It’s that time of year again. The holidays are over and you’re going back to work on a factory trawler up in Alaska for “A-Season.” Whether you’re a returning crew member or a greenhorn, it’s important that you have a clear understanding of your legal rights before going up to Alaska on a factory trawler. Failure to protect or know your rights before you leave can seriously impact your ability to get fair compensation if you are injured. Here are the top 10 things to know about your legal rights before going back to work:
- Report Your Injury. If you get injured on a factory trawler, you need to report the injury as soon as possible in writing. Some leads or supervisors will try to delay or discourage you from filling out an accident report in order to limit the number of claims filed against the company. You should insist on filling out an accident report immediately. Remind your supervisor that company policy requires you to fill out an accident report following an injury.
- Fill Out An Accident Report. Fill out an accident/incident report even if you believe the injury will resolve quickly. Some injuries that you initially believe will resolve quickly can turn into larger issues that may lead to surgery. You are not a doctor and don’t know if your injury will become more serious than you believe at first. If you fail to fill out an accident/incident report in a timely manner, the company may try to deny your claim because you did not report it.
- Get Medical Evaluation. You are entitled to medical treatment for your injuries. If you sustain an injury on the vessel or become ill, you are entitled to timely and medical treatment for your injuries. Some supervisors may try to discourage you from obtaining prompt medical treatment. Remind them that you have a right to medical treatment under maritime law and that the company may be responsible for any worsening of your condition if you are not provided with timely medical treatment.
- Witness Contact information. Obtain the contact information for witnesses. Following an injury, it is important that you obtain the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses of the people that worked in your area that witnessed your injury or the work circumstances surrounding your injury. Even if they did not witness the actual event, witnesses may be important to establish the underlying facts. Collect this information before you leave the vessel. It may be difficult to locate these people later.
- Take photographs. While many companies prohibit taking photographs on company vessels, a photograph of the area where you were injured or the equipment involved in your injury may be critical to your case in the future. Therefore, you should obtain photographs of any important physical evidence or equipment involved in your injury.
- Maintenance Payments. If you are injured or become ill while in the service of the vessel, you are entitled to maintenance payments while you recover from your injury or illness at home. Maintenance payments are a daily stipend to cover your room-and-board expenses during your recovery. You are entitled to maintenance payments as long as you receive curative medical treatment designed to improve your medical condition.
- Rate of Maintenance Payments. The rate of maintenance payments is different for every worker and depends on the worker’s actual room-and-board expenses. Workers that have higher expenses are entitled to higher maintenance payments and are not limited by the maintenance rate set in the employment contract written by their employer. Room-and-board expenses include rent, mortgage payments, utilities, food, and other necessary expenses to maintain the household. If you share a home with other family members, many courts hold that you are entitled to the entire amount of the rent or mortgage because you could not pay less than the full amount and remain in your home.
- Medical Expenses. You have a right to have all of your reasonable medical expenses related to your injury paid by the company. The company cannot dictate what is reasonable or tell you what medical providers to see. If the company is referring you to a specific medical provider, you should be concerned and consult with an attorney before going to the medical provider.
- Lost Wages. Under the Jones Act, you are entitled damages for lost wages while you are off work due to an injury if your attorney can show that your injury was caused by an unsafe condition or negligence of your employer. This can include future wage loss if you are unable to return to work.
- Damages for Pain and Suffering. Under the Jones Act, you are entitled to damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and disability caused by an unsafe condition or the negligence of your employer. This may include damages for future pain and suffering if you injury is permanent.
These issues can be complex. For this reason, our experienced maritime injury lawyers offer a free consultation to injured fishermen, fish processors, and seamen. Contact us today for your free claim evaluation.