Accident and Injury Frequently Asked Questions
Many accident victims are overwhelmed by their injuries, and the thought of a legal case can seem daunting. At Hofmann & Schweitzer, our legal team understands these feelings, and we’ve compiled our thoughts on many common worries here to help you get started finding the answers you need to protect yourself and your family. If you’ve been hurt in a construction, maritime, or railroad accident, browse our FAQs today.
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How does the Jones Act protect injured seamen from retaliation?
If you are a maritime employee who is assigned to a vessel, you are likely eligible to receive compensation under the Jones Act after an injury on the job. Like state workers’ compensation, the Jones Act is a federal law that provides wage and medical benefits (called maintenance and cure) after a work-related injury, and makes it illegal to retaliate against a worker who files a benefit claim. However, the Jones Act also gives injured seamen the right to sue their employers and shipowners for negligence.
Jones Act Protections Against Retaliation of an Injured Seaman
If you file for compensation under the Jones Act, it is illegal for a shipowner or employer to fire you for exercising your right to benefits. It is also illegal to threaten a seaman’s job to prevent him from filing a Jones Act claim. This is called “retaliatory discharge,” and it can carry serious consequences for the shipowner as well as benefits for the injured worker. Unfortunately, many employees do not know this, and attempt to cope with an injury with no way to pay for their medical bills.
In addition to payment for past and future medical expenses, physical pain, emotional distress, disability, and lost earning capacity, a case that involves retaliatory discharge may result in:
If you are terminated or laid off as a result of seeking injury or wage payments, you can collect additional damages for the hardship you suffered as a result of the discrimination in your injury case.
Wage loss payments with interest.
If you lost your job because you were injured, you have the right to be compensated for the wages you would have earned if you had not been unfairly terminated, plus interest.
Any unfairly terminated employee must be reinstated to his or her former position with the same pay and privileges of original employment.
An employer who is found guilty of retaliatory discharge may be ordered to pay for the injured worker’s attorney fees, expert witness fees, and litigation costs.
If your employer fired you after you filed for benefits, it may lend extra weight to your injury claim. Call (800) 362-9329 today to speak with a maritime lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer or download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights today.
What if my Jones Act insurer will pay my medical bills, but nothing else?
Although injured workers are owed maintenance and cure benefits under the Jones Act, employers often use a number of tactics to reduce the amount of money they pay out in claims. One common method is to reduce or stop payments for necessary medical services or living expenses, paying for only a portion of what the employee is owed under the law.
Jones Act Insurers Could Pay Medical Costs, But No Wages
Maritime laws permits every seaman who becomes ill or injured during employment to collect a daily living stipend, all necessary medical payments related to the injury, and all past outstanding wages earned. The daily living allowance begins once the worker is off the vessel where the injury occurred, and these payments can be suspended for any time the employee is in a hospital (since room and board in these instances is already provided).
However, employers may dispute the amount of wages issued to seamen based on the misinterpretation of maritime wage laws. For example, seamen may suffer lower wage payments due to:
- Early discharge. Seamen who are discharged through no fault of their own before one month’s wages are earned are entitled to receive one full month’s wages as compensation from the employer. If the seaman is not aware of this rule, the employer may get away with denying fair payment.
- Presence on board. A seaman’s entitlement to wages begins on the date specified in his employment agreement or on the date the seaman begins work, whichever is earlier. If an injury occurs on the vessel before the contract begins, the employer may attempt to deny wages or benefits.
- Failure to perform work. Under Title 46 of the U.S. Labor Code, a seaman is not entitled to wages for any time in which he failed to work when required. Employers may claim that a seaman did not report for duty or refused to work in order to deny wages.
If you have been injured on a ship or as a harbor worker, we can examine the facts of your case and get you the all that you are owed under the Jones Act. Contact us online or call (800) 362-9329 to speak with an experienced maritime injury lawyer at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible.
When should I go back to work after a maritime injury?
Workers who suffered a maritime injury must be extremely cautious when it comes to returning to work after an injury. Not only can returning to work too early worsen your injuries, it can also be used as evidence against you and give an employer leverage to deny your rightful compensation in a maritime injury claim. You should go back to work when you are fully healed, and only after you are certain that you can resume all work duties at full capacity.
Why Returning to Work Too Early Can Affect Injury Compensation
If your doctor has not cleared you or has placed restrictions on the amount of manual labor you can do, you should not return to work. By returning to work, you are essentially telling your employer that you are at full working and earning capacity. If you suffer aggravation of your injury (or suffer a new one), an employer can greatly devalue your claim since you returned to work in a “fully-healed” state.
The parties in your case may have differing opinions about your ability to go back to work, including:
- Employers. It is not uncommon for employers to bully, threaten, or pressure workers to return to work before they have healed. If employers and their insurers are successful in getting you to come back, they can save thousands of dollars in future medical costs and lost income, as well as avoid paying you for your lost earning capacity. Depending on the methods an employer uses, pressuring you to come back to work can be an unethical or even illegal maneuver.
- Medical providers. Employers are required to get a medical release from a physician before returning to work after an injury. Doctors supplied by employers are obviously biased to get you back to work as quickly as possible, even if you are not ready. Even if the doctor truly believes you are ready, doctors are still human beings and can make mistakes about the success of their own treatment.
- You. Many workers are afraid to give their doctors the full list of their symptoms, fearing that they will be blacklisted from future maritime employment. Unfortunately, underreporting your injuries denies you the treatment you need and leads employers to believe you are able to work.
Maritime employers have teams of lawyers and insurance companies that all understand the limits of maritime law. If you have any doubts about your claim or your ability to work, you should speak with the experienced maritime injury lawyers at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call us directly at 1-800-362-9329 to schedule your free consultation.
Can I be fired or blacklisted for pursuing a recovery for a maritime injury?
Many workers shy away from filing legitimate maritime injury claims when they are hurt because they are afraid that nobody in the industry will hire them again. This practice is often called “blacklisting” or “blackballing,” and it is an illegal practice. It is against the law for any employer or prospective employer to take negative action against an employee for filing an injury claim.
Don’t Let Fear Stand in The Way of Your Maritime Injury Claim
The maritime industry relies on the fear of a blacklist in order to prevent workers from filing claims. The fewer the claims, the less the company pays in benefits—and the greater the likelihood that the employee will be forced to continue working. The truth is that as long as your claim is legitimate, you should file it with impunity and with the expectation that you will recover the damages that you need and deserve.
By filing a claim, you and your attorney may secure:
- Fair payment. You have a right to be paid for your medical costs, income losses, and any out-of-pocket expenses related to your accident. You may even be entitled to punitive damages in a maritime case if your employer withheld your rightful payments.
- Future compensation. Many injured employees will carry lifelong physical limitations that will prevent them from earning a living in the future. An injury claim not only provides benefits for past losses—it can also provide compensation that allows you and your family to survive if you are unable to return to work.
- Improved conditions. Negligence in the workplace is likely to continue as long as an employer can get away with it. By holding an employer accountable for unsafe conditions, faulty equipment, or improper training, you can help ensure that your injury does not happen to someone else.
If you think that your employer is retaliating against you or you have questions about your right to compensation, please contact us online as soon as possible. Our New York and New Jersey maritime accident lawyers will give you an honest opinion about whether your maritime injury claim will hurt your chances of working again. Call us today at 1-800-362-9329 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
Am I Considered a Seaman?
Many injured maritime workers are unsure whether they qualify for “seaman” status under the Jones Act. This is an important issue, since only seamen are qualified to receive benefits under the Jones Act, including maintenance and cure benefits after an injury. While the definition of seaman varies somewhat, there are many factors a court will consider in determining seaman status.
Am I Considered a Seaman Under the Jones Act?
Generally speaking, a person who spends the majority of his or her time as a crew member aboard a vessel that floats on navigable waters is considered a seaman. However, each of these requirements should be examined closely to discover whether or not the Jones Act applies. For instance, benefits may or may not be awarded depending on:
You. A seaman must spend a significant amount of his or her employment contributing to the mission of his or her vessel. In most cases, this will mean spending at least 30 percent of work time aboard the vessel (or on several vessels in a fleet) and the rest of the work time helping to complete the vessel’s mission.
Your vessel. While nearly any kind of ship or boat can be considered a vessel under the Jones Act, the vessel must be afloat, capable of moving, and in operation to qualify an employee for benefits. It is important to recognize that a vessel does not actually have to be at sea or even moving for a crew member to be a seaman, but it must be capable of moving under its own power. For example, a ship in a drydock is not capable of moving and is therefore not covered under the Jones Act. Similarly, a newly-constructed vessel that is not yet in commercial operation does not meet the "in navigation" requirement, and is exempt from Jones Act coverage.
