If you’re injured while working on your vessel, your employer has a duty to provide maintenance and cure under the Jones Act. Unfortunately, your employer’s insurance company has a vested interest in paying you the bare minimum for your accident. You may file a Jones Act claim to force the insurer to give you all that you deserve, but if you do, your employer may suggest—or even insist—on arbitration to settle your claim.
Why Employers Prefer Arbitration to Resolve Jones Act Claims
Some Jones Act claims require litigation, or the legal process of filing a claim or lawsuit and resolving the matter in court. Arbitration is an alternative resolution to your claim, and involves presenting evidence to an unbiased third party to settle the claim out of court.
Maritime employers prefer arbitration because it typically results in:
- Smaller payouts. Employers may present arbitration as a way for you to get compensation more quickly, which may be true. However, you may end up with a much lower settlement in arbitration vs. taking the claim to court.
- Perceived Lower court costs. Arbitration trials require employers and insurance companies to spend money hiring lawyers to gather evidence against you. Many Jones Act employers have the misconception that arbitration is less expensive for employers. Our experience is to the contrary. Paying arbitrators is very expensive compared to empaneling a jury in the court of your choice. But, employers and their insurers cling to the idea that it is "cheaper" to go the arbitration route. It is not. The main reason Jones Act defendants force you to go to arbitration is that the arbitrators want to keep the flow of business coming to them, so they are not going to necessarily give fair compensation. With virtually no right of appeal, their decisions, often arbitrary, and ignoring the evidence, can screw you with impunity.
- No chance of appeal. Arbitration is very different from mediation. In Jones Act mediation, both parties must agree on the settlement, and can proceed to court if mediation fails. In arbitration, both parties agree to accept whatever decision the arbitrator makes, and the outcome is final and cannot be appealed.
While it is possible for arbitration to work out in your favor, usually it doesn’t. You should never voluntarily agree to arbitration if you can avoid it because you likely will be greatly prejudiced by the process and disappointed with the ultimate result. If the arbitration is forced on you, you absolutely need to have a Jones Act injury lawyer to help you get the best result possible. Maritime employers increasingly put arbitration clauses in employment contracts, and tempt you to agree to arbitration by promising to give you advances against your eventual settlement in addition to paying maintenance and cure. The right attorney can help you negotiate the litigation/arbitration minefield to obtain for you the best settlement or verdict possible.
If you are being pressured into arbitration, it’s vital that you contact the Jones Act attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer as soon as possible. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or fill out our online contact form today to set up your no-obligation consultation. To learn more, download your complimentary copy of our guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.