Injuries to Vessel Captains and Pilots
Here is a quick list of important items for you as a vessel captain, relief captain or pilot who may have suffered an injury at work.
1) Apply for Long Term Disability
You guys often have nice fringe benefits which may include Short and Long Term Disability. Be sure to obtain your policy and apply for STD and LTD benefits after your injury. Read here to learn how important your LTD policy can be to you.
2) Protect Yourself from Blame
Next, keep in mind your company will try to blame you for your injury. This is unfortunate but true most of the time, and the reason for this is simple. As a captain or pilot you were making very good money working on your vessel. Now that you have been injured, if you cannot return to work as a captain or pilot, you will suffer an extremely large amount of future lost wages.
Under the Jones Act and maritime law, if your company played any role whatsoever in causing your injury, even in the slightest, then they may owe you a significant portion, or even all, of your lost future wages. If you were earning $100,000 to $200,000 a year, you can see how this will quickly add up to a significant claim worth one million dollars or more.
To avoid being blamed for your injury, be sure to explain everything your company may have done wrong to cause or contribute to your injury. Most often we see captains and pilots get injured when they are required to do very heavy work because the vessel was shorthanded or they have to cover for a less-than-great deckhand or crewmember. We have recently helped two captains who were injured working the deck winches: the first captain was hurt trying to avoid an accident and the second was keeping an inexperienced deckhand from losing his fingers in a face wire. Many injuries to captains and pilots involve work that may not be a part of their daily requirements, and this can help you win your claim.
3) Protect Yourself from Further Injury: Refrain from Work
As an injured captain or pilot, you will also face a tough decision on whether or not to return to work after your injury. This truly depends on how serious your injury was and whether or not you have had surgery. I will say that overwhelmingly captains and pilots think that they can hurry back to work as they “only sit in the wheelhouse all day”.
Well, if you think about your real job during your 12 hour watch, you know that you often have to go beyond the wheelhouse. From helping the deck crew who don’t know how to do their work, to even going out on the tow to inspect certain conditions, the real nature of your job is pretty heavy work. Even in the wheelhouse there is the constant vibration and the rocking of the vessel.
I always hear physicians say that you should not try to return to work on a vessel if you have suffered a serious injury. A knee injury can worsen from too much rocking and too many stairs and ladders. A back injury can be aggravated by the deck vibrations, occasional heavy work, and transferring on and off the vessel, and a neck injury makes it too hard to keep watch for 12 hours in a row on a vibrating deck.
I always ask, “Could you apply for work with another company, fully disclose your injury, pass a physical and get hired on?” If you hesitate when you answer, chances are you should not return to work on vessels.
One final point on returning to work after your injury. Your written job description from your company may list activities that would be dangerous for you to do after your injury and surgery. This document alone can help show the judge or jury that you shouldn’t return to work which establishes that you have suffered significant lost wages as a result of your injury.
4) Safeguard Your Future
I understand that you loved the work you did on the vessel. All captains love their work and most have been doing it for many years. Most of our clients who are captains tell us they never wanted to file claims and all they wanted to do was return to work, but the sad reality may be that your best option is to pursue a claim against your company.
Call us now to discuss your concerns and options: 866-938-6113. As a captain, more so than other crewmembers, you were used to running the vessel and being in control. But you are in a very different situation now, and it’s ok to get someone else’s advice about your next step.