If you qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, you have the right to receive maintenance and cure benefits when you get injured on the job. You are entitled to these benefits regardless of how you got hurt (with a few rare exceptions), and your employer is supposed to pay promptly without putting up a fight.
Unfortunately, this does not always happen. In fact, maritime employers routinely fight their employees’ claims for Jones Act benefits. One tactic many companies use is to try to force their employees to submit to Jones Act arbitration.
What is Arbitration Under the Jones Act?
Arbitration is a formal method of resolving legal disputes. Both parties (i.e., an injured seaman and his or her employer) present their arguments to an arbitrator, and then the arbitrator issues a decision. This decision is legally binding, and there are limited options for seamen to challenge a binding arbitration award in court.
Why Is Arbitration Unfavorable for Injured Seamen?
As an employee, you are not required to submit your maintenance and cure claim to arbitration (unless you have an employment contract that requires arbitration). But, this will not stop your employer from trying to force you into the process. There are a few reasons why maritime employers like arbitration when it comes to employees’ claims under the Jones Act:
- Arbitration is time-consuming. While arbitration is not as time-consuming as going to court, it is time-consuming nonetheless. Filing for arbitration delays an employer’s obligation to pay benefits, which puts financial stress on injured workers who need to start collecting benefits.
- It Pressures Injured Workers to Settle. For workers who are under financial stress, the delays caused by arbitration can force them to consider settling for less than they deserve. Employers know this, and they will use it as a tactic to pay a small fraction of what they owe.
- An arbitration decision is final. Once an arbitrator issues a decision, the injured worker’s claim is over (unless the injured worker has grounds to challenge the award). The injured worker can not come back and ask for more. Even if the arbitration decision is wrong, fighting the decision will take even more time and delay the worker’s collection of benefits even longer—if he or she decides to fight at all.
What Should You Do if Your Employer Pressures You to Arbitrate?
If your employer has denied your claim for maintenance and cure and told you that you need to arbitrate, you should speak with a lawyer promptly. You do not have to go to arbitration, and going to arbitration may not be in your best interests. You can hire a lawyer to deal with your employer on your behalf, and an experienced lawyer will know how to fight for the benefits you deserve.
Speak with a Lawyer about Your Jones Act Claim
Do you need help collecting maintenance and cure benefits? Is your employer trying to pressure you into Jones Act arbitration? To discuss your situation with an experienced lawyer in confidence, call 800-468-4878 or request a free consultation online now.Share This