How Do You File a Claim After Being Injured on a Tugboat?

Jones Act Jul 24, 2023

Job-related injuries can be costly. Along with incurring medical bills, you can also lose income if you are unable to work, and the pain and suffering caused by your injuries can impact many aspects of your day-to-day life.

As a result, it is important to file a claim if you are eligible to do so. Fortunately, tugboat captains and crew members will be eligible to file claims in most cases. The Jones Act protects maritime workers who spend their days on the water, and eligible “seamen” can minimally recover their medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages. In many cases, eligible seamen will be able to recover additional compensation as well.

Filing a Jones Act Claim After a Tugboat Accident

So, how do you file a claim after being injured in a tugboat accident? While the basics of filing a Jones Act claim are fairly straightforward, injured captains and crew members can run into various issues along the way. This is especially true when seeking additional compensation beyond the basic maintenance and cure benefits that are available to all injured seamen. 

With this in mind, here is an overview of some of the key steps involved in asserting your legal rights:

  • Report the Accident – One of the first things you should do is report the accident to your employer. This is a requirement for filing a claim under the Jones Act, and your employer cannot legally retaliate against you for reporting an accident on the job.
  • Seek Treatment for Your Injuries – You should seek treatment for your injuries as soon as possible. Under the Jones Act, you have the right to choose your own doctor—your employer cannot tell you where to go. Describe your symptoms to your doctor in detail, and be sure to tell your doctor that you were injured in a tugboat accident on the job.
  • File for Maintenance and Cure Benefits – All seamen who qualify to file claims under the Jones Act are eligible to receive maintenance and cure benefits. You can obtain these benefits regardless of how you got injured (even if you accidentally injured yourself), and they should cover your medical expenses while also helping to cover a portion of your lost wages.
  • Determine if You Have a Claim for Jones Act Negligence – If your employer is responsible for your injuries (i.e. if you were forced to work in dangerous conditions or with inexperienced crew), you may have a claim for Jones Act negligence. If so, you are entitled to compensation above and beyond maintenance and cure—including full compensation for your lost wages and compensation for your pain and suffering.
  • Determine if You Have a Claim for Unseaworthiness – If the accident was caused by an issue with the tugboat, you could also have a claim based on unseaworthiness. Some examples of common unseaworthy conditions include slippery decks, poorly maintained winches and rigging, and inadequate safety gear. Similar to claims for Jones Act negligence, filing a claim for unseaworthiness affords the opportunity to recover full compensation for your injury-related losses.  
  • Calculate Your Compensation – To determine what constitutes “full compensation” for your losses, you will need to calculate your injuries’ long-term costs. This includes financial costs such as medical expenses and lost wages, as well as non-financial costs such as pain and suffering.
  • Seek the Compensation You Deserve – Once you know which claim (or claims) you can file and how much you are entitled to recover, then the next step is to seek the compensation you deserve. Depending on the circumstances, this may involve negotiating with your employer’s insurance company, or it may involve taking your employer and its insurance company to court.

Again, these are just examples. Filing a successful Jones Act claim after a tugboat accident can be a long and complicated process. As a result, it is best not to try to handle the process on your own. You can—and should—hire a lawyer to help you, and you can do so at no out-of-pocket cost.

Tips for Filing a Jones Act Claim After a Tugboat Accident

When seeking compensation for a tugboat accident under the Jones Act, you need to be very careful to protect your legal rights. You also need to know how to assert your legal rights effectively. Here are some tips you should follow:

1. Take Action Promptly

After a tugboat accident, the sooner you take action, the better. It will be important to gather evidence of the cause of the accident promptly, and seeking treatment for your injuries should be your top priority.

2. Don’t Rely on Your Employer  

When you have a Jones Act claim, you, unfortunately, cannot rely on your employer to treat you fairly. It is up to you to assert your legal rights, and you need to be prepared to fight for the financial compensation you deserve.

3. Follow Your Doctor’s Advice

Once you see a doctor for treatment, you should follow your doctor’s advice (or seek a second opinion, if necessary). Ignoring your doctor’s advice can not only be hazardous for your health, but it can create issues with your Jones Act claim (or claims) as well.

4. Document the Costs and Effects of Your Injuries

As you work to move forward, you should try to document the costs and effects of your injuries. Keep copies of your medical and employment records, take photos throughout the recovery process, record your daily pain levels, and write down all of the ways your injuries negatively impact your day-to-day life.

5. Hire a Lawyer Who has Experience with Jones Act Claims

Finally, rather than trying to take all of the necessary steps on your own, you should hire a lawyer to help you. A lawyer who has experience with Jones Act claims will be able to conduct a thorough investigation, determine which claim (or claims) you can file, calculate your losses, and fight to recover just compensation on your behalf.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation About Your Tugboat Accident Claim

It costs nothing out-of-pocket to hire a lawyer to handle your tugboat accident claim under the Jones Act. We handle all claims on a contingency-fee basis, which means you pay nothing unless you win. To get started with a free, no-obligation consultation, call 800-468-4878 or request an appointment online today.

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