The Jones Act was designed to protect commercial fisherman and other seamen in the event of an injury on the job. State workers’ compensation laws do not protect seamen, so this federal act was enacted in 1920 so seamen would have a way of collecting compensation for their injuries. Just like any other injury claim, injured employees covered by the Jones Act must follow a specific process.
Report the Injury
The first step in any injury claim is to report the injury to your immediate supervisors. If you are injured at sea, report the injury to your sea captain or other supervisors. Federal maritime law requires that you report your injury within 7 days, but even that is a long time to wait. Generally, Jones Act insurers do not like cases where the accident wasn’t reported immediately. Therefore, if you sustain an injury you suspect may cause you to miss work, report it immediately.
Submit a Statement or Report With Your Company
Next, supply your company or insurer with a statement. Merchant mariners typically have to file an accident report with their company. The form will ask you to designate fault. This can be a sticky situation because if you do not say your company was at fault outright, you may have trouble substantiating your claim later on. On the other hand, if you do claim your company was at fault, and your injuries turn out to be minor, it may cause issues between you and your employer. If you are unsure of fault at the time of the report, it is okay to write that.
The insurer will most likely try to get you to give a written or recorded statement before getting to the hospital. Try to avoid this, and wait to give the Jones Act insurer a statement until after you have received medical treatment.
Get Medical Treatment
If you are injured, seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Your employer is responsible for making sure you get proper treatment after an injury, no matter where you are. If you are at sea and sustain a significant injury, your employer should have a helicopter take you to the hospital. As you receive immediate and/or ongoing treatment, take care to follow your doctor’s instructions closely and keep track of your medical records. The Jones Act insurer will try to play down the severity of your injuries in an effort to pay out less money. It is important to lay low during recovery time and heed your doctor’s orders.
Speak With a Maritime Lawyer
If the insurer is not willing to pay for your medical care and maintenance, you will need to hire an experienced maritime lawyer. Likewise, if the value of your case is expected to exceed $15,000 to $20,000, a Jones Act lawyer will need to handle it for you. A maritime lawyer will help you collect the necessary medical records to support your case. You should not attempt to settle your case until after you have finished medical treatment and reached “maximum medical improvement.” This is because you will not truly know the scope of your medical expenses until treatment is complete. An experienced maritime lawyer will help you settle your case for the maximum amount.
Lapeze & Johns: Texas Maritime Lawyers
Lapeze & Johns PLLC are maritime and offshore injury attorneys based in Texas. We have been serving clients on the Gulf Coast and other areas of the United States for 30 years. We get to know each of our clients personally. We build relationships with our clients based on trust and fight aggressively to get them the compensation they need. Contact us today for help with filing a Jones Act claim.