If you are a qualified seaman and are injured on the job as a result of negligence by a vessel’s owner, officers, employer, or a fellow mariner, there are certain steps you must follow in order to file a legal claim against your employer under the Jones Act. Per admiralty law, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff when making a Jones Act personal injury claim. Be sure to follow each step of the process in order and methodically. This process is also time-sensitive, so any delay in starting the claims process can reduce your chances of getting a positive result.
If you are injured while working aboard a vessel out to sea or moored at a dock on navigable waters, you must report it immediately to the captain, your employer, or the senior officer aboard. Federal regulations give you a seven-day window to report a work-related injury for Jones Act claims, but it is best to do it as soon as conditions allow.
It is also important to seek immediate assistance from your physician, an emergency medical personnel, or your ship’s medical officer. Regardless of if the injury seems minor, you need to document everything with medical proof. In many instances, an injury that seems minor may grow to be much more significant. Make sure you have proof of any treatment you receive while aboard your ship, and request various diagnostic tests, if necessary. If possible, allow the captain to have you evacuated at sea if your ship is within range Even if the injury is not immediately life-threatening, do not try to stay on duty before reporting it. If you take too long in making a report, the vessel’s or shipping company’s insurers will assume you were not hurt enough to justify making a personal injury claim.
When you report the injury, make sure that the captain enters it in the ship’s log. In addition, be aware that the captain, your employer, or senior officer aboard must file a Report of Marine Accident, Injury, or Death (CG-2692) form per federal regulations.
File your company-provided injury report as soon as your injuries allow, but make sure you do so when your mind is not under the effects of medication. Be as detailed as possible when you fill out the injury report. Pay special attention to the section about who is at fault for your injury. If you are confused about who caused the injury, it is imperative to seek legal counsel immediately. Injured maritime workers can get coerced into taking the blame for an injury that was actually caused by employer negligence.
Make sure that the captain sends the injury report to the company’s human resources (HR) department. The HR office will then forward it to the Workers’ Compensation office, which then contacts the ship’s or fleet’s insurer.
It is important that you contact a maritime attorney who handles Jones Act cases before you take any further steps, especially if you feel your rights are being violated or you feel coerced into signing something you are not comfortable with. Your company’s insurers will attempt to get you to give them a statement as soon as they receive the CG-2692 form and other reports from the Workers’ Compensation office. Even if the insurance company representative tries to persuade you into giving a written or taped statement about your injuries, do not do it. The insurer’s job is to minimize the value of your claim and will do anything to persuade you to achieve this goal.
When you contact a Jones Act attorney, make sure that you have saved the documents needed for your case. This includes copies of the injury report, medical reports and bills related to your work-related injury, and other relevant documentation. Do not make any false statements regarding your injury. If you have to file a Jones Act lawsuit because the insurer did not pay maintenance and cure expenses, any false statement or hiding of a previous medical condition will hurt your case.