The Jones Act gives injured seamen the right to sue an employer for damages when injured on the job, but there are many things that can go wrong when making a claim. Jones Act claims disputes happen when an employer wants to fight the claim and avoid paying compensation to the injured worker. The employer, or the employer’s insurance company, has the right to dispute a claim, and in some cases may be right to do so.
If you have been injured while working as a seaman and you feel your employer’s negligence played a part, you may be prepared to file a Jones Act claim. You should also be prepared for a dispute. With the guidance of an experienced lawyer you can make the best case for your claim and be ready to stand up against any disputes.
Reasons for Jones Act Claims Disputes
Employers and their insurance companies often dispute Jones Act claims and the major reason they do so is to avoid paying injured workers compensation. Even if they know they were negligent in the injury, employers will often test the will of an injured worker by disputing a claim. If you as an injured seaman are not prepared to make your case, these disputes can end up in favor of your employer. Although the underlying reason for a dispute is to save money, employers may give any number of official reasons:
- Denial of liability. A dispute of a Jones Act claim may cite denial of liability as a reason. As the injured party, the burden of proof is on the seaman to demonstrate that the employer was negligent and contributed to the injury. The burden of proof is low, but employers can still dispute that negligence.
- Lack of evidence. An employer may have been negligent in your accident, but if no one else witnessed the accident, you may lack the evidence to prove it.
- The accident report was late. Whenever an accident occurs on a vessel, it needs to be reported immediately to a supervisor. That supervisor must then complete a thorough accident report. If you are injured and you wait to report it, you could put yourself in a bad position and it can be cited by your employer as a reason for disputing your Jones Act claim.
- Medical records don’t match the accident report. You could also be facing a dispute if your medical records from treatment of the injury don’t align with the accident report. Any discrepancy could be used by your employer to make a dispute your claim and avoid paying damages.
Avoiding Jones Act Claim Disputes
You can’t always avoid a dispute when you file a Jones Act claim. Most employers, and certainly most insurance companies, will avoid paying whenever possible. It is in their best interests to make a dispute and to at least try to avoid payment. There are steps you can take if you find yourself in the position of needing to make a Jones Act claim that will make your case as strong as possible and give you the best chance of avoiding a dispute.
One of the most important things you can do is get an accident report completed soon after the incident. If you wait, the extent and nature of your injury and how it related to the accident could be called into question. You need to get the report completed while the incident is fresh in the memories of those who witnessed it to make the strongest case.
It’s also important that you get treated for your injury right away and keep accurate medical records. These will help to make your case, and without them you are vulnerable to a dispute. Carefully follow the advice of your doctor and don’t go back to work before it is recommended. If you do, your employer could claim that your injury was less serious because you returned to work early. Finally, the most important thing you can do to ensure you make a strong case and can stand up against a dispute is to work with an experienced Jones Act lawyer.
Settling Jones Act Claim Disputes
If you are faced with a dispute from your employer, you may have to go through a long process of investigations to resolve the issue. Experts will investigate the situation and try to determine whether there was negligence on the part of the employer. In most cases claims are settled between the injured seaman’s lawyer and the employer or employer’s insurance company.
When these two parties are unable to come to an agreement or a settlement for the claim, it may go to court or arbitration. To protect yourself and your rights when you have a Jones Act claim it is important to trust your case to a professional who is knowledgeable and experienced with maritime law. This will give you the best chance of avoiding or overcoming a dispute and getting your compensation.