The maritime industry is a dangerous one and if you work on a ship, on an offshore rig, or in a harbor setting, you risk being injured every day on the job as the result of an accident. For this reason, federal maritime law is in place to protect workers and to provide money for accident-related expenses. Depending on your duties and where you work, you may qualify under one or more laws and have the right to sue when you are injured and not provided with compensation.
Many employers and their insurance companies attempt to minimize what they pay out when workers are injured, often by claiming they were not negligent or responsible and attempting to shift blame to the injured worker. Thanks to maritime laws, if you are being denied compensation, you can file a claim and a lawsuit to get that money. Most of these cases get settled out of court, but when the dispute cannot be resolved that way, there are maritime injury trials and either a judge or a jury makes a final decision. If you are an injured worker facing denied compensation, you probably won’t go to trial, but you can benefit from the guidance of an experienced maritime attorney.
Injuries on the Job
There are many ways in which you may be injured while working at a maritime job. If you are a seaman stationed on a vessel at sea, you may face long working hours, grueling physical work, rough waters, and bad weather conditions. You are at risk for being injured by shifting cargo, fishing equipment, winches, fish processing equipment, onboard fires or by other workers, depending on what your duties are. You are also at risk of falling overboard, being attacked by another worker, or tripping and falling on obstacles, off of ladders, and from staircases and walkways.
Even if you are not a seaman, but you work in the industry either as a longshoreman or harbor worker or as an offshore worker, you face a lot of hazards in your work, including equipment malfunctions, truck accidents, cargo accidents, personnel carrier accidents, and falling into the water. No matter how you are injured on the job, or what that job is, if you are hurt, you have rights and those need to be recognized by your employer.
Several maritime laws ensure that workers in all areas of the industry are entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and more. To ensure you get what you deserve, you need to be smart about the actions you take after getting hurt. It is important to get immediate medical treatment and to keep records of that treatment, and it is important to get an accident report completed and filed.
Filing a Claim
Taking those steps after being injured is so crucial because many injured workers will face an employer or employer’s insurance company that refuses to pay out. In fact, many employers will try to get workers to settle for a small amount and to sign away their rights to sue later for more damages. If you have been hurt it is essential that you take action quickly to get medical care and an accident report, but never sign or agree to a settlement without considering all your options.
Your detailed and timely accident report will help your claim because it should provide information about what happened so that blame can be found or so that you can be sure you are not blamed for doing something wrong. Your medical records also help you in your claim by providing proof that your accident caused injuries or illness. These should be completed as soon as possible after an accident so that all information is fresh in the minds of witnesses and most likely to be accurate.
If you believe you are entitled to more than your employer is offering, you can file a claim under federal maritime laws. This may end in your employer giving in and paying you, going into a settlement, or even going into a maritime injury trial to find a resolution. Regardless of how it ends, it all begins with that claim. If you are unsure which claim to file or which law applies to you, or just what step to take next, your best move is to consult with an experienced maritime lawyer for advice. This professional can help you maneuver the complicated laws and represent you against your employer’s lawyers.
Finding a Maritime Lawyer
Getting a good maritime lawyer is crucial when you have been injured and are considering filing a claim. You can do it all yourself, but you likely don’t have the expertise to get through the process without making mistakes and to get all the compensation you are owed. Whether your case goes to trial or not, a lawyer will know what steps to take, how to file, what forms are necessary, and can help settle your case, either in a settlement or by litigating a trial. Make sure you find a lawyer who has had previous success in getting injured workers compensation and who will be willing to go to trial if necessary.
Settlement or Trial?
If your claim makes it to the settlement stage, your lawyer will try to get you the maximum compensation. You always have the right, however, to reject a settlement and to take your case to trial. You have to weigh the likelihood of a judge or jury sympathizing with you against your employer with the amount your employer is guaranteeing you will get in a settlement. It is a tough choice to make and a lawyer can give you good advice.
Not many cases go to trial, as settlements are easier and less expensive. There have been some high-profile cases, though, and many have ended in favor of the injured worker. Whether or not you have the right to go to trial by jury or in front of the judge depends on the state, the court, and other factors. This complication is yet another reason it is so important to rely on the expertise of a maritime lawyer to navigate the system.
In one interesting and important recent case, a U.S. District Judge decided that plaintiffs suing BP over the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico, had the right to demand a jury trial. The plaintiffs have long been engaged in a class action suit over the right to medical benefits. The decision could have far-reaching implications, but ensured that these injured workers could take their case to a jury.
Maritime injury trials are not common, but they are sometimes necessary. If you are injured, denied benefits, and are unhappy with settlement offers, you may choose to take your case to trial. If you do, be prepared for a long road ahead. Trials don’t happen often in injury cases because they take a lot of time and they cost a lot of money when all is said and done. However, should your case go to trial with a good lawyer or team of lawyers at your side, you should be able to get satisfaction and compensation, no matter what you decide regarding a trial.