I Got Injured, Now What?
Many maritime workers dread the thought of pursuing a legal claim against their employers simply because they fear the legal process. Even if the company is guilty of negligence or sailing an unseaworthy vessel, the seaman will still have to spend countless hours in court, giving testimony and meeting face-to-face with an employer with whom they are not on the best of terms. But what if there were a way to get the full amount you are owed without entering a courtroom?
Generally speaking, there are two ways injured seamen can get compensation in a Jones Act injury case: they can settle out of court, or go to trial. There are benefits to each of these routes, but either one can allow the victim to collect a fair amount for his injury costs.
Should I Accept a Jones Act Settlement or Go to Court?
Employers offer settlements because it is faster and cheaper than going to trial, and there is also no risk involved. When a case goes to trial, the final decision on a settlement is up to the judge and the jury, not the participants. A settlement offer gives an employer control over the amount of damages, and allows both parties to be spared the uncertainty of what can happen at trial.
Here are some important questions to consider before accepting a settlement:
Is the offer fair?
The biggest reason injury victims decline a settlement is because the amount offered does not cover the full amount of his or her medical bills, lost wages, or disability costs. A settlement should cover all of the victim’s out-of-pocket costs and injury expenses, at the very least.
Is the victim likely to win in court?
You and your attorney should examine the evidence and facts of the case carefully to get a realistic picture of how the case will play out in the courtroom. Many things can affect the amount of compensation a victim is awarded, such as whether the victim is partly liable for the accident or made any mistakes during the filing of his claim. If your case is strong, you may choose to refuse a settlement offer and proceed to trial.
How long has the case been pending?
The length of a court case can also affect the amount awarded to a victim. If the victim has been kept waiting for compensation as a result of a long case, the employer or insurer could be ordered to pay interest on the damages. The settlement offer should include an interest amount similar to the one that could be ordered if the case went to trial.
Because so many things can affect the outcome and worth of your case, victims should always seek a competent and qualified maritime attorney before accepting an offer. Please feel free to use our website to research your case, and learn more about compensation and recoveries in Jones Act claims.
Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation.