Commercial fishermen and other seamen that make their livings on the seas suffer from job-related injuries just like other employees, but have to follow certain procedures when filing legal claims. This is where the Jones Act comes in; this federal law provides seamen and fishermen the right to sue employers for personal injuries.
To qualify as a seaman, the employee must spend a substantial amount of their worktime on a sea vessel “in navigation.” This means any ship or boat that is on navigable waters, floating, operating, or capable or movement. The vessel need not be moving or even at sea for the employee to be considered a seaman. Docked vessels fall into the category, but they cannot be up on blocks out of the water or drydocked.
Following an Accident
The Jones Law is an admiralty law, and the plaintiff has the burden of proof when making a Jones Act claim. Federal laws permit seven days to report an injury. It is essential to proceed with this in a timely fashion, as delays can slow down or be detrimental to the process.
Any injuries should be reported to a supervising officer, captain, or employer right away. Seeking immediate medical assistance is also paramount, even if it does not seem to be serious. Injured seamen should also document everything that happens, with copies of accident and medical reports, photos, and witness testimony. The captain should also enter the incident in the ship’s log and take steps to have the victim evacuated if the injury occurs at sea.
Seamen may also have to complete accident reports for their companies. This is best done when the injured person is not feeling the effects of any type of medication. Seamen should take care with the part that asks who is at fault, since some workers may not even be sure. Some might put in incorrect information or be pressured into taking responsibility for the accident. Once completed, the report should be given to the company’s human resources department, who should send it to the workers’ compensation offices.
Some injured seamen feel uncomfortable putting the company down as being at fault, and in these cases it may be advisable to write down that they are not sure about this. Insurers also attempt to get recorded or written statements, but this may not be advisable depending on the circumstances. It may be better to wait, especially when recovering from injuries.
Settling Jones Act Claims
Jones Act cases should be handled with care, as they are a bit different from other types of injury claims. It is advisable to wait until medical treatment is completed and the seaman is recovered before settling a Jones Act claim. Some may want to wait until they go back to work, since it is often labor-intensive and some may not be able to return in the same capacity, if they can at all. If the case cannot be settled, there is the option of filing a lawsuit.
Cape May Maritime Injury Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Help Injured Seamen with Jones Act Claims
If you are seeking help with a Jones Act claim, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Cape May maritime injury lawyer at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Contact us today by calling 888-999-1962 or completing an online form. We have offices in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Pinehurst, North Carolina, serving South Jersey, Gloucester, Cape May, and Wildwood.