Working on a cruise ship can hold a number of advantages over mainland employment; you’re paid to see sights and enjoy ocean views that others pay thousands of dollars to experience, you save money on housing if you’re able to stay aboard the ship and take advantage of a roommate or room rental situation back home, and you get to interact with individuals from many walks of life. Unfortunately, this interaction aboard a tightly-confined area can sometimes lead to injury — whether you’re punched by a belligerent guest or find yourself nursing broken bones after a guest’s wheelchair rolls into you during some rough weather. What are your legal and financial options if you’re injured in the course of your maritime employment? Read on to learn more about your rights when injured on the job at sea and when you may need the services of a Jones Act attorney.
Who is financially responsible for injuries you suffer at sea?
If your job requires you to be aboard a ship on a regular basis, it’s likely that you qualify as a Jones Act maritime employee or seaman. This means that instead of suing your employer or filing for workers’ compensation coverage in the state where your ship launched, you’ll be governed by federal law under the Jones Act. Although your employer will generally bear legal and financial responsibility for accidents you suffer as a result of a guest’s actions, there are some specific procedures by which you’ll need to abide when filing your claim in order for it to be successful.
First, you’ll need to report the accident or incident immediately — although you technically have seven days under federal law to report it, any delay will work against you when it comes time to determine how seriously you were injured. You’ll then be required to give a statement and, if necessary, seek medical treatment. At some point, your employer’s insurance company may offer to settle the claim, or if they think you’re exaggerating your injuries, they may proceed to trial.
When should you hire an attorney to pursue your Jones Act claim?
Determining whether you’re covered by the Jones Act in the first place is vital to your claim and should be the first issue you investigate. Because this can be a fairly fact-intensive determination and it is difficult to predict who will be deemed a Jones Act employee and who will be excluded — especially if you’re in a relatively niche industry on your cruise ship — you may want to consult with a Jones Act attorney early in the process to ensure you don’t commit any missteps that could compromise your ability to recover. You may also want to hire an attorney if you’re worried about the real-life potentially retaliatory consequences of blaming your employer for your injury in an official document.