If you’ve been injured while working on a ship, the chances are that your injury is pretty serious. Maritime work is one of the toughest and most dangerous industries on earth. As an injured seaman, you may not know where to turn for help. Once you’ve sought medical attention for your immediate injuries, the best thing you can do is speak to an experienced maritime lawyer.
While you may be angry after an injury and ready to fight all the way to the courthouse, most maritime injury cases settle out of court. People often think of maritime injury settlements as being “easier” than going to court. However, the road to a fair settlement is a long one. Maritime injury settlements are highly circumstance-dependent. Settlements can range from a few hundred dollars to a few million dollars, depending on the severity of your injuries and the circumstances of your case. Reaching a maritime injury settlement can be a complex dance with insurance companies and employers. But with the right maritime attorney, seamen may see the compensation they deserve much sooner.
The Maritime Injury Settlement Process in a Nutshell
Understanding the maritime injury settlement process begins with understanding what a maritime injury is. Maritime injuries come in all shapes and sizes. Common injuries include:
- Slips, trips, and falls;
- Onshore accidents;
- Head, neck, shoulder, and back injuries;
- Chemical burns and exposures;
- Burns and smoke inhalation;
- Falls onboard and overboard; and
- Equipment accidents.
After you’ve experienced an injury like one of these, an experienced maritime attorney can help you navigate the maritime injury settlement process. Our team at Grossman Attorneys at Law has extensive experience fighting for injured seamens’ rights against insurance companies. We can help you fight for the compensation you deserve.
Seeking Medical Attention and Reporting a Maritime Injury
After a maritime injury, the most important thing to do is seek medical attention. Your health and safety should be your first priority. Once you’ve been stabilized and cleared by a hospital or doctor to go home, then your next priority should be to seek an experienced maritime attorney.
Report your injuries to your employer as soon as possible. Ideally, you should do this immediately, butt you have seven days from the time of the accident to file a claim. Make sure to collect medical records and receipts from your doctor before leaving the clinic or hospital after receiving treatment. Be sure to bring all medical information and copies of reports to your first meeting with your maritime injury settlement attorney.
Negotiating the Maritime Injury Settlement Process
Your employer may not have let you know that if you have been injured while working as a seaman, you have certain rights under federal law. These include the right to maintenance and cure regardless of how your maritime accident happened. “Maintenance” means the right to your wages, and “cure” means the right to medical care. You may also have additional rights for pain, suffering, emotional distress, and other damages under other laws.
Unfortunately, your employer or their insurance company may try to get you to waive your rights from the moment you’re injured. Be extremely wary of any forms or documents your employer asks you to sign following your accident. Even if a seaman has been severely injured, insurance companies are well-known for trying to pay the least amount of money for a claim. Maritime injury settlements are no exception.
Insurance companies or your employer may also try to blame your accident or injury on a pre-existing condition. This is especially true if your injury is non-catastrophic or is a repeated use injury. In these cases, you’ll need to have an attorney you trust completely. You’ll also have to be completely honest with your attorney so they can get you the very best settlement possible. For instance, if you think your rotator cuff tear is a maritime injury, but you may have had a weak shoulder because of a car accident 25 years ago, definitely let your attorney know!
Talking to Your Maritime Injury Settlement Attorney
The attorney-client relationship is built on trust. During the maritime injury settlement process, you’ll need to build that trust with your lawyer. They may ask you a lot of questions about your injuries, and it’s important to answer as thoroughly as possible. This helps your maritime lawyer obtain the best settlement for you. Some questions your lawyer may ask during this process include:
- How did the injury happen?
- Where did the accident take place?
- Who witnessed this accident?
- What happened immediately before and after the accident?
- Was anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident?
- Did you notice anything amiss?
- Had you previously reported any safety violations about what caused your accident?
These questions are just a sample of what your attorney might want to know about the circumstances of the accident.
During your conversations with your lawyer, they may determine that your case is covered under something called the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a law that protects seamen and provides certain remedies in addition to those available under non-maritime laws. If your lawyer believes your case is covered, then you have the option to sign a Jones Act settlement release form. The form details exactly what happens during a Jones Act settlement and what you may be entitled to. It also allows your attorney to undertake more in-depth research on your Jones Act remedies.
Obtaining a Maritime Injury Settlement
Once you and your lawyer begin the maritime injury settlement process, it typically takes about one to two months to complete. Remember, each case is highly dependent on your personal circumstances and the facts of your case. There is no set formula that each insurance company uses to guarantee a maritime injury settlement. Factors that may influence the length of time to settle and the amount received include:
- Time lost from work,
- Lost income,
- Lost earning capacity,
- The extent of injuries,
- Time to recovery (or if recovery is possible), and
- Ability to work.
Your maritime lawyer should be able to explain to you what you can expect from a maritime injury settlement. An experienced maritime lawyer should also be able to discuss the types of damages involved in your maritime injury settlement. These can include compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses, mental anguish, lost earning capacity, and more.
Disputing the Maritime Injury Settlement Amount
Because of the complexity of the Jones Act and maritime laws, it’s rare for a maritime injury to proceed to a lawsuit instead of a settlement. However, if you’re truly unhappy with how your maritime injury settlement offer is presented, your lawyer may well advise you to proceed to litigation. Typically, lawsuits arise when an employer or insurance company refuses to pay maintenance and cure as required under the law. An experienced maritime attorney, like our team at Grossman Attorneys at Law, can advise you on when a lawsuit is absolutely necessary.
Working with an Experienced Maritime Injury Lawyer
The most important thing you can do, once you’ve sought medical treatment, is to work with experienced maritime counsel. At Grossman Attorneys at Law, we work for you. Our focus is on our clients’ needs as we help them get the best maritime injury settlements possible. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. We have the experience and the know-how to help get you back on your feet.