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A Maritime Lawyers Take On The Recent Key West Boat Winch Accident

Charles R. Lipcon

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Charles R. Lipcon is the firm’s founder and one of the preeminent maritime attorneys in the United States. Mr. Lipcon has been handling maritime lawsuits – including personal injury, wrongful death, sexual assault and rape – for over 40 years. In that time, he and his firm have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.

This week, a U.S. Coast Guard t MH-65 Dolphin helicopter flying out of Key West delivered a rescue swimmer to a 67-foot shrimping trawler named Lexi Joe after a 56-year-old crewman was injured in a winch accident. The rescue operation took place in hazardous conditions, which precluded the option of an air hoist. The shrimp boat was located 47 miles off of Key West when the crewman’s clothing became entangled in the winch causing a severe leg injury. The Coast Guard rescue worker was able to render aid aboard the Lexi Joe until it could arrive on Stock Island where the crewman could be transferred to a hospital.

As maritime lawyers headquartered in Miami, media-worthy events that fall under our areas of practice always catch our attention. While not all at-sea injuries involve dramatic air rescues in high winds, however, injuries at sea are commonplace on fishing boats and other types of commercial vessels. These accidents generally fall under the Jones Act, which among other things, protects crew members involved in accidents. We’ve handled hundreds of similar cases involving injured crew members all over the world. The following are some of the questions that injured sea workers frequently have after a similar injury.

What Is The Average Settlement Amount For A Boat Winch Accident Case?

The settlement figures for Jones Act lawsuits hinge on the amount of damages for each particular case. Winch incidents are generally very serious and recently our maritime law firm has resolved two winch accident cases, each for several million dollars. To evaluate each case, our maritime law attorneys will look at the following factors:

  • The wages lost from being out of work as a result of the injury
  • The cost of all medical treatment
  • Future medical costs
  • Future lost or diminished wages
  • Pain and suffering to the plaintiff, or in the case of a wrongful death at sea, to the family

One of our Jones Act attorneys can review your case and calculate a fair and full settlement amount for your at-sea injuries.

We have successfully handled numerous winch related injury cases including several catastrophic injury cases that resulted in confidential seven figure settlements. We are also currently handling a sailboat winch case that led to a significant multi finger amputation.

Am I Covered By My Insurance From A Boat Winch Accident?

Almost all commercial vessels that employ crews carry insurance for Jones Act claims. If you are a crew member who spends more than 30% of your time on a vessel operating in navigable waters, you are covered under the Jones Act. Unlike land-based personal injury claims, for you to recover damages under the Jones Act, your maritime law attorneys only need to prove some level of negligence by the company that owns the vessels. A situation like this, where the exposed moving parts of a winch are likely to draw in loose clothing, could show sufficient liability on the part of the owner of the Lexi Joe. In this case, a claim for damages would fall under the Jones Act and the crewman can recover damages.

Boat Winch Laws

The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) publishes safety requirements for onboard winches. Some of these include:

  • The moving parts of winches must be guarded.
  • Winches can not be used if their levers have excessive friction or play.
  • Double-gear winches and clutch winches must be equipped with a gear shift lock.
  • All winch malfunctions that could prove to be dangerous must be reported immediately.
  • Winch brakes must be monitored during use.
  • Unattended winches must have their control levers in a neutral position and the power must be shut off.

This is not a comprehensive list of all OSHA winch safety regulations and there are many causes of winch accidents that may be in violation of agency regulation.

Why You Need The Experienced Attorneys At Lipcon On Your Side

Working around heavy machinery on vessels is inherently dangerous and the cause of many at-sea accidents. If you are injured while working aboard a commercial vessel, you could be facing a long recovery period. You need an attorney on your side that not only knows about Jones Act claims involving your specific type of accident but also has extensive knowledge of maritime law. The attorneys at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. have over a hundred years of combined maritime and admiralty litigation experience. We have tried accident cases in courtrooms all over the world with a high level of success. In other words, we win big settlements and awards for our clients. Contact us to speak to an attorney now. All consultations are free and we work on a contingency basis.

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