People often assume they can save money by settling a Jones Act claim out of court. While it’s true that it costs money to hire an attorney, the alternative can actually cost you far more.
When you are in a complex situation of any kind, you usually call a professional. For instance, if you’re buying a house, you hire a realtor rather than navigating the process on your own. Or say that your vehicle breaks down, generally, you take it to a mechanic. These situations are often complicated and may be beyond your experience to handle. In the same way, if you have suffered a serious maritime injury, it’s likely that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars at stake. When the stakes are that high, it’s in your best interest to bring in a professional. Not doing so could cost you.
Your maritime company has extensive information available regarding your accident and its cause. They often will not hand over these important documents unless forced to. The only way that you can obtain these documents from your company, including the documents that prove your company’s negligence, is usually to file suit against the company. Filing a suit allows you to force the company to give you these types of helpful documents. If you try to handle your own maritime injury claim, you have no ability to “make” your company give you any of the important documents to your case.
Typical Documents Needed to Prove Your Case
Why do you need these documents, you ask? Without documentation, you have no leverage or proof that the company owes you anything. It’s all hearsay. Imagine trying to return a purchase without a receipt. Or imagine trying to prove a contractor overcharged without proof of a contract. These documents are the cards you’ve been dealt; without them, you’ve no hand to play.
The company typically will never make a firm offer to you. Instead, the company will repeatedly ask “how much” you would like to settle the claim for. No matter what figure you give to the company or the insurance representative, the company or insurance representative will offer significantly less. Sometimes the injured worker has no idea the value of his claim if he has not yet talked to a maritime lawyer or even had the proper medical tests done. If there is any need whatsoever for further medical treatment it is critical that you do not settle your claim until all necessary medical treatment has been performed.
Many individuals receive very limited medical treatment from the company following their injury. These individuals often are told that their injury was not very serious and no further testing was done. The individual then tries to settle his case on this basis and accepts a very small settlement not knowing that he had actually suffered a very serious injury.
Unfortunately, it’s not until later when their injuries don’t go away or get worse that they realize the injury was more serious than they originally thought. And by this time it’s often too late to get the money they need to fix the injury. You may think that $15,000 is a lot of money and will surely be enough, but many procedures often run $30,000 or more per procedure. Without proper medical testing, you can’t know how serious your injury is and therefore can’t know how much it’s going to cost to fix it. It would be like trying to buy a car without test driving the car, or even seeing the car beforehand. You would simply be guessing at the value.
Jones Act Claim Out of Court Rarely Works in Your Favor
Finally, the last mistake is returning to work too soon. Typically a maritime company will require that the employee receives a full return to work slip before the employee is allowed to return to the oil rig or vessel. While the employee is eager to return to work, getting a full release from your then treating physician essentially proves that your injury was minor and that you have fully recovered from your injury. It is nearly impossible to undo this type of a full release. Additionally, your company will rely upon this full release in denying you any further medical treatment if your condition continues to get worse. Although it may be very appealing to return to work as soon as possible to receive weekly paychecks, these weekly paychecks may be sacrificing your yearly income for the rest of your life.
When you bring an attorney on to your case, that attorney will more than likely increase the value of your settlement. Essentially, you must ask yourself, “Can an attorney add value to my case? Does he/she know more than I do about the law?” The answers to both of those questions are usually “yes.”
Your company is very experienced and has handled thousands of similar claims. When you’re settling a Jones Act claim out of court, you forfeit vital resources that work in your favor.
If you have any questions about our fee structure and how we can help you with your maritime case, contact us today to discuss your situation. You do not have to go through this alone – let a professional guide you in the process.
* The results are specific to the facts and legal circumstances of each of the clients’ cases and should not be used to form an expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case.