What Should I Do If I Am Injured At Work?
Taking your career seriously means taking those things which may inhibit your career seriously as well. If you are hurt, it is highly important that to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. The more serious the injury the more important it may be. You do not have to hire a lawyer right away, and you may not ever end up needing one, but speaking to a knowledgeable maritime attorney can provide you with valuable insight into the potential of your claim, arming you with knowledge you’ll need to make the best decision for yourself and your family going forward.
Here are some things that you should do if you are hurt working offshore to preserve your rights and protect yourself and your family.
- Seek medical attention: Seamen make a living by using their minds and bodies. That’s why there is a position called Able-Bodied Seamen. The abilities of your body literally allow you to do the work necessary to accomplish the task at hand. This is no different from athletes and should be treated as such. If your body has suffered trauma you need to get yourself checked by a competent doctor of your own choosing as soon as possible. Your employer will likely attempt to send you to a company doctor, but you have the power to choose your own provider. Medical records will follow you around for a long time, and you want to be sure that the doctor you choose has your best interest at heart and in mind. It may be difficult for someone like yourself to admit that you’re in unremitting physical pain. You likely pride yourself in your ability to work in one of the most dangerous and tough environments in the American workplace and saying “I can’t” just isn’t in your vocabulary. Any statement that you make – “I’m fine”, “It’s no big deal”, can be used against you later on once you figure out that you’re not fine and it is a big deal. Be honest with your medical providers and don’t shy away from telling them all parts of your body that were injured no matter how minor the pain may seem at the time.
Most offshore workers would be greatly apprehensive to admit that they are hurt short of being incapacitated. Sometimes major injuries are revealed in minor ways, and for that reason you should notify your supervisor immediately if you are feeling pain. Always request to fill out the appropriate form(s) and keep a copy for yourself. Not doing so may allow the liable party to make the argument that the injury did not occur in the way you would have described it or under some circumstance that would absolve an otherwise liable defendant of any wrongdoing. It is unnecessary to be as specific in the accident report as you should be in your own personal journal of events. Be generally specific but not overly detailed. A good piece of advice is to use “etc.” to describe details that are excluded. This will position you to combat a later claim by the company that there is information that should have been included. Be careful not to volunteer additional information that was not requested on the accident report, and do not admit that you could have done something other than what you did. Otherwise it would appear that your own opinion is that you could have done something to prevent the incident from occurring.
While it may be tedious and time-consuming, it is critical that you write down everything that transpired leading up to, during, and after the event that caused your injury. Recovery under the Jones Act is predicated by proving that your employer was negligent in causing the injury. Unsafe working conditions, ill-trained co-workers, use of equipment that should have been locked out / tagged out, defective equipment, trip/slip hazards, dimly lit passageways or corridors, etc. should all be listed in the accident report that you fill out. Also, potentially vital is information located in the vessel’s logbooks. Any previous near misses which were properly reported could be especially helpful in proving that the company had previous knowledge of the dangerous condition. Be sure to note the names, phone numbers, and responsibilities of any co-workers / witnesses who had either experienced a similar incident previously or could serve as a means to prove that your employer is at fault. If you are too badly hurt to find this information, ask a trusted crewmember to get it for you.Unlike the accident report, the journal should be kept in a safe and secure location for your own records. Once you meet with your attorney during your free consultation you can provide him with this information.
- Take Photographs
Before there is an opportunity for the hazard that caused your injury to be corrected or fixed, be proactive and obtain your own photos. Take several different angles where possible to do so safely and take note of the time at which the photos were taken.
- Stay truthful, Stay consistent.
You always want to be truthful with your doctor about everything, including past medical treatment for the same or similar injuries. They are discoverable, which means that the defendants and their attorneys will have access to your past medical records. A thorough examination of your past medical records and history will be performed – possibly by a third-party company who does nothing else but such examinations. Any inconsistency between what you have claimed and what your medical history suggests will be delved into in-depth later on during a deposition. This does not mean that having a pre-existing injury will disqualify you from making a claim. What it does mean is that the records will be reviewed more in-depth by the opposing party if there is a pre-existing injury.
- Do not give a recorded statement.The individual asking you for a recorded statement may seem friendly, but remember that they have likely already been speaking with their own attorneys. Remember that their job is to save the company money by reducing the value of your claim any way that they can. If you are being asked for a recorded statement without securing representation, you could be admitting fault for the event without even knowing it. Before potentially reducing the value of your case, you owe it to yourself and those who love you to at least speak with an attorney first. Even if your employer has promised you something – beware. That promise may not be enforceable, could end up being legally inadmissible as evidence in your case, and is not guaranteed. Call us. We can help to steer you through unnavigable waters.
- Avoid working while hurt, even so called “light duty.” Being assigned to “light duty” may seem like a great alternative, and you may have even felt relief that you were still able to work. But, did you know that …
- If you are working on “light duty” status, it could be used to reduce the amount of lost time that you would otherwise be owed?
- Attorneys who defend employers commonly use the fact that you either didn’t miss much time from work or were able to work on “light duty” as a means to show that your injury was not that severe?
- If a third party caused your injury, they owe you for your lost time?
- The company’s doctor may have recommended that you return to work on “light duty” more to protect the company than to protect you?
If you didn’t know most of those things, then you may not know this: once you return to work from an injury but can no longer perform in your job as well as you did before, or worse, aggravate the injury – your potential for recovering full compensation for your injuries may have suffered a severe and potentially fatal blow.
- Your company is reacting – you need to respond.The pain you’re suffering may be so bad it’s all you can think about. I know that all you want is to feel better and get back to work again. From the moment you are hurt working offshore, there is a legal team in place working against your interests. You see, the moment you’re hurt the responsible party isn’t thinking about you. They’re thinking about them. If you are dealing with a claim agent, they are one manager and a couple phone calls away from legal counsel, and they are working to find a way to lessen their financial exposure by attempting to eradicate the rights you’ve earned as a seaman or seawoman. We are fighting just as hard to preserve them. If you are injured, contact your local or general chairman, union representative, and a lawyer who specializes in Jones Act and Maritime law.
- Don’t be a victim.
If you’ve been hurt working offshore, you’re not a victim – yet. Yes, you’ve been hurt, so in that sense you may have been the victim of some negligence, but that moment has come and gone. The real question is, what are you going to do now? A victim ceases to be a victim when he or she stands up for themselves and pushes back. So stand up. Push Back. We can help.
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