If you have suffered a maritime injury while at work, you are likely very cautious about hiring the best attorney for your individual case. That cautiousness is warranted, and will, in fact, help you to arrive at the best decision on representation. The following are qualities that a great maritime lawyer must have if they’re to successfully represent you.
When you need to see a doctor, you want to see a doctor that specializes in the type of injury that you have suffered. In the same way, you should hire a maritime lawyer who focuses his practice on handling Jones Act and maritime injury claims. Many “general practice” lawyers in your area are very nice and know a little bit about lots of different laws. Unfortunately, these lawyers typically are not experienced enough with complicated Jones Act and maritime laws to truly handle a maritime injury claim. If you need to have open-heart surgery, you want to have a heart surgeon who specializes in that type of surgery. If you need to have knee surgery, you will want a doctor that specializes in knee surgeries. In the same way, when you have a serious maritime injury claim, you should find a good maritime lawyer who focuses his practice on handling maritime injury cases.
It is amazing how many attorneys never actually go to court to argue motions or try cases before judges and juries. Maritime lawsuits are defended by the insurance companies and company lawyers. These company lawyers will fight every issue in your maritime case and this often involves arguing motions before the court. Very often Jones Act and maritime cases are prepared all the way up until the point of the trial at which time a fair settlement can finally be reached. If not, your case will need to be presented to a jury. Your maritime injury lawyer will most likely spend as much time in court on your case as he will working on the case outside of court. It is very important that your attorney has extensive courtroom experience so that he can successfully handle your case.
Yes, you should be concerned if the attorney you are considering hiring has very little courtroom experience. You would be taking a big risk by hiring maritime law attorneys who have rarely entered a courtroom or have no interest in taking a case to trial. You would be better off if you have an attorney who will be prepared to take your case to trial if a fair settlement can’t be reached.
The attorney you choose should also be knowledgeable about safety issues such as:
If you have an assertive New Orleans, La. attorney on your side, your case can be taken more seriously by the defense.
Maritime lawsuits are typically defended by company lawyers who will rip your case apart if your attorney isn’t willing to demand a jury trial or argue motions before a judge.
Although it’s not uncommon for parties to reach a fair settlement right before a trial, maritime law attorneys should still be prepared to explain to a jury how horrible shipping schedules or poor maintenance led to your injuries.
An experienced attorney can spend just as much time working on your case in court as he or she can spend out of court. To effectively handle your case, courtroom experience is necessary.
Your maritime injury claim will be expensive to successfully present to a judge or jury. Typically your claim will involve loss of past and future wages and fringe benefits. An economic expert is necessary to testify regarding this issue at trial. Your case may require a liability expert to show what the company did wrong which caused your injury. These experts require payment up front and your maritime attorney will be responsible for hiring and funding these experts until your case can settle. For every dollar that the company spends in an effort to defend your claim, your attorney must be prepared to finance your case in a similar way.
Your maritime injury claim will require office resources and skills as well as financial resources. In order to successfully prove your case hours and hours of effort and work will be spent in accumulating the necessary documents and obtaining the necessary testimony to prove your case at trial. This work includes getting all of your medical and work records, arranging and paying for medical treatment so that you can prove your injury, hiring and working with experts in regard to your damages as well as the fault of the company, scheduling and taking depositions from key witnesses, and organizing all of these documents and information so that they can be successfully presented at court. Your maritime attorney needs to have an office staff that is experienced and able to prepare your case.
This may be one of the most important requirements of your maritime injury attorney. Very often successful attorneys will have significant financial resources and office staff and they even have experience handling maritime claims. However, many of these attorneys will accept lots of cases but truly pursue only a few of these cases. In other words, they may accept your claim and if they eventually determine that they do not view your case as a “high dollar case”, they may limit their work on your case. Your attorney must be ready to fully prepare your case for trial. When you hire your attorney you should ask if he is truly ready and able to fully prepare your case in order to obtain a good settlement or trial result.
A good maritime attorney will inevitably have clients who provide feedback on their services. It’s important that you look for any reviews or testimonials both on the attorney website and on other unbiased websites. You can read our client testimonials here as well as reviews on AVVO, a major legal directory.
One of the primary things you want to consider is whether or not other attorneys refer maritime cases to the attorney that you are considering. The Young Firm has been referred hundreds of maritime cases throughout the years from attorneys across the country, which means that those attorneys trust us enough, and know that The Young Firm knows maritime law well enough, that they will turn over their cases to our Firm to take on. Therefore, it is important to look at client information, but you must also look at what other attorneys and firms think of the one you’re considering. One valuable question you can ask is, “Are you referred cases to handle that are Jones Act or Maritime cases from other attorneys?” Sometimes, you may even be talking to the attorney who will actually refer your case out to someone else – and that’s important for you to know, too. The Young Firm is proud to say that attorneys nationwide trust us enough to take on their maritime cases.
If you or a loved one is injured performing a job offshore, it can have serious consequences. From steep medical bills and treatment costs to lost wages and income, an offshore injury can have expensive financial consequences. Filing a claim could help you recover those expenses; however, maritime law can be highly complicated, and legislation on the Jones Act has been amended several times. Therefore, it can be important you enlist the help of a maritime law professional you can trust.
