What to do If You are Injured While Working on a Boat
Report the injury and complete an incident report. The very first thing you should do after you are injured is report the injury to your supervisor and make sure that (a) an incident report is completed; and (b) your injury is noted in the vessel’s log. If your injury is not properly recorded, it is more likely that you will have problems recovering the remedies which you are entitled to such as maintenance and cure, and Jones Act remedies. Proper recording will help to ensure that there is no dispute as to whether your injury occurred while you were in service of the vessel, which is critical to establishing your entitlement to maintenance, cure, and unearned wages. Furthermore, incident reports often contain facts that are important to establishing liability under the Jones Act. Even if you do not believe your injury is severe at the time and you hope that you will recovery quickly, it is important to report it right away because oftentimes there are unanticipated long-term effects of injuries. When filling out an incident report, you should take your time to accurately describe the events that led to your injury. You should also identify any defective equipment, condition, or negligence that was a factor in causing your injury.
Seek necessary medical treatment. As soon as you get hurt and have reported the injury, it is important that you see a doctor right away. This is important because the sooner you see a doctor, the more your doctor will likely be able to help you. If you are hurt, you should insist on being taken to shore promptly for medical treatment. It is fairly common for employers to put profits before people, and to require injured seamen to wait days or even weeks before they are brought to shore. If you are injured at sea and your employer refuses to take you to shore for proper medical treatment, make sure you keep a record of every time your employer denies you medical treatment. Write down the names of the company officials who were aware of your request for medical treatment. Once ashore, it is important to remember that you have the right to choose your medical providers; your employer does not have the right to decide who you receive treatment from. Many employers will try to set up medical appointments for you with their hand-selected doctors. These are typically doctors that they work with on a regular basis and who the company knows will lean in favor of the company if litigation is necessary or when making a decision to terminate your care. After initial emergency medical treatment, it is important that you continue to follow up with your medical providers and follow your doctor’s orders until your treatment is complete.
Take photos. As soon as possible after your injury, take steps to collect evidence of what happened. Take photos of the area where your injury occurred and any tools or equipment you were using at the time of the injury. Take photos from all angles and with as much detail as possible. If possible, save these photos in more than one location. It is important to begin collecting evidence as soon as you can because sometimes the condition which caused your injury will not be there later. For example, if you slip in an oil slick and wait to take photos, chances are that someone will clean it up. There may be a dispute later about whether oil was on the deck or what caused your fall.
Collect witness statements and contact information. Another important aspect of collecting evidence involves witness statements. Make sure that anyone that witnessed your injury or the dangerous condition which caused your injury makes a written report to your employer along with the incident report. For example, if you fell from a ladder that slipped out from under you because its nonskid feet were missing, find out everyone who saw you fall as well as everyone who knew the ladder was missing its nonskid feet. Ask people what they saw and write it down, along with their telephone number, email, and mailing address in case you need to get in touch with them later in relation to your claim. Claims are won and lost based on the quality of witness testimony. Therefore, it is important that you collect as much information as possible and retain a lawyer to begin an investigation while the facts are still fresh in the memories of the witnesses.
Write down what happened. Just as it is important to keep notes of what your fellow crewmembers saw, your own memory is the best closest to the time of injury. Keep detailed notes of the following information:
- Names and positions of all fellow crewmembers (whether or not they saw anything related to you injury);
- Names of those present at the time of your injury;
- Anything you think caused your injury;
- A detailed narrative the events during which you were injured;
- The medical care you got after your injury, including the contact information for all medical providers;
- Any problems you have with your employer related to your injury; and
- All telephone calls or other conversations you have regarding your injury or your claim.
Can I wait to see if the company will take care of me? Oftentimes after an injury, the adjuster or risk management personnel for the company will promise to take care of the employee and will facilitate travel back to your home and medical treatment. They promise to offer a settlement when you are finished with your treatment and tell you that you don’t need a lawyer. Although some of these adjusters have good intentions and may want to help, they ultimately work for the company and have an interest in minimizing the value of your maritime claim. They will try to get you to go to doctors they select and know will provide favorable testimony for the company. They will try to keep you from getting an attorney in order to prevent an early investigation into the facts of your injury. As experts in the adjustment of maritime claims, they will do everything possible to undermine the value of your claim and cut off treatment.
Consult an experienced maritime lawyer at Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC. As soon as you are off the vessel and have received the emergency medical attention you require, you should speak to an attorney about your situation. Do not sign anything (other than the incident report ) without first speaking to a lawyer. The highly experienced maritime attorneys at Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC are available to speak to you for a free case evaluation. Call 206.624.8844 to speak to a lawyer. After hours, you can send an email to our website.