If you are injured at work on a seagoing vessel, you have rights under the Jones Act to receive maintenance and cure. Unfortunately, not all employers or their insurance companies are willing to pay what is owed in the case of negligence that causes an injury. If you experience this refusal to pay, you may need to file a Jones Act claim to get the damages you deserve, but it may not be settled right away or easily.
What is Arbitration?
Not all Jones Act claims are easily settled. Some require litigation, while others require arbitration. Your employer may push for arbitration. Arbitration of claims means using a third party to settle the outcome of your claim. This is someone not connected to you or your employer, so that he or she is unbiased. The outcome is final and cannot be appealed. It is possible, although unlikely, that you have an arbitration clause in your employment contract. If you do not, you cannot be forced into arbitration to settle a Jones Act claim.
Employers Favor Arbitration
Arbitration is not always bad for you as the plaintiff. It may work out in your favor. However, you should understand why your employer might push for arbitration as a resolution to your claim. One reason is that arbitration tends to result in a smaller payout for the employer or insurance company. Another reason is that a trial can be expensive and arbitration provides a more cost-effective solution.
While the desire to save money by avoiding a trial is understandable, you should never be pressured into arbitration if you don’t feel it will go in your favor. Some employers stoop to low levels to force arbitration, such as threatening to stop your medical payments. This is an illegal practice, but it has happened. Another, less extreme, tactic is to try to convince you to go with arbitration by stating that it will be quicker and will get you compensation sooner. This may be true, but you may also end up with less compensation.
Why Jones Act Arbitration May Not Be in Your Favor
It’s true that arbitration may take less time than a trial you may lose out on compensation that you deserve if you go through this process. It can be tempting to choose arbitration, especially if your employer offers you a small payment right away. The truth is that this limits your possible total compensation in the future. Another disadvantage of arbitration is that it is final. You have very little recourse to get a decision altered if you think it is unfair. On top of this, arbitration tends to favor the employer over the employee.
When Your Employer Pressures You on Arbitration
Your employer should not be pressuring you or coercing you in any way to agree to a Jones Act arbitration for your claim. It is unethical, and in some cases depending on the method of coercion, illegal. If you feel like you are being pressured to agree to something that makes you feel uncomfortable, or that you don’t understand, talk to your lawyer before doing anything.
Once you sign an arbitration agreement, you have few options left. You will have to abide by the ruling of the arbitrator. Your experienced and knowledgeable attorney can help you get through this process and understand what your employer is trying to get you to do. With the right representation you can get an outcome that is fair and provides the compensation you deserve.