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Maritime Injuries and Your Rights at Sea

Sailors face many dangers at sea. They face the risk of injury and death on a daily basis. When seamen are hurt they can face disabilities and lifelong medical issues. When maritime injuries occur your rights at sea are often very different from those on the land.

The laws over liability at sea are distinct from those on the land. This is a specialized area of law that our Virginia trial lawyers have handled for decades.

Hampton Roads is surrounded by the water. Massive container ships pass close to Fort Monroe to access Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, and Newport News Marine Terminal.  Naval Station Norfolk is the largest military naval base in the world.

Please contact our Virginia maritime injury attorneys if you have been hurt at sea.

What is Maritime Law?

Maritime law is also known as admiralty law. These unique laws were drawn up solely for the maritime industry to protect workers on vessels in the event of accidents, illnesses, and injuries.

Maritime laws are distinct from any other type of disability law, including worker’s compensation laws. Maritime laws only apply to people who work offshore. Because these laws are very specialized, not all attorneys have sufficient knowledge about how admiralty laws work to take on cases.

Admiralty law governs disputes on navigable waters. The definition of “navigable waters” is all waters used for interstate or foreign commerce.

When maritime law is applicable to a case, it is heard in federal court under Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. Injured seafarers may elect to file a lawsuit in state courts. However, federal law is still applicable and the defendant has the option to move a case to federal court.

Maritime or admiralty law gives sailors who are injured off the coast of Virginia or elsewhere legal recourse. Some aspects of maritime law include:

Jones Act Negligence

The Jones Act is named after its sponsor Senator Wesley R. Jones, from Washington State. It was enacted as part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.

It is a federal law that gives seamen who were hurt in the course of their employment on a vessel the right to sue their employer for negligence damages. Under the Jones Act, a maritime employer has a duty to provide the seaman with a reasonably safe place to work. The employer must use ordinary care to maintain and keep the vessel on which the seaman works in a reasonably safe condition.

The Jones Act imposes strict requirements on the employers of seamen. Almost any unsafe condition on a ship, however small, can lead to Jones Act liability. An employer may be held liable under the Jones Act for such unsafe conditions as:

  • Oil or grease on a deck
  • Poorly maintained equipment
  • A failure to adequately train seamen or crew
  • Failure to give seamen the proper equipment to allow them to do their work
  • Failure to require the crew to abide by safe work methods

The burden of proof needed to show negligence under the Jones Act is lower than that required to hold a motorist liable.  In order to prove causation, the plaintiff need only prove the employer’s negligence played any part, no matter how small, in the plaintiff’s injuries.

Maintenance and Cure

Maintenance and cure are benefits afforded to an injured seaman from an employer over the course of his or her recovery. An injured seaman is entitled to receive these benefits regardless of fault for the injury.

Maintenance means the accommodation of the injured seaman while he or she is recovering from the injury at home. The concept is derived from the obligation of an employer to provide room and board while the seaman is on a ship.

Maintenance may include a seaman’s rent or mortgage, property utilities, taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and food.

Cure is an injured seaman’s reasonable and necessary medical expenses, as well as the cost of transportation for getting reasonable and necessary medical treatment. This is comparable with workers’ compensation on land. The injured seaman should not have to pay anything toward medical treatment for the work-related injury. Unlike Jones Act negligence, maintenance and cure is not fault-based.

Liability for Unseaworthy Vessels

Maritime law places the onus on the owner of a vessel to maintain the vessel in a seaworthy condition.  When machinery, rigging or any other aspect of a vessel is defective, an injured crew member can make a claim for damages under general maritime law.

Third-Party Claims Brought by Shipyard Workers, Stevedores, & Longshoremen

Hampton Roads with its many naval bases and shipyards sees frequent accidents involving workers. On occasions, shipyard workers are killed or contract deadly diseases from chemical exposure.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act confers employment-injury and occupational-disease protection to thousands of workers who are injured or suffer serious occupational diseases occurring on the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining areas.

The legislation covers workers who unload and load ships and marine construction workers.

Workers have certain rights under the Longshore Act, including:

  • The right to an initial free choice of physician. The employer cannot pick the doctor for you.
  • The right to reinstatement of back wages following termination for filing a claim or seeing compensation under the act.
  • The right to temporary total disability payments while not working must be determined by your treating physician as opposed to the company doctor.
  • A provision for your employer to pay temporary disability payments and any permanent disability payments.
  • Temporary disability payments equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wage for the 52 weeks prior to your disability if you are not able to return to your job following an injury.


Contact an Experienced Virginia Maritime Injury Lawyer

At the Smith Law Center, we have been helping people since 1949. Sailors, longshoremen, or stevedores can suffer serious injuries like traumatic brain injuries at sea. Our attorneys have a long track record of attaining high verdicts in TBI cases. Please call us at (757) 244-7000.

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If you or a relative had a severe reaction to military housing mold, it might be time to talk with a toxic mold lawyer. Mold is everywhere, and can be dangerous. Researchers have linked mold to serious respiratory illnesses in some individuals.

Smith Law Center may be able to help if a property owner failed to keep you safe from mold in your military housing. We are one of Virginia’s oldest and most successful firms. We know how to hold negligent property owners responsible, especially when the military is involved.

Call us at (757) 244-700 or contact us online to set up a free consultation. There’s no fee for learning more about Virginia mold laws, your rights, and your legal options.

Mold in Military Housing

Black mold in military housing became widely known when Reuters published an investigation in 2018. Since then, the Department of Defense and the housing providers were supposed to take steps to improve the situation.

Unfortunately, a 2020 audit by the DoD Office of Inspector General found many issues, including the need for mold remediation, still persist.

