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What to Do If You Are Injured at Sea: The First 6 Steps

Stacey-and-Jacobsen-CroppedIf you are a maritime worker or commercial fisherman, you already know that work at sea is dangerous. Jones Act or maritime law is in place to give rights to workers as well as an extra layer of protection. Know your rights, and if an accident does occur, we recommend that you follow these guidelines:

1. Report the Accident – It is imperative that you let your supervisor or captain know immediately that you have been injured. Jones Act or Maritime Law requires the injured party to report any work-related injury within seven (7) days, but don’t wait that long. The insurance company may assume that if you didn’t report the accident right away, it wasn’t very serious, so don’t wait. If you get hurt while working and you believe that your injuries need medical attention or have even the slightest chance of causing you to miss work, report it right away.

2. Seek Medical Attention – The law requires your employer to see that you receive medical treatment for your injuries. If you are at sea and your injuries are serious, the ship should have the Coast Guard medevac you to a hospital. If you are far out at sea or in international waters, a Coast Guard helicopter may be able to pick you up as soon as you are within range of the United States. The ship has the ability to consult with a physician by phone or radio if your condition is serious. And, if you are in a foreign country, your employer must get you proper medical treatment and get you back home at their expense. Your employer must pay for all medical attention that you need if you are injured or become ill while in the service of the vessel.

3. Choose Your Own Doctor – You have the right to choose your own doctor. It may be tempting to see a doctor recommended by your employer or your employer’s insurance company, but we recommend you see a doctor of your choosing for an impartial assessment. Make certain that the doctor or healthcare worker documents everything. Your medical records will be used as evidence if a claim needs to be filed.

4. Follow Doctor’s Orders – Follow all your doctor’s recommendations. Do not miss any appointments with your doctor, as missed appointments send a signal to the insurance company and the employer that you have completely recovered or that your injuries were not severe. It is common for insurance companies to send investigators to monitor your progress without your knowledge. They may take photos or video to document your actions while you recover from your injuries.

5. Do Not Give a Recorded Statement – Never give a recorded statement. The insurance company is in the business of making money for their shareholders, and their goal is to pay out as little on your claim as possible. The insurance company is not working on your behalf, no matter how nice they are to you when they call. They will ask leading questions and create their own story about your accident, which may not be accurate.

6. Consult a Maritime Lawyer – You need a lawyer who understands Maritime Law and who is on your side. By consulting a lawyer, you will have a better understanding of your rights and your options. Most maritime lawyers offer a free consultation, and most will give you a fair assessment of your case. Knowing your rights and your employer’s obligation to pay certain benefits is the crucial baseline in making decisions on how to proceed.

Most accidents are avoidable by proper maintenance and by following proper procedures. Maritime law is in place to ensure that injured workers have a way to recover damages from the responsible parties when injuries are due to negligence, neglect, improper procedures, faulty equipment, or unseaworthiness. It is imperative that you retain legal representation if you feel any of your rights have been ignored or violated.

Contact Stacey and Jacobsen today for a free and fair consultation and assessment of your case at.