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What to Expect in a Jones Act Case

The Jones Act grants maritime workers, including commercial fishermen and oil workers, the right to sue their employers if they are injured on the job. If you are a maritime worker, you may be wondering how the process works.

First, you must report your injury to your employer. Federal law requires you to report any work-related injury within seven days, but you should do so immediately.

If your injury while at sea is severe, you will be taken to a hospital, probably by Coast Guard helicopter. Whether your medical treatment is emergency or non-emergency, follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter.

Your employer will generally require you to fill out an accident report. Complete it to the best of your ability. If you do not feel clear-headed because of the injury or any pain medication, tell your employer you will fill it out after their effects subside. The form will probably have a section asking you who was at fault in the accident. If you believe the company was at fault, write that down. If you are unsure, write that you are unsure and will have to think about it. In short, be honest.

Your employer’s insurer will ask you to give a written or tape-recorded statement. It is rarely to the worker’s advantage to do so. Do not make a statement to the insurer before consulting an attorney.

When you meet with an attorney, you should expect a frank and fee-free evaluation of the prospects for your case and advice on how to proceed. If your injuries are minor and your employer is cooperative, you may not need an attorney. But it is a very good idea to speak with one as soon as possible.

Your attorney will instruct you not to settle your case until your medical treatment is complete and you are back at work. Even if you feel all right, you do not know whether you can perform a physically demanding job until you are back at it.