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Published On: Sat, Jul 9th, 2016

Your Offshore Rights: Key Things All Maritime Workers Need to Know About the Jones Act

If you work on a boat, submarine, or other sea-going vessel, you might think that your rights are limited or non-existent. This is especially true if you work offshore and are away from the coast, work for the military, or are an independent contractor.

Guess what? You do have rights. Here’s what you should know about the Jones Act if you’re injured at sea.

The Basics

If you’re a maritime worker, and you’ve been injured by negligence of your employer or another party, you have rights. But, you must assert them under the Jones Act. According to Zehl & Associates, PC, you need to do this to protect your rights and get justice.

U.S. Navy photo by Airman Ricardo J. Reyes

U.S. Navy photo by Airman Ricardo J. Reyes

Get Medical Attention
First, get medical attention for your injuries or illness. If you were injured on the job, your first priority should be to get the treatment you need. Make sure you keep records of everything, including invoices and prescriptions, tests you got, and results from the medical professional. Also keep track of your communications. Always get written communication if possible as this is the easiest to review.

Never rely on oral communication, or use it as evidence, because it’s the most difficult to prove if you need to take your case before a judge.

Report Your Injury
Always report your injuries. Under the Jones Act, you are required to report a workplace injury to your supervisor. You must do this within 7 days of the injury. With that said, it’s almost always best to report any injuries immediately. The sooner you get treated, the better your chance of getting justice. Why? Because you acted to treat the injury, and you reduce the risk of suffering a secondary that can be directly attributable to you not treating the primary injury.

File Your Claim

Under the Jones Act, you must meet certain requirements. For example, you have to be a “seaman,” must work on a vessel in “navigable waters,” and you must meet certain negligence criteria. You must also follow the claims filing procedure.

Consult An Attorney

It’s best to speak with a Maritime Attorney that handles cases like this. Because Maritime law is a specialized area of the law, and requires very special knowledge and training, only lawyers specializing in Maritime law should be used.

In all likelihood, you will find it impossible to get any other type of lawyer to take the case for you.

The Jones Act is the only option you have to recover financially after a workplace injury, so it’s important that you take action immediately after your injury. The guidance of a maritime attorney is invaluable and will help you navigate the courts that specialize in Maritime Law. These courts, called Admiralty courts, are different from the normal courts that you might find onshore.

They operate by different rules, under a subsection of American law, and are sometimes seen as a somewhat “secretive” or alternative legal system running alongside the traditional American court system.

All this is to say that you probably shouldn’t walk into an Admiralty court without a lawyer.

Discussing Your Options

You should not settle or resolve a Jones Act case until you’ve been restored to “maximum health” or have gotten back to work. You might have the option of settling your case out of court. Otherwise, you will have to go to trial. The individual fact of your case determine which option is best for you, and your lawyer can advise you on that.

The Claims Process

If you’re a qualified seaman, there is a special process for filing a claim under the Jones Act. This process is also time-sensitive

If you’re injured working on a vessel out to sea, or moored at a dock on navigable waters, report it immediately. Federal regulations allow 7 days for you to report the incident.  File a Report of Marine Accident, Injury, or Death (CG-2692) form per federal regulations.

Also, file your company-provided accident report. Don’t do it under the effects of medication, however. Be as detailed as possible and pay attention to the section on who is at fault for your injury. If you’re confused about anything, talk to your lawyer first.

When your paperwork is finished, turn it into the HR department. Ask for a copy. If the HR department won’t make a copy for you, do not hand the paperwork in before you have had a chance to make a copy for your own records. You want to be able to prove that you handed in the paperwork in a timely fashion and that nothing is altered on the original after the fact.

Guest Author :

Joel Jordan has worked on an offshore oil rig much of his working life and comes from a long line of men who have worked on the seas in 1 way or another. He is an intelligent guy who enjoys studying and writing articles in his free moments.

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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