You've spent the last decade working in the maritime industry, and you avoided major injuries for years. It's a sometimes chaotic, dangerous profession, so you know how lucky you were.
Now, though, that injury bug has finally struck. You can't work, the medical bills are piling up and you're starting to think about your future. Will you ever be able to work again? How do you pay off this medical debt? To help you get started, here are a few key questions and answers:
How does the Jones Act protect people who work at sea?
The problem you'd have without the Jones Act is that working at sea takes you out of the realm of terrestrial law. Without the act, you may have a hard time getting any type of compensation when not covered by California's standard workers' comp laws.
The Jones Act fixes that by giving you a way to seek that compensation directly from the employer. As long as you spend just under one third of your time on a ship (30 percent), then you qualify.
With the act in place, employers have to give their employees a safe working environment, just as they would on the shore. When this is not done, the employer may then be responsible for injuries that occur -- leading to high medical bills, lost wages and much more.
What is a safe working environment?
There are inherent dangers to working at sea, as you know well. That doesn't mean that your employer can be negligent, however. Actions must be taken to keep you as safe as possible under those conditions. For instance:
- The crew must get sufficient training.
- The ship's deck must be clean, kept clear of oil and other such substances.
- The equipment on the ship must be properly maintained and in good working order.
- The crew must have all of the proper safety gear and equipment for the job at hand.
Accidents may happen, but negligence is impermissible. Your employer owes you a safe working environment.
What are the four main steps when making a claim?
After the injury, make sure you follow these four main steps:
- Go to your supervisor and report the incident. For instance, you may need to tell the captain that you got hurt in an accident on deck. You have a week to do this.
- Use an official accident report for your statement. It should tell officials how you got hurt and who you believe was at fault.
- Get medical treatment. If this is an emergency situation, this step jumps all the way to the top of the list, as health is most important.
- File your lawsuit or settle a claim. You may well be able to settle before you wind up in court.
Since maritime rules are different than they are for land-based workers, it's very important to understand the Jones Act and what special regulations apply to your case.