If you’re a seaman and you’ve been injured while on the job, you may be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act and general maritime law. However, maritime rules are quite different from other types of work injury laws, and without moving forward properly, you may risk your chances of getting what you’re entitled to. There are quite a few common mistakes that many maritime workers have made in the past. Before you proceed with your own case, consider the following errors in judgement that previous seamen have made:
Waiting Too Late to Report Injuries
One of the most common mistakes that maritime workers make is not reporting injuries in time. It may be because the injury seems to minor to report or perhaps they just couldn’t find the time. However, no matter how minor your injury may appear, you’ll need to report what happened immediately to your employer. If you continue working after you’ve been injured without reporting the incident, there is a good chance that the damages you are entitled to may be decreased. Additionally, a minor injury might actually be much more serious than you think and in turn will grow considerably more painful as time goes on. If you fail to report the injury and continue to work, your employer and/or insurance company may argue that your injuries didn’t take place at work.
Retaining the Wrong Attorney
Maritime law is unique and as previously mentioned, no other type of law for workers is the same. An experienced maritime injury lawyer is trained and experienced in all facets of maritime laws and acts. Hiring an inexperienced lawyer who doesn’t specialize specifically in maritime lawsuits can greatly hinder the outcome of your case. Attorneys, like many doctors, have specific specialities they focus on, and choosing an attorney who doesn’t possess an established track record in maritime law can result in you losing your case entirely. For example, if you have a medical issue with your back, you wouldn’t choose a physician who specializes in eye disorders. The same situation applies to attorneys. Although there are many attorneys that will tell you that they can handle your case since they specialize in personal injury, it’s not the same as having an attorney who understands and has in-depth knowledge and experience in seaman rights and maritime law.
Signing Paperwork Too Quickly
Although it’s crucial that you report your injuries immediately to your employer and fill out an accident form, this doesn’t mean you should sign any other type of paperwork. Your employer and/or an insurance adjuster may use tactics to coerce or trick you into signing away your legal rights. Keep in mind that an insurance company is a business, and most insurance adjusters will try to find ways to either reduce the compensation and benefits you’re entitled or deny your claim altogether. If you sign paperwork before fully understanding the written language, you may just be throwing away your legal rights.
Furthermore, be aware that your company more than likely already has a legal team in place that deals with injury issues. This legal team most certainly isn’t interested in offering the highest benefits and compensation possible. On the contrary, they are interested in protecting their clients, be it your employment company, a vessel owner, and more. They will attempt a myriad of angles to reduce or deny your claim. Always consult with an experienced maritime attorney before signing anything.
For additional on your legal rights and what injured seamen are entitled to, see our article Maritime Rights and Compensation.