After an accident, your world can quickly turn upside down. With the stress of worrying about your injuries and your ability to work, you may inadvertently do something that can hurt your future legal case. There are actions and inactions that can impact your chances of receiving reasonable compensation for the losses caused by your injuries.
Following an accident, keep the following in mind:
- Do report your accident to your supervisor. Even if you don't notice the severity of your injury until the next day, it's important to complete an accident report or make an entry in the vessel's logbook. Ask for a copy of anything you sign. If your vessel has a medical officer, speak with him or her about what care is available onboard and discuss how long you can hold out for professional help at the next port.
- Do see a doctor as soon as you're able after an accident. Obtaining the care you need is your primary concern. Make sure to explain to the doctor or nurse how your injury occurred. This will assist the physician in diagnosing your condition and also creates another level of documentation for your injury claim. You are entitled to be treated by a doctor of your choosing. Under the Maintenance and Cure doctrine, medical expenses will be covered by your employer.
- Do not give a statement, official or otherwise, to your employer or their insurance company. While you may have a positive relationship with other crew members, this does not mean they are on your side. Your words may be used to build a case against you by your employer and its insurance company.
- Do consult with an attorney before agreeing to a settlement. Maritime businesses and their insurance companies may be only concerned with their profits and bottom line. Paying you fair and honest compensation for your losses is not how insurance companies make money. They may shortchange you, leaving you high and dry down the road. An experienced attorney will make sure you're not being taken advantage of.
- Do not go back to work until you are physically and mentally recovered. You may feel pressure from an employer to hurry back. Do not return to work without clearance from your personal physician. You do not want to aggravate your injuries and potentially sustain permanent damage. If you are pursuing a legal claim, consult with your attorney about your options.
- Do file a maritime accident claim as soon after the accident as possible. Not only are you limited in the time you can act and file a claim after an accident, a lengthy delay can weaken your case in some situations. Keep in mind that certain evidence, statements, and documentation are time-sensitive and can affect your available legal options.
Speak with a maritime lawyer who you can trust to represent your interests and can give you legal advice that will help you navigate your general maritime law and Jones Act claims.