If you have been injured and believe that you fall under the protection of the Maritime Jones Act, the first thing you should do is seek the advice of an experienced “Maritime Attorney.” Get his or her advice before signing anything, making a statement, or talking to your employer’s insurance company representatives. Most employers are honest and trustworthy, and their primary concern is to see that you are all right. However, there are a few things that you should be aware of, to protect yourself until you find an experienced maritime injury attorney:
- Reporting the Injury:As soon as you’ve been injured, you need to report it to your supervisors. Please do NOT give a recorded statement until you’ve talked to your Maritime Act attorney, and he or she is present. If your employer, his attorney, or insurance representative asks you to give a recorded statement, tell them you’ll be happy to do so once your attorney is present. Anything you say now could hurt you later on – especially if the person asking you questions is doing it to protect your employer, not you.
- Signing anything to get medical benefits or maintenance payments:Other than signing a release at the hospital or doctor’s office – that says you agree to allow them to take the steps they deem necessary to provide you with proper medical care, you are NOT required to sign any statements prepared by your employer or his representatives. Before signing anything else, talk to your maritime act attorney to ensure that under all the “legal-else,” you’re not signing away any of your rights under the Jones Act.
- Getting medical care:You are NOT required to only see or be under the care of “company” doctors. You have the right – and always should – pick doctors that you are comfortable with, who are competent to treat your injuries and that you’re comfortable with. Sadly, many “company affiliated” medical providers are under pressure to force you into going back to work before you’re ready, and there have been cases where necessary tests are not done (to avoid revealing the true extent of injuries), or where the providers’ statements and observations are written in such a way to support the employer’s case, not you and your injuries.
- Receiving Medical Benefits and Maintenance Payments:Called “maintenance and cure” you are entitled to receive medical care and appropriate support payments to help you cover your living expenses until you are fully recovered for your injuries. The only exception to this is if you were injured while you were “off the job” or intentionally injured yourself. However, if you are told by your employer or his or her advisors that they are refusing to provide you with the benefits you’re entitled to because they have determined that you are at fault, or that your employer is not at fault, you are strongly advised to talk to an experienced “maritime act attorney” and get legal advice as soon as possible.
- Receiving further damages for pain and suffering:Under the law, you are entitled to receive medical benefits and maintenance support, as previously mentioned. However, depending on the extent of your injuries and if it is proven that your employer was negligent or the vessel you were working was unseaworthy, then you may be entitled to receive further medical care beyond maximum medical “improvement,” a settlement to recover your lost wages – and even against future wages – and “pain and suffering and mental anguish” damages. Again, this is why you need to consult with an experienced “maritime act attorney” who can give you competent legal advice about your rights.
In conclusion: If you are a sailor, a seaman, or an employee who is injured on the job, you have the right to receive medical care, maintenance payments to help you pay your bills, and recover from your injuries. Don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise. Never sign any legal documents given to you by a representative of your employer until you’ve had your attorney go over them first.
It’s in your best interest to find an attorney who is experienced with maritime law and who you feel is competent and will have your best interests at heart. Most attorneys will give you a free consultation with no strings attached, so use that first interview to ask questions about their background, experience, and working procedures. Ensure that you receive all the help and protection that you’re allowed under the Maritime and Jones Act laws.