In most instances, maritime injury lawsuits are settled out of court without having to go to trial. Yet, even though it’s definitely easier to settle than to fight in court, settlements come with their own sets of complications. Numerous factors are involved when trying to reach a maritime injury settlement, and without the right legal advice, seamen face the risk of being short-changed, with their benefits ending much sooner than they should have been.
Common Mistakes Seaman Make with Settlements
Once you’ve been injured on the job, in many instances, insurance adjusters and even your employment company start the process immediately of trying to pay the least amount possible for your injuries. It’s important to take your time when dealing with signing and filling out forms as you can be misled to sign something that prevents you from getting what you’re entitled to. For instance, if you’ve been injured while working, you have to right to maintenance and cure regardless of how the accident happened and who is responsible. In addition, you may also have rights under general maritime law for pain, suffering, lost earnings, and more.
Insurance companies, even in the maritime industry, are notorious for trying to settle low with injured workers and save as much money as possible. An experienced maritime injury lawyer understands these tactics, and will ensure that all your rights are being met before you sign any documentation. Additionally, there is a chance that your injuries may get blamed on pre-existing conditions or because of fault of your own, which will get employers off the hook for liability. These scenarios are among just a few of the tactics that employers and insurance companies do in order to get out of paying you what’s rightfully yours. As a result, you need to fully understand how general maritime law works and what you are rightfully entitled to before you sign any paperwork. In fact, it’s a good idea to have your attorney look over all of your paperwork before signing anything in order to even the playing field against the insurance company and/or your employer.
How the Settlement Process Works
Your maritime attorney will need answers to several different questions before starting the settlement process, including:
- Where did the injury take place?
- Were you working when the injury happened?
- What events surrounded the accident?
It’s imperative to seek medical assistance as soon as possible. You’ll also need to report the accident and your injuries to your employer immediately. In most instances, you’re allowed seven days from the time of the accident to file a claim, so it’s important to get the proof established immediately to cover your bases. Make sure to bring all of your medical documentation to your maritime lawyer.
If your attorney determines that your injuries are covered under general maritime law and the Jones Act, you’ll need sign a Jones Act settlement release form, which allows your attorney to research the incident in-depth.The Jones Act release form consists of several pages that detail exactly what will happen during the settlement process and what you’re entitled to.
How Long Does Compensation Take?
Once your attorney starts the settlement process, it usually takes between 30 to 60 days before you get compensation, but keep in mind that this is only an average time period for cases. The time it takes will greatly depend on you case details and the severity surrounding your injuries.
There is no set rate that determines how much compensation your settlement will bring you. Several factors are included during the settlement process, including the time you’ve lost from work, the time it will take you to recover, the seriousness of your injuries, and more. Since each maritime injury case is unique, it’s difficult to determine the amount you should expect. However, your attorney will be able to discuss your compensation amount and what to expect with you.
Types of Damages Covered in Maritime Settlements
As mentioned earlier, there are several types of damages that may be covered under your maritime injury settlement. The types of damages covered will depend upon your individual case, but some of most common compensation for maritime injuries include:
- Mental and emotional anguish
- Pain and suffering
- Disfigurement (if applicable)
- Lost earning, including future lost earning capacity
- Medical and living expenses
What if I Don’t Agree with the Settlement Amount?
Although most maritime lawsuits end in settlements, there are still instances in which a settlement amount cannot be agreed upon or other factors that prohibit a settlement from being reached. In these cases, your maritime lawyer will most likely prepare your case for trial.
For information regarding the trial process in maritime lawsuits, see our article Maritime Lawsuit.