Injuries are not uncommon in maritime jobs, and if you work as a seaman, longshoreman, or offshore oil rig worker, you know this all too well. Maritime workers often face rough conditions at sea; they use dangerous equipment on a daily basis; and they often work long hours in physically demanding jobs. Injuries happen often, and when they do, workers are entitled to compensation.
If you get hurt on the job, you may be surprised to find that your employer either denies you compensation or that you are offered a small amount. You have a right to file a claim or lawsuit under whichever maritime law applies to your situation and to fight for the full compensation you are owed. If you have to take that step, you will probably end up in a settlement. Maritime injury settlements are more common than trials because they are quicker and cheaper. If you have been injured in a maritime job, let an experienced lawyer help guide you through this complicated process.
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What to Do When Injured on the Job
It’s not difficult to get hurt on the job, and if you do there are some important steps you need to take to ensure you can get access to compensation. The two most important things to do are getting medical treatment and ensuring that an accident report is filed. Depending on how serious your injuries are, you may need to get medical treatment first. Keep records of your treatment. As soon after the accident as is possible, get an accident report on file at work. Medical documents and your accident report will help you make your case if you have to fight for compensation.
If you do everything right and your employer denies you that money or tries to offer you a smaller amount than you think you deserve, you can fight to get more. You can do this by filing a claim under an applicable law. For instance, if you qualify as a seaman, you will file a claim under the Jones Act. To help you figure out which law applies and how to proceed, find an experienced maritime attorney.
What You Can Recover in a Settlement
Once you have filed a claim you, your next step will likely be a settlement. You will definitely want an experienced lawyer to represent you and to argue your case. This representative will do his or her best to get you the maximum settlement possible. To determine what you are owed, you need to consider medical bills, both those you have already incurred and those for any future treatment you may need. You should also consider lost wages and even lost future wages. If you are permanently disabled you may not be able to earn as much as you did before the accident. Maritime injury settlements may also provide compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and benefits for dependent loved ones.
Settlement Mistakes to Avoid
In fighting for the compensation you are owed, there are many possible missteps that may result in you not getting as much money as you need or even none at all. A big mistake you might make is not using the services of an experienced lawyer. The claims and settlement process is complicated and you need the expertise of this professional to help you get the maximum compensation. Another mistake you might make is settling for an initial offer from your employer. Your employer may want you to sign away your right to ask for future compensation by offering you an immediate, but small amount. Never accept an offer without speaking to an attorney first.
Finally, a common mistake too many injured maritime workers make is waiting too long to act. Most federal maritime laws have a statute of limitations. Get your accident report in, your medical treatment and records, and decide quickly whether you need to file a claim or not. Again, a lawyer can help you make this choice and can ensure that you don’t miss deadlines and forfeit your right to get compensation from a settlement.
What a Settlement Provides
Compensation that is on the table in most settlements will vary depending on the situation and the law that applies in the case. If you were injured on the job, there are many ways in which the accident could cost you money. There are the immediate medical bills, but there may also be future medical bills. If you can’t return to work, you have lost wages to consider. If your injury is permanent, you may even be facing a long-term reduction in wages you can earn. Additionally you may face pain and suffering, mental anguish, or survivor benefits if you are the dependent of a loved one who died on the job. You can address all of these in a settlement.
Examples of Settlements
Personal injury settlements for maritime workers occur all the time. Injuries are common in maritime settings and not all employers are willing to pay out until forced to do so. Claims filed by injured workers are likely to end in settlements because they are easier than trials. Many settlements are small, but some are large and newsworthy. For example, the U.S. ship El Faro sank in 2015 in a hurricane. All 33 crew members went down with the ship. The families of these unfortunate crew members were entitled to compensation and were offered $500,000 each in a settlement.
In an even larger case, a man working aboard a ship suffered serious injuries following an accident with a mooring line. The seaman had been mooring the ship to a tugboat, and before he had completed the task his captain signaled the tug to move forward. The moor line snapped back and struck the seaman resulting in multiple, lasting injuries including brain damage. Because of the captain’s error and the long-term nature of the injuries, the seaman was able to collect $2 million in a settlement under the Jones Act.
When a Settlement Cannot Be Resolved
Not all maritime injury settlements end satisfactorily for both sides. If you are negotiating in a settlement for injury compensation and you don’t like what is offered, you don’t have to accept it. The settlement can go to arbitration, but you have to abide by the third-party decision. Another option may be to take your case to trial. In this situation, either a judge or a jury will decide your case, but unlike arbitration your lawyer will have the chance to litigate and argue your case.
If you are faced with an injury that occurred at your maritime job, you have a right to receive adequate compensation for such things as medical expenses and lost wages. If you are forced to file a claim for that compensation, you will likely end up in a settlement. With the guidance of an experienced maritime attorney, you should be able to get a satisfactory result.