You got to know where to look
After handling Jones Act injury cases for more than 20 years, I can tell you there are lots of reports documenting how your injury occurred that will help you win your case. Below is a listing of the types of reports we have come across and which have often helped our clients win their cases. Some companies use all of these while others don’t use any. The important thing is to know what to ask for and look for during your claim.
Accident Reports- this is the document most companies start with following any type of accident on a rig or vessel. It can be one page or multiple pages, but most are either a single page or two pages. It usually documents just the basics of who got hurt, when, how, and were there any witnesses. Some go into what caused the accident, while others do not address this at all.
Medic Reports- on oil rigs and large vessels, the medics will typically fill out reports when they treat an injured worker. These reports can be real helpful in your case and are often overlooked as a good source to discuss how the accident occurred. While the report itself will mostly relate to the type of medical treatment you received, many also describe how the accident happened, which can help with your claim, especially if the safety rep or vessel captain wrote up the accident report in a way that was not entirely accurate. Always check out your medic records to see if they support your version of the accident more than your accident report may.
Witness Statements- if the Accident report does not have a place for witnesses to write down what they saw and what they know, then most companies will have separate Witness Statement form which are completed by any witnesses to the accident or workers who know important information about your accident. It’s a rookie mistake to not get these forms if they were completed. If I see witnesses listed on an accident report, I immediately dig into whether or not these guys filled out separate witness statements.
Recorded Witness Statements- just like you were probably asked to give a recorded statement after your injury, so were the witnesses to your injury. The law usually does not require your company to give us these recorded statements as the law says they were ‘prepared in anticipation of litigation’ and are thus protected, there are ways to get these statements. These can be extremely helpful as they were taken right after your injury; the trouble these days is that most companies are smart enough not to record an unfavorable statement. I actually look to the guys who the company has NOT taken a statement from yet and want to talk to them first for my clients. Usually today if the company has taken a recorded statement, whatever they recorded helped them and didn’t hurt them, but you never know until your review the statements (if you can get them—and there are tricks to getting them).
Emails and text messages- Nowadays your injury and accident was probably discussed in email and text messages. From basic texts sent back and forth between co-workers to formal emails sent from the rig or vessel to shore, you have got to look for these in your case. I have won cases with good emails and text messages that we were able to save and download.
Vessel logs and IADC reports—don’t overlook the ‘regular’ documents that are routinely completed on your rig or vessel as a source to support your claim. Often the IADC reports on rigs and the vessels logs (get both the rough and smooth logs!) will mention or discuss your injury and accident.
Investigation Reports- many companies will have ‘Investigation reports’ which they complete in addition to basic Accident Reports. These are reports that discuss what went wrong that may have caused your accident and how it can be prevented in the future, these can win or lose your case and you have to really fight to get some of them. Companies will often hide these types of reports if they show the company did something wrong that caused your accident.
Root Cause Analysis reports—the grand-daddy of them all. These are very detailed, multiple page reports which really address anything at all that may have caused your accident. Similar to basic ‘Accident Investigation Reports’, but much, much more detailed, large companies such as Transocean, Diamond, ENSCO, Schlumberger and others use these reports. In the recent past we have had to go to court and compel Transocean and Diamond to give us these reports in our cases. The harder they fight to protect these reports, the better the reports are for your claim.
Although it is not a hard and fast requirement of the Jones Act that injured employees complete an accident report, it is certainly worthwhile to do so. However, your claim is not necessarily in jeopardy if you fail to do so. A Jones Act attorney can help you better understand what kind of Jones Act issues your case entails.
Typically, an injured mariner reports his accident to a supervisor or directly to the employer. In some instances, the employer may delay in advising the injured employee to complete an accident report, often on the hope that the injury will improve during that delayed interim and the employee will forget altogether about filing a report or pursuing a claim.
Accident Reports are Important But You Don’t Need One to Pursue a Claim
There is absolutely no requirement that an employee completes a written accident report under the Jones Act. Although it is certainly best to document your accident and injury with a written accident report, the Jones Act does not prohibit your claim from being filed if an accident report was not completed. Very often an employee will report his accident and injury to a supervisor who tells the employee to delay completing a report in order to determine if the injury is serious. Then, when the employee attempts to complete the written report later, he is told that he can no longer complete the report at that time. Just remember, completing an accident report is absolutely not required to file suit and successfully collect damages under the Jones Act. The Jones Act requires only that you prove that you suffered an injury at work for which your employer was responsible. You may prove such without a written report. We have successfully proved accidents by using an employee’s medical records, the testimony of their co-employees, or their own testimony.
When Misconceptions Abound
The employer may discourage the injured mariner from filing a report, or tell him that it’s too late to file a report. When employees don’t realize that it’s not required to file an accident report in order to file a claim, they may be under the false belief that a report is a hard and fast requirement in order for a Jones Act claim to be filed.
Remember, you are only required to prove that you suffered a work injury and that your employer was responsible for the injury, and you can do that without a written report by using your:
A written report can help your case, but it is not a pre-requisite.
If you or someone you love has been injured while working aboard a Jones Act vessel, you may be entitled to certain maintenance and cure benefits, as well as other compensatory damages if your employer was at fault. Contact our offices to speak with a Jones Act attorney who can provide you with a FREE case evaluation and assessment of your Jones Act issues – 866-701-8647.
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