Absolutely. Arbitration is one of the insurer's most common methods to underpay Jones Act injury claims. Since the outcome is decided by a single party, not a jury, arbitration is always better for the company than the employee. That said, it doesn’t mean you can’t prevail in arbitration—but it will take an experienced and tenacious Jones Act attorney to get you everything you're owed.
You Need an Experienced Jones Act Attorney on Your Side During Arbitration
Arbitration is a formal proceeding used to resolve legal disputes. The different parties present their version of events to an arbitrator, such as an attorney or retired judge. The arbitrator reviews the arguments and issues a decision. While this may seem easier than going through the court process, there are many disadvantages to Jones Act arbitration for an injured worker.
First, you have no control over who will act as arbitrator. Second, the decision is legally binding, and you cannot challenge the decision except in limited circumstances. Finally, arbitration denies workers their constitutional right to have legal matters decided by a jury.
Maritime employers know how beneficial arbitration is to their interests and often try to strong-arm injured workers into agreeing to arbitration long before a dispute takes place. They may also cause deliberate delays that pressure workers to settle more quickly or entice seamen into arbitration by offering advances on benefits in exchange. They may even deny or discontinue your maintenance and cure to compel you into arbitration.
If you’re being called to arbitration, a Jones Act lawyer can:
- Determine whether arbitration is mandatory. Employers might put an arbitration clause in a seamen’s original employment agreement or as a condition in a post-injury payment offer. We carefully examine any signed documents to determine whether arbitration is absolutely necessary. If it’s not compulsory, we always recommend going to court instead.
- Challenge an arbitration order. If there is no arbitration clause, federal law prohibits employers and insurers from forcing it on seamen without their consent. Orders might also be overturned if you were threatened or coerced into signing a settlement or arbitration agreement. We can challenge the grounds for arbitration and ask a judge to review the order.
- Block attempts to gather unnecessary evidence. Insurers often gather evidence to help their case as soon as an injury occurs. For example, they may request unrestricted access to your medical records, allowing them to dig through your medical history and find a reason to deny or reduce your claim. They may also request a recorded statement that could be used against you later. We handle all requests on your behalf to prevent such unfair tactics.
- Represent you at trial. If we can avoid arbitration, we will do everything possible to get you maximum compensation at trial. Juries are often sympathetic in cases involving injured maritime workers, especially those mistreated by big companies.
- Defend your rights in arbitration. We know the tricks insurance companies and their attorneys use to pressure workers into settling for less than they deserve. We can protect your rights to a full and fair settlement if arbitration is necessary.
Our Maritime Injury Lawyers Can Examine Your Case at No Cost to You
Your employer, the shipowner, and the insurance company all have lawyers looking out for their best interests—and failing to have someone on your side puts you at a significant disadvantage. The experienced maritime attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can review your case and explain your options at no cost to you.
Call us at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or fill out our online contact form to begin your no-obligation consultation. You can also learn more about these types of claims in our complimentary guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.