Accidents and emergencies on ships, barges and vessels are an everyday occurrence. Machinery can malfunction, equipment may fall, and fires and explosions can erupt causing serious injuries and illnesses. With so many risks and hazards, it is not surprising to learn that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has named working offshore on fishing vessels, jack-up rigs and on offshore drilling rigs as some of the most dangerous and deadly jobs in the United States. Fortunately, laws have been created to protect seamen and other individuals who work in these dangerous environments. Recognizing that these laws can be very confusing and difficult to navigate, Willis Law Firm has developed the Jones Act Information Center. The Jones Act Information Center is designed to give maritime employees and members of their family access to important information about your Jones Act claim and other general maritime laws that are designed to protect injured workers.
A Leading Authority Helping You Understand Your Legal Rights
With over 40 years of experience representing injured workers, Willis Law Firm is a leading authority on the Jones Act Law and General Maritime Law. Whether you work on an offshore oil rig, commercial fishing boat, ship, tugboat, jack-up rig, barge or other type of vessel, you need to know that you have important rights under the law. If you are injured on the job you are entitled to seek compensation from your employer and other parties who are responsible for your injuries.
What if Your Employer Disputes Your Jones Act Claim?
When you file a claim under the Jones Act, there is a chance that your employer (or its insurance company) will dispute your claim. In fact, the chances of a dispute are pretty good. Companies don’t like to pay compensation under the Jones Act if they don’t have to, and they know that many workers won’t put up a fight.
In some cases, a dispute may be justified. For example, there may be legitimate questions about how or where the worker got injured, or there may be a question as to whether the worker filed his or her claim on time. But, just because a dispute is justified, this does not mean that a denial is justified. Workers can (and often do) win Jones Act claim disputes, and those who hire an experienced attorney are far more likely to collect the compensation they deserve.
5 Reasons Why Jones Act Claim Disputes Occur
Why might your employer (or its insurance company) dispute your Jones Act claim? Aside from simply trying to avoid paying what you are owed, some of the most common reasons for Jones Act claim disputes include:
- You Waited to Report Your Injury – When you get injured offshore, it is important to report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. If you waited any amount of time to file your injury report, your employer or its insurer may try to argue that you waited too long. While this can be a legitimate defense to a Jones Act claim in some cases, this is a defense tactic that we are frequently able to overcome.
- Your Medical Records Don’t Support Your Claim – In order to receive compensation under the Jones Act, you need to have a job-related injury. If your medical records don’t indicate that your injury is job-related, or if they aren’t consistent with the type of injury you reported, this could lead to a dispute. Of course, your doctor (or the company’s doctor) could have simply omitted relevant details, or you might not have known the full extent of your injuries at the time you filed a report with your employer.
- There Isn’t Enough Evidence Available – If your employer or its insurer doesn’t have enough evidence to prove that you are entitled to compensation under the Jones Act, this could also lead to a dispute. In this scenario, securing the compensation to which you are legally entitled will involve gathering and presenting the evidence that is needed to prove your right to payment.
- There are Questions Regarding Your Eligibility – While many offshore workers clearly qualify as “seamen” under the Jones Act, in some cases, it isn’t as clear-cut. If you are facing a dispute about whether you qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, we can determine your eligibility, and we can deal with the dispute on your behalf.
- Your Employer is Denying Liability – You can also face a Jones Act dispute if your employer (or its insurance company) considers the relevant evidence and determines that you are not eligible to receive compensation. If this happens, this does not have to be the final outcome of your claim. With an experienced attorney on your side, you may be able to demonstrate that your employer’s or its insurer’s determination is flawed.
Settling Jones Act Claim Disputes
In many cases, Jones Act claim disputes are resolved via settlement. When we take your case, we will thoroughly assess your legal rights and advise you regarding your options. If settling is your best option, we will work with your employer or its insurer to prove your right to compensation. We will negotiate for a fair settlement; and, if we receive a settlement offer on your behalf, we will help you make an informed decision.
If it is not in your best interests to settle, then we may need to take your Jones Act claim to court (or possibly to arbitration). We have significant experience litigating Jones Act disputes, and we can use our experience to fight for maximum compensation.
Mistakes to Avoid When You Have a Jones Act Claim
In order to reduce your chances of facing a dispute, it is important to try to avoid mistakes after suffering a job-related injury. This includes common mistakes such as:
- Waiting Unnecessarily – When you get injured on the job, you do not want to wait any longer than necessary to report your injury or seek medical treatment. Waiting will only create issues and increase your chances of facing a dispute with your employer or its insurer.
- Returning to Work Too Soon – When you have a Jones Act claim, it is extremely important not to return to work too soon. If you do, this could reduce the amount you are entitled to recover. Before returning to work, we strongly recommend that you speak with an attorney.
- Signing Away Your Rights – In order to protect your legal rights, you should not sign anything related to your Jones Act claim unless your attorney says it is safe to do so. This is because your employer or its insurer may try to get you to waive your legal rights—and, if you do, you may not be able to get them back.
- Hiring the Wrong Attorney – Filing a successful Jones Act claim requires a thorough understanding of maritime law. As a result, it is important to choose an attorney who has significant experience representing injured offshore workers. If you choose the wrong attorney, your attorney might not be able to help you collect the compensation you deserve.
While these are some of the most common mistakes we see, these are not the only mistakes you need to avoid. Our attorneys can help you understand what not to do, and we can deal with your employer and its insurer on your behalf. As a maritime injury law firm, we have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for offshore workers and their families. We can help protect your legal rights, and we can make sure your employer and its insurer don’t take advantage of you.
If You Are Injured, You Need to Speak with an Attorney
The articles and information in the Jones Act Information Center are meant to give you background information on the Jones Act and other maritime laws that are designed to protect you. This information is not a substitute for speaking with a skilled maritime injury lawyer.
If you are involved in a maritime related accident, you should not try to handle your situation on your own. Your employer may be asking you to sign sworn statement or affidavit, accident reports, other paperwork that may severely affect your legal rights. It is very important that you do sign anything without seeking the advice and assistance of an experienced legal professional. If you sign a document that you do not understand, or fail to take legal action within the statutory deadline, you could forfeit your right to recover compensation in your case.
Our Multi-Lingual Staff is Here to Help 24/7/365
If you have been injured, Willis Law Firm is here to help 24/7/365. While we encourage you to review the articles in our Jones Act Information Center, you really need to work one on one with lawyer who will take you through every step of the legal process. At Willis Law Firm we will always answer your questions and make sure you have all of the information you need to protect yourself and the people you care most about.