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Injured While Working at Sea? What to Do Next

A career in the maritime industry can be rewarding financially and psychologically, but the sector has a high reputation for dangers. Given the nature of the job, Regardless of role, each position comes with its dangers and potential accidents. In many cases, you can prevent injuries and accidents with proper training and carefully following safety protocol. 

What Can Happen While Working at Sea?

There are several things that can happen while working at sea:

Falling overboard;

Chemical burns;

Slips and falls;

Toxic fumes in enclosed spaces;

Repetitive use injuries.

What Happens if You Were Injured?

Under Section 46 U.S.C. 30104, also known as the Jones Act, establishes the right for maritime workers to file a complaint directly against the employer.

The Jones Act applies to injuries that happen while out on the ocean. It doesn’t matter if negligence played a role in the crew member’s accident or not. They have a right to compensation if they suffered an injury as a result. Because of this act, you don’t have to prove that a vessel wasn’t seaworthy or that someone was guilty. The Jones Act gives you a daily allotment to cover room and board as you recover. 

Under this maritime law, the Jones Act considers unearned wages a right, and you earn them in the same way as if you weren’t injured. The wages will differ based on contract, schedule, or return to the mainland. 

How Do You Respond to an Injury at Sea?

Firstly, you will need to report the injury by informing your captain immediately. You have seven days to report the injury, but in the realm of law and insurance, the sooner, the better. Secondly, seek medical attention right away. Based on the Jones Act, you must request medical attention whenever you are involved in an accident at sea. In cases of serious injuries, they might call in the Coast Guard to fly you to a hospital, once within range. 

This may sound harsh, but you should aim to see your own doctor, as you have the right to do so. The employer and insurance companies can make a recommendation, but with your own doctor, you can trust they will give an impartial evaluation. The doctor will document everything and this will eventually serve as evidence if you ultimately decide to file a lawsuit. 

Never miss scheduled follow-ups with your doctor because it will signal to the insurance companies that you have recovered, or they might argue that your injuries weren’t as severe as previously presented. If someone requests that you give a statement, refuse to do so without your lawyer present. 

Was the Ship Properly Maintained?

The employer must maintain the ship to ensure the safety of everyone on the vessel. They have a legal obligation to do so. Following the law, for a ship to be seaworthy, vessels must be safe to use and fully operational. The entire crew must have received proper training before they set sail. If someone gets injured and the ship was deemed not seaworthy, the employer could have to pay additional recovery and negligence fees. 

Seek Legal Advice From a Specialist

You should speak with a maritime lawyer after an injury. Maritime law protects its sea workers to ensure that their rights remain intact. A competent and qualified maritime lawyer can tell you about benefits, compensation, and inform you of your legal rights correctly. Choose a lawyer with specialized knowledge, as the details of maritime law are very different from those of other law sectors. Maritime laws can be complex at times, which is why you will want someone who will stand in front and protect your rights through expertise by your side.

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