When looking for a New Orleans maritime lawyer, consider these factors:
Types of cases tried – Look for a maritime lawyer who has experience in your specific type of case. If you were injured on an oil rig, ensure the lawyer you choose has a good background in trying oil rig injury cases under maritime law.
Results and success rate – Talk to potential lawyers about their success rates for cases like yours. Did they settle in or out of court? How much was the plaintiff awarded? Ask them for an evaluation of your own case.
Martindale Hubbel/AVVO ratings – Martindale Hubbel and AVVO uses peer reviews to rate lawyers’ services. You’ll want to look for an attorney with a favorable rating.
Communication and fees –Ensure you’re clear on how fees and retainers will work with each New Orleans maritime lawyer you speak to and that these fees fit your budget. Also, speak to potential lawyers about their communication policies; how will you communicate with them if you have new case information? Moreover, how will they keep you apprised of status updates?
Were you injured on a job offshore? Consider filing a claim to recoup medical costs and damages. Call toll-free at 1-866-703-2590 to speak to a New Orleans maritime lawyer at The Young Firm about your case.
Despite how it may feel, you are the one with the power when it comes to hiring an attorney. They may know the ins and outs of the law, but ultimately the decision is up to you on whether you sign the contract and hire them. Before you hire any attorney, it’s important to gauge how good of an attorney they actually are. The following questions will give you a better idea on whether the attorney you’re talking about knows enough about maritime law.
Once you have this list, it’s time to interview each potential Jones Act lawyer. Make sure to ask these attorneys detailed questions such as:
Did you know that many Jones Act maritime lawyers actually require that clients give them general authority to accept any settlement that they believe is “fair”? In other words, some of these attorneys don’t even relay the settlement offer amounts to you. Instead, when you sign your contract with these attorneys, they actually state in the contract language that you allow them to accept any settlement that they feel is reasonable in your case.
Talk about taking away rights!
Our office never settles any Jones Act case without fully discussing the settlement offers with our clients. We will also provide our client with a specific amount that they will recover out of the settlement. This allows our clients to know the exact amount that they will receive in their pocket if they agree to a certain settlement offer.
We strongly advise that you never provide your attorney with general settlement authority at the beginning of any case that allows your attorney to simply accept an offer that they believe is “reasonable.” You want to make sure you read your contract language if you hire an attorney, and we recommend that you discuss this issue with your attorney at the time that you hire him or her. Remember, it’s your Jones Act settlement, make sure you are in control of the settlement amount.
If you have been injured offshore, the last thing you may want to do is get an attorney involved. You might be thinking, “I don’t want a lawyer. I’ll lose my job and not be able to return offshore. Besides, my company said it would take care of me.” You are not alone in those thoughts. Many injured workers say the same thing, and wonder if it’s better to simply meet with their company or company insurance representative regarding a settlement, and handle it on their own. More often than not, however, this is an unfortunate mistake.
Your Company’s Offer
For starters, your company will refuse to make you a definitive offer, and instead will ask you, over and over, “How much do you want to settle the claim?” Regardless of what number you come back with, your company, probably through their insurance representative, will come back to you with an offer significantly lower than your request. All you may want is enough money to pay for your medical expenses and help you get back to work. But how can you know how much you’ll need without plenty of tests and doctor’s visits? Often injured workers will take $10,000 or even $30,000 to settle with their company and realize too late that this isn’t enough to take care of them, especially when surgeries are involved. Settling on your own could shortchange you.
Continued Medical Care
Another common mistake injured employees make without a lawyer is trying to settle their claims quickly in an effort to receive financial resources for continued medical care. If you are in need of any further medical care whatsoever, it is imperative that you DO NOT settle until all medical care has been completed. A company doctor will likely not perform the more expensive, specialized testing that you need to properly diagnose and treat your injury. It is essential that you be seen by an independent, trusted physician and have all necessary testing done before you settle your claim. Otherwise, you could be compromising payment for potential long-term, necessary treatment.
So How Much is My Case Worth?
Each case is different and must be evaluated individually. However, there are important elements that can determine the difference between a low-valued case and one that is worth far more. If your injury keeps you from returning to manual labor, and prior to the accident you were earning significant wages either offshore or by performing extensive manual labor, your loss of future wages will generally be substantial. A simple way to estimate the value of your claim is to ask yourself, “How much will I earn if I return to limited or light work following my injury? How much less is that than what I was earning before my accident?” This simple comparison will give you an idea of a starting point for your claim.
How Long Will it Take?
Jones Act and Maritime Law cases are complex in nature and are not usually settled quickly and easily. If you have suffered a significant injury, particularly if you need surgery, you might be looking at a settlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars, potentially even more. Maritime companies and their insurance representatives will not pay such a large settlement without a full investigation and an attempted defense, which can take anywhere from a few months for a smaller claim, to a year or more for a more serious claim. Time varies greatly depending on where the suit is filed, but you should have a relatively good idea of the value of your case within months of filing.
If you have been injured on or offshore, and are considering contacting an attorney, call The Young Firm today for a free consultation. We will answer all your questions and walk you through your case and your rights – one step at a time.
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