Whether you work on an oceangoing vessel, tugboat, or drilling rig, you know you work in a potentially dangerous environment every day. However, you may not truly understand how your rights work if you are hurt in service to your employer. While maritime laws allow injured seamen in “brown water” positions, “blue water” positions, and the oil and gas industry to collect compensation when they are hurt, misunderstanding your eligibility and Jones Act rights could leave you vulnerable to employers who hope to minimize your claim. Here are some crucial things you should know.
Understanding Your Jones Act Benefits
If you have been hurt while working offshore, you may be entitled to benefits under the Jones Act, which is a federal law created to protect offshore workers. In order for you to collect Jones Act benefits for an injury, you must be able to prove that your employer’s negligence contributed to what happened to you. If you are successful, you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Past, present, and future medical care and therapy
- Emotional or psychological suffering
- Loss of enjoyment and engagement in life
- Lost wages while you are unable to work
- Loss of your ability to work in the future
However, there are some benefits that seamen have access to regardless of the part their employer may have played in their injuries. In many cases, the right to “maintenance and cure” goes hand-in-hand with your Jones Act rights.
Your Rights to Maintenance and Cure
Under maritime laws, a seaman who is hurt or becomes ill while working on a vessel is eligible for “maintenance and cure.” You do not have to prove negligence or wrongdoing in order to receive these benefits, which cover the payment of reasonable medical and living expenses until you reach maximum medical “cure.” If you have questions about these rights, or if you have been hurt at work without receiving compensation, don’t hesitate to start investigating your rights with an experienced attorney.
How Offshore Employers Try to Deny Benefits to Injured Jones Act Seamen
Despite the Jones Act and other maritime laws, some offshore employers will go to great lengths to avoid paying seamen the compensation they deserve after they’ve been hurt. Some employers may try to minimize injuries, mislead workers about their rights, or even blame the injured workers for the accident. For example, an employer may try to claim that you aren’t eligible for Jones Act benefits for an injury because:
- You lied about a pre-existing condition on your medical history forms.
- You have private insurance coverage that covers some or all of your medical care.
- The injury was your own fault.
- The injury did not happen at work.
Whether or not an employer is telling the truth, seamen who find themselves in this situation may accept the denial because they aren’t sure about their rights and don’t want to face potential retaliation from their employers.
Steps to Take If You Have Been Denied Medical Care for an Injury at Sea
Although some workers have no problem seeing a doctor and going through the process of filing for Jones Act benefits after an injury at sea, there are many others who are surprised to find that their employers won’t help them get the medical care they need. Whether you have been prevented from seeing a doctor entirely or subjected to a biased or cursory examination by a company doctor, you still have a right to get the care you need. Here are two steps you can take to make sure you have the best chance at recovery:
- Seek medical attention on your own. Your health should be your priority. As soon as you are able, see a doctor of your own choosing for treatment. Make sure you tell your doctor that the injury happened while you were working at sea, and give him or her contact information for your employer.
- Contact an attorney who has experience with Jones Act claims and injuries at sea. While your employer is required to pay for your medical care under the Jones Act, some employers don’t play by the rules. If your company is refusing to pay for your care, speak with an experienced legal representative as soon as possible about protecting your rights to treatment.
If you’ve been hurt while working on a vessel or rig, your company may not be telling you everything you need to know. It’s up to you to get informed about your rights under the law—and what you can do to get the help you need.
If My Jones Act Benefits Have Already Been Denied, Can VB Attorneys Still Help Me?
If you are eligible for compensation under the Jones Act, you may be able to fight an unfair denial, even if your employer has refused to take responsibility for your medical bills. However, to do so, you will need the assistance of a skilled attorney who has experience in successfully pursuing Jones Act and other offshore injury cases. An attorney can help by:
- Explaining your rights and options after a denial of Jones Act benefits.
- Making sure your rights are protected.
- Taking care of your claim so you can focus on recovery.
Ultimately, whether or not you can successfully fight a denied claim depends on the details of your situation. If you have been denied benefits under the Jones Act or only received partial benefits, there may be a good reason—or there’s a good chance that your employer is simply attempting to avoid paying you the benefits you deserve.
You don’t have to swallow your employer’s excuses for not paying you the benefits you are entitled to under the law. To start taking action today, reach out to us at 877-724-7800 or fill out the contact form on this page. In a free and confidential case review, an experienced attorney will investigate the details of your injury and help you get answers.