Your location. The Jones Act only covers employees on vessels that travel on navigable waters. “Navigable” waters are those that are used for interstate or foreign commerce, such as oceans, rivers, and lakes that act as a means of travel between states or countries.
If you work on the water but not on a vessel in navigation, you may still qualify for compensation under maritime laws. The New York and New Jersey maritime lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer can help determine how much you could be owed in benefits. Contact us online or call us directly at 800.362.9329 to schedule your free consultation.
How Long Do I Have to File a Jones Act Case
Generally, you have three years from the date of your maritime injury to file a claim pursuant to the Jones Act. However, there are several reasons why it is extremely important that you do not delay in consulting with a New Jersey and New York Jones Act attorney after your accident.
First, it is important to consult with an attorney quickly because the Jones Act statute of limitations, or the time that you have to file a claim, may be shorter than three years in some cases.
Second, it is important to consult with a New York and New Jersey Jones Act attorney quickly so that evidence is preserved and your case is as strong as it can be.
Finally, it is important to consult with a New Jersey and New York Jones Act lawyer quickly so that you can get started on your road to recovery. Often, a maritime employer will not provide the damages to which an injured seaman is entitled until an experienced maritime lawyer requires the employer to do so.
If you’ve been hurt in a maritime accident, please contact the experienced New Jersey and New York maritime accident lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer today. We can be reached at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or via our online contact form.
What kinds of maritime accidents result in Jones Act claims?
If you have a maritime job and you were hurt at sea then you may be wondering if the Jones Act applies to your potential recovery. The Jones Act does not define specific accidents that are covered by the law. For example, the Jones Act does not say that a seaman who slips on deck and breaks a leg can always recover damages. As a result, if you’ve been hurt at sea, it is up to you to figure out whether the Jones Act applies to your case based on the cause of your injury.
The Jones Act: General Rules for Recovery
The Jones Act allows injured seamen to recover damages for injuries that occur because of:
- The negligence of the employer or another employee
- A defect or problem with equipment that was caused by the employer
The injury may occur while the seaman is working or while he is living on the boat.
Accidents That May Be Covered by the Jones Act
Some examples of accidents that may be covered by the Jones Act include those caused by:
- Bad weather that should have been anticipated
- An assault by another employee
- Failure to supervise
- Failure to provide medical assistance promptly
- Failure to provide appropriate equipment for the job
- Failure to make sure that equipment is in proper working order
The injuries that may result include:
- Broken bones
- Head or brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Muscle, tendon or joint injuries
- Internal injuries
Of course these lists are not exhaustive. If you have been hurt and have questions about your potential recovery then it is important to consult an experienced maritime injury lawyer as soon as possible. Please start a live chat with us today to learn more.
What Should I Do to Collect Compensation After a Deckhand Injury
If you are an injured deckhand then the steps that you take after your accident are very important to your ultimate recovery. There are three things that you should do as soon as you are injured. The first thing that you should do is to seek medical treatment for your injuries. The Jones Law does not require you to see a doctor chosen by your employer. You may be treated by any qualified doctor of your choice. Then, you should report your injury to your employer. However, you should not give a recorded statement or sign any papers without the advice of your New Jersey or New York maritime attorney.
Finally, it is important to consult with an experienced New York and New Jersey Jones Act lawyer who knows how to investigate your case, negotiate with your employer, and pursue damages in court if a reasonable settlement cannot be reached.
If you are a deckhand who has been hurt in a maritime accident, then you need to protect your right to potential compensation. Call the New York City maritime lawyers at Hofmann & Schweitzer today for a free consultation. We can be reached at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY.
Do I Have to Give a Recorded Statement to Recover Damages Pursuant to the Jones Act
No. There is nothing in the Jones Act that requires seamen to give a recorded statement to their employer in order to obtain benefits. In fact, if an employer or insurance company is trying to get you to give a recorded statement then it is very likely that the questioner will try to get you to say something that will hurt, rather than help, your claim.
While our New York and New Jersey maritime accident lawyers encourage seamen who have been injured to promptly report the accident to their employer and to follow all reasonable procedures, we also encourage seamen to be suspicious if a recorded statement is requested.
If your employer, or an insurance company, has requested that you provide a recorded statement, or has insisted that you must provide a recorded statement in order to recover benefits, please contact a New Jersey or New York maritime injury lawyer before you provide such a statement. You can be confident that your employer and the insurance company are being advised by counsel. Give yourself the same benefit before you provide any recorded responses