating off the coast. California, with its long coastline and numerous ports, sees negligence on commercial ships and cruise liners. Oregon, known for its fishing industry, experiences these issues on fishing boats and smaller maritime vessels. Alaska, with its harsh and remote maritime environment, has cases of medical negligence on ships involved in fishing and oil exploration. The surrounding sea areas of these states are also common places where maritime medical negligence occurs.

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Legal Actions for Maritime Medical Negligence

In cases of maritime medical negligence, several parties can be held responsible. Medical professionals on board, like doctors or nurses, can be held liable if their actions or inactions directly caused harm to a patient. To hold a doctor liable for medical negligence, a victim must prove that the doctor failed to provide the standard of care expected, this failure directly caused harm or injury, and the patient suffered damages as a result. This process involves demonstrating how the doctor’s actions deviated from accepted medical practices.

A Jones Act negligence claim for medical negligence arises when a maritime worker suffers injury or illness due to inadequate medical care provided by their employer or on the vessel. Under the Jones Act, seamen can sue their employer if negligence, including failure to provide proper medical treatment after an on-the-job injury, exacerbates their condition.

Also, unseaworthiness can be a cause of medical negligence if a ship’s lack of proper medical facilities leads to inadequate care for an injury or illness onboard. This means if a ship isn’t equipped to deal with medical emergencies, the ship could be considered unseaworthy.

Other laws may also apply depending on the specific circumstances of the case. Each of these legal options requires the victim to present their case, often with the help of a lawyer. They must gather evidence, like medical records and witness statements, to support their claim. The process involves filing a lawsuit, followed by negotiations and possibly a trial, to determine the liable parties and obtain compensation for the harm suffered.

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Potential Damages in Maritime Medical Negligence Cases

Under the Jones Act, seamen can claim compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and emotional distress caused by negligence.

Unseaworthiness claims allow for similar damages, addressing injuries resulting from unsafe conditions on a vessel.

Maintenance and cure claims ensure victims receive medical treatment and living expenses until they can return to work.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides another opportunity for compensation. This federal law covers maritime workers not included under the Jones Act, like dock workers or ship repairers, who might suffer injuries or illnesses because of medical negligence. Under LHWCA, non-seafaring maritime workers can receive compensation for medical care, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages. In cases of permanent disability, additional compensation may be available.

Wrongful death claims under the Jones Act and other federal maritime laws allow family members of a seaman who died because of medical negligence to seek damages. Under the Jones Act, the family can recover damages for the pain and suffering of the decedent prior to death, lost future earnings, and loss of support, companionship, and care to the surviving family members.

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Steps to Take After Experiencing Maritime Medical Negligence

After experiencing maritime medical negligence, the victim should immediately seek additional medical attention to ensure proper care and documentation of injuries. They should also report the incident to their supervisor or ship management as soon as possible. It is important to document all medical treatment received and keep records of any communication related to the incident. The victim should avoid signing any documents or agreements regarding the incident until they have sought legal advice. A maritime medical negligence lawyer assists victims by evaluating their case, explaining legal rights, and guiding them through the legal process.

For victims of maritime accidents, understanding the timeframe to file a lawsuit is crucial. Under the Jones Act, those injured due to employer negligence generally have three years from the incident date to initiate legal action. Similarly, claims regarding a vessel’s unseaworthiness must also be filed within a three-year period. Meanwhile, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act allows for a shorter window, offering injured workers one year to file a claim for compensation.

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Additional Resources

Investigations Division – United States Coast Guard

The United States Coast Guard’s Investigations Division oversees inquiries into incidents that may involve maritime medical negligence, like injuries requiring professional medical treatment beyond first aid. This resource is helpful for understanding the procedural parts of reporting and investigating maritime incidents that could involve medical negligence.

Vicarious Liability for Medical Malpractice – 46 USC § 30510

Federal law concerns vicarious liability for medical malpractice concerning crew members. It says that if a crewmember experiences medical malpractice at a shoreside facility, the vessel’s owner, operator, or the crewmember’s employer can involve the same limitations of liability that apply to the shoreside doctor, hospital, or other health care providers in the state where the medical care was received.

Health Services | Office of Marine and Aviation Operations

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Health Services, a part of the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations, is an important resource for addressing maritime medical care. This service is supported by the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officers and focuses on the occupational health, safety, and readiness of personnel engaging in maritime activities. NOAA Health Services offers medical programs that assess and promote mental and physical readiness for diving, flying, and sailing.

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Hire a Medical Negligence Maritime Attorney

The personal maritime injury lawyers at Boatlaw, LLP are ready to represent you in a court of law and ensure that you receive the compensation that you deserve.

Call 1 (800) 262-8529 to schedule a confidential consultation. BoatLaw, LLP represents injured maritime workers in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska.

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