Monetary Awards in Military Housing Toxic Mold Cases

If the property owner lets toxic mold run wild and continue to cause you harm, talk with our toxic mold attorneys about filing a lawsuit.

You may receive financial compensation for:

Service members and their families do not receive different types of damages than civilians. These are civil lawsuits in traditional courts of law.

Military Housing Mold Toxicity Symptoms

The Institute of Medicine discovered there was evidence connecting exposure to indoor mold with:

  • Upper respiratory tract symptoms;
  • Coughing;
  • Wheezing;
  • Asthma symptoms in individuals with asthma; and
  • Hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals with weak immune systems.

There is also limited evidence that mold causes respiratory illnesses in healthy children or causes people to develop asthma.

Understanding Exposure to Toxic Mold in Military Housing

The topic of toxic mold is complicated. This Is in part because the term “toxic mold” isn’t accurate. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains mold isn’t toxic or poisonous. However, some molds are toxigenic, which means they produce toxins called mycotoxins.

Mold is common in military housing because it’ll grow anywhere there’s moisture. That includes on and inside walls, carpet, upholstery, wallpaper, and heating and air conditioning systems. This is especially pronounced in humid conditions such as those present in Virginia.

Some people have no difficulties around mold, even large infestations in their homes. Other individuals are sensitive to molds, including those that produce mycotoxins. Someone can have a severe reaction when exposed to a large amount of mold indoors.

People may be more likely to experience mold toxicity symptoms if they have:

  • Allergies,
  • An underlying lung disease,
  • Immune suppression,
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder,
  • Asthma, or
  • Another chronic respiratory disease.

Common Types of Military Housing Mold

When you’re trying to learn more from the CDC and other resources, you’ll see the word “fungus” a lot. Mold is a type of fungus, which is something that exists all around us. Fungi are living organisms different from animals, plants, and bacteria. There are over 200,000 types of fungi and over 100,000 types of molds.

If you discovered mold in your military housing, it could be Cladosporium, Penicillium, Stachybotrys chartarum, Aspergillus, or many other types. Stachybotrys is what everyone knows as black mold. Aspergillus is a common indoor fungus, which releases mycotoxins and can cause illness. Your symptoms may resemble common allergy or asthma symptoms.

Who is Liable for Military Housing Mold?

Since 1996, most military housing has come under the management of private companies:

  • Belfour Beatty Communities: Fort Eustis and Fort Story/li>
  • Lincoln Military Housing: Dahlgren, Little Creek, Naval Station Norfolk, Northwest Annex, Oceana, Portsmouth, Quantico, and Yorktown/li>
  • Hunt Military Communities: Fort Lee and Langley AFB

Outside of Virginia, Lendlease and Corvias Military Living are two more housing providers. Together, these five companies formed the Military Housing Association.

Military families living in on-base housing must take their complaints to their private management company — not the military. The company is responsible for providing habitable conditions and making repairs, including mold remediation.

If you’re unsure about your rights, review your state law and local ordinances about mold. In general, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to provide a habitable unit, which means it has to be safe to live in. A unit isn’t safe if it’s causing a tenant health issues due to mold.

The Virginia Residential Landlord and Tenant Act requires landlords to disclose if there’s mold in the written report of the move-in inspection. If a tenant discovers visible mold in the unit, then the Act requires the landlord to remove the mold and relocate the tenant until it’s gone at no additional cost to the tenant.

Unfortunately, many families find their housing providers aren’t receptive to complaints. Attorney Stephen M. Smith has handled many mold lawsuits against military housing providers who fail to abide by their lease terms and the law when it comes to mold remediation and other hazards.

Other Hazards in Military Housing

Many service members and their families deal with uncomfortable, if not hazardous, conditions in privatized military housing, including:

Lead Paint: Lead-based paint can cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, irritability, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures, organ damage, and in extreme cases, death.

Asbestos: Exposure to asbestos harms a person’s lungs, and can lead to lung fibrosis (scarring), lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Radon: Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. It naturally forms underground, however cracks and gaps in buildings lead to over-exposure indoors.

Poor Water Quality: Dozens of military sites have water with detectable levels of harmful chemicals.

Other issues involve rodent or insect infestations, pesticides, and faulty electrical wiring.

What Happens When a Lot of People Get Sick?

Sometimes mold exposure impacts a single individual or family. However, when the mold spreads throughout military housing, it can impact hundreds or thousands of people.

Occasionally, a large enough group of people are injured to allow for a class action or mass tort lawsuit. A class action lawsuit is one where a class representative acts as the plaintiff on behalf of the group of hurt individuals. Not every victim participates in the lawsuit. There are rules about when a group is big and similar enough to create a class action.

Mass tort lawsuits are different. When there are fewer plaintiffs who have their own set of circumstances, each person files a lawsuit. For efficiency’s sake, one or a couple of law firms may represent most plaintiffs, and the lawsuits are consolidated in a federal court.

Call the Military Housing Mold Lawyers at Smith Law Center for Help Right Away

Mold cases come about in a few ways. You or a loved one may start getting sick, and after weeks or months of struggling to find answers, you finally realize your military housing has a mold infestation. In other cases, you struggle with visible mold and then become ill.

Once you connect the illness with the mold, it’s time to talk with a toxic mold lawyer. Reaching out to an attorney early helps you build a strong compensation claim. We know how to collect evidence, identify who is liable, and craft a successful argument for a settlement or court award.

Attorney Stephen M. Smith has decades of experience handling injury claims and has been internationally recognized for his work. He has litigated cases involving catastrophic injuries and complex legal and scientific issues. In 2019, he was inducted into the Virginia Lawyers Hall of Fame.

You’re in good hands when you come to Smith Law Center for help. Reach out online or call (757) 244-7000 to schedule your 100% free consultation.

Military Housing Mold Lawsuits: FAQs

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