Maritime workers have strenuous, dangerous jobs. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to be injured while performing job duties on a barge, container ship, cruise ship, fishing boat, or charter vessel. Because injuries are so common, seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure under maritime law. However, employers will often do anything they can to avoid paying out on a legitimate claim. One of the tactics maritime employers might use to discredit your injury report and deny your claim is to accuse you of filing a new claim for an old injury. With the help of an experienced maritime injury lawyer, you can challenge this tactic and get the compensation you deserve.
What Is a Pre-existing Injury or Condition?
Maintenance and cure are provided to seamen whose injuries or illnesses happen during the normal course of performing work duties. A pre-existing injury would be one that happened before you started your current job. In other words, if you try to file for compensation for an old injury, you will be denied. However, if you have a pre-existing condition such as arthritis, sleep apnea, heart disease, or a mental health disorder, and you are injured during the course of your work on board a vessel, you cannot be denied compensation based on the pre-existing condition. In fact, even if your work injury is an aggravation of a pre-existing injury, you could still qualify for compensation.
How to Handle a Pre-existing Condition
It is important that you disclose all relevant health conditions when you first start a new job. Being transparent about your health upfront will help you in the long run if you have to make an injury claim. Your employer cannot use a pre-existing condition that you disclosed as a reason to deny your claim after an on-the-job injury. However, if you did not disclose a pre-existing condition when you were hired, you could run into trouble with your claim.
Common Maritime Injuries Sustained by Jones Act Seamen
Employers in the maritime industry are required by law to provide a safe working environment and to take steps to prevent injuries. Despite the law, accidents and injuries are commonplace on vessels. Some of the injuries seamen frequently sustain while performing work duties include:
- Back injuries. Maritime workers often have to lift heavy objects, which can put a strain on their backs.
- Slip and fall injuries. Wet or slippery surfaces on boats can cause workers to slip and fall, potentially leading to broken bones, head injuries, or other types of trauma.
- Hand and finger injuries. Working with machinery or equipment can put hands and fingers at risk for cuts, fractures, or crush injuries.
- Hearing loss. Exposure to loud noises on boats can lead to hearing damage over time.
- Burns. Workers on boats may be at risk for burns from hot surfaces or chemicals.
- Repetitive motion injuries. Many maritime workers engage in repetitive tasks that can cause chronic soft-tissue injuries. Gripping ropes, gutting fish, rowing and pulling, overexertion, and other typical actions are common causes of these injuries.
When an injury is caused by an accident that was the result of employer negligence—such as faulty equipment, disorganized decks, understaffing, and more—you are entitled to file a claim for maintenance and cure.
When a Jones Act Lawyer Can Help With Your Claim
If your New York employer tries to blame a pre-existing condition for your current injury, you should consider hiring an experienced Jones Act lawyer to represent you. Presenting proof that your injury is new and was sustained in the course of employment will be vital to the success of your claim. Proof might include medical records, a doctor’s statement, and X-rays or other scans. If you disclosed a pre-existing condition at the time of employment, you should also be covered if a work incident aggravated the old injury or chronic condition.