Evidence Considered in Maritime Injury Claims

Maritime Injuries May 24, 2022

Have You Suffered a Maritime Injury? You Will Need Evidence to Collect the Financial Compensation You Deserve

You may be entitled to financial compensation if you suffered a maritime injury on the job. The Jones Act and other federal laws provide maritime workers with clear legal rights—including the right to “no-fault” compensation in many cases.

But, regardless of what rights you have, you will need evidence to collect the financial compensation you deserve. Even if you have a “no-fault” claim under the Jones Act, you will need to prove that you suffered your maritime injury on the job. If you have a fault-based claim against your employer, a vessel owner or another company, you will need additional evidence of negligence or unseaworthiness.

Maritime Injury Claims vs. “Ordinary” Personal Injury Claims

Collecting evidence for a maritime injury claim and collecting evidence for an “ordinary” personal injury claim on land are very different. Many of the types of evidence used to prove maritime injury claims are unique, and there are unique considerations for collecting evidence in maritime injury cases as well.

For example, timing is often a critical factor in maritime injury cases. When an accident happens on a vessel at sea, evidence of the accident can disappear before the vessel gets back to land. Proving liability for an accident that involved hazardous water or weather conditions presents unique challenges as well; and, in many cases, employers and vessel owners will attempt to fix issues before injured workers can gather the evidence they need to prove their legal rights. All of this makes it especially important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible.

Types of Evidence You Need to Prove Your Rights After a Maritime Injury

When you hire a lawyer for your maritime injury claim, your lawyer will work quickly to gather the evidence needed to prove your legal rights. The evidence you need falls into two main categories: (i) evidence of your legal rights, and (ii) evidence of the costs of your maritime injury.

1. Evidence of Your Legal Rights

If you have a “no-fault” claim (i.e., a claim for maintenance and cure under the Jones Act or benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)), all you may need is evidence that you got injured on the job. To collect benefits in a “no-fault” claim, you do not need evidence that someone else is responsible for your maritime injury. With this in mind, some examples of evidence your lawyer may be able to use to prove your claim include:

  • The injury report you filed after your accident (if you filed one)
  • Statements from coworkers who saw what happened
  • Your medical records showing that you sought treatment for an injury during (or shortly after) work hours
  • Time-stamped photos or videos you (or a coworker) took with a phone
  • Surveillance camera footage from the vessel, platform, rig, port, harbor or marina

When you have a “no-fault” claim, the key is simply being able to prove that you got injured on the job. Companies routinely defend against Jones Act and LHWCA claims by disputing workers’ evidence that their maritime injuries are work-related. So, the more evidence you have that shows where and when you got injured, the stronger your claim will be.

If you have a fault-based claim, you may be entitled to additional compensation. But, you will also need additional evidence to assert your legal rights. To prove that your employer was negligent, that your vessel was unseaworthy or that another company is liable for your maritime injury, your lawyer may need to collect evidence such as:

  • Evidence of a slippery deck, unsafe stairwell, or other slip-and-fall or trip-and-fall hazard
  • Evidence of damaged rigging, poorly maintained equipment, or other job hazards
  • Evidence that your employer, a vessel owner or another company failed to follow appropriate safety protocols
  • Emails, text messages or other communications showing that the at-fault party was aware of the hazard that caused your injury (or acknowledged liability after your accident)
  • Maintenance logs or other records showing that the vessel, platform, rig, port, harbor or marina where you got injured was unsafe

2. Evidence of the Costs of Your Maritime Injury

Whether you have a “no-fault” claim, a claim based on negligence or unseaworthiness, or all of the above, you will also need evidence of the costs of your maritime injury. In other words, it is up to you to prove how much you are entitled to recover. Some examples of the types of evidence your lawyer may be able to use to prove the value of your maritime injury claim include:

  • Medical records from your initial doctor’s visit or emergency room (ER) visit
  • X-rays, MRI scans, CT scans, blood test results, and other medical evidence of your maritime injury
  • Medical bills and statements of benefits (SOBs)
  • Employment records showing your current income and the number of days, weeks or months you have missed from work
  • An expert report and expert testimony detailing your future medical needs, pain and suffering, and other injury-related losses

While you can (and should) see your employer’s ship doctor or company doctor if you need emergency treatment and cannot get to a hospital right away, it is important that you not rely solely on this doctor’s diagnosis. You have the right to see a doctor of your own choosing, and you should do so. An independent doctor will have your (not your employer’s) best interests in mind, and he or she will be able to assist with generating the documentation needed to prove the financial and non-financial costs of your maritime injury.

Schedule a Free Consultation about Your Maritime Injury Claim

If you need to know more about pursuing a maritime injury claim, we encourage you to contact us promptly for a free, no-obligation consultation. To find out what evidence you need to prove your legal rights, call 800-468-4878 or tell us how we can reach you online today.

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