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Settling Your Jones Act Case Without an Attorney

Very often, people look at the attorney fees for settling a maritime case and think that they can save money if they just handle the case on their own.  While it’s true that going through an attorney does cost money, the alternative can actually end up costing you far more.

When you are in a complex situation of any kind, bringing in a professional is the standard course of action.  For instance, if you’re buying a house, you most likely will go through a realtor rather than navigating the process on your own. It’s complicated and beyond your individual knowledge and skills. In the same way, if you have suffered a serious maritime injury, it’s very likely that there are hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake.  When the stakes are that high, it’s in your best interest to bring in a professional. Not doing so could cost you.

The Mistakes that Could Cost You Millions*

Do you know the common mistakes that injured maritime workers and seamen make when trying to handle their own claims? If not, keep reading.

Mistake 1: No Access to Important Documents

Your maritime company has extensive information available to it regarding your accident and the cause of your accident. In all likelihood you may not have remained on the rig or vessel following your accident and you do not know if an investigation was performed. You certainly do not know the results of such an investigation.

The only way that you can obtain investigative-type documents from your company, including the documents that prove your company’s negligence, is usually to file suit against the company. Filing suit allows you to force the company to give you these types of helpful documents. If you try to handle your own maritime injury claim, you have no ability to “make” your company give you any of the important documents to your case.

Why do you need these documents, you ask? Without documentation you have no leverage, no proof that the company should pay you anything. It’s all hearsay and “he said”  “she said”. Imagine trying to return a purchase without a receipt or trying to prove a contractor charged you too much without proof of a contract. These documents are the cards you’ve been dealt; without them, you’ve no hand to play.


Mistake 2: Little to No Understanding of the Extent of Their Injuries

The company typically will never make a firm offer to you. Instead the company will repeatedly ask “how much” you would like to settle the claim for. No matter what figure you give to the company or the insurance representative, the company or insurance representative will offer significantly less. Sometimes the injured worker has no idea the value of his claim if he has not yet talked to a maritime lawyer or even had the proper medical tests done. If there is any need whatsoever for further medical treatment it is critical that you do not settle your claim until all necessary medical treatment has been performed.

Many individuals receive very limited medical treatment from the company following their injury. These individuals often are told that their injury was not very serious and no further testing was done. The individual then tries to settle his case on this basis and accepts a very small settlement not knowing that he had actually suffered a very serious injury.

Unfortunately, it’s not until later when their injuries don’t go away or get worse that they realize the injury was more serious than they originally thought. And by this time it’s often too late to get the money they need to fix the injury. You may think that $15,000 is a lot of money and will surely be enough, but many procedures often run $30,000 or more per procedure. Without proper medical testing, you can’t know how serious your injury is and therefore can’t know how much it’s going to cost to fix it. It would be like trying to buy a car without test driving the car, or even seeing the car beforehand. You would simply be guessing at the value.

Mistake 3: Returning to Work Too Soon

Finally, the last mistake is returning to work too soon. Typically a maritime company will require that the employee receives a full return to work slip before the employee is allowed to return to the oil rig or vessel. While the employee is eager to return to work, getting a full release from your then treating physician essentially proves that your injury was minor and that you have fully recovered from your injury. It is nearly impossible to undo this type of a full release. Additionally, your company will rely upon this full release in denying you any further medical treatment if your condition continues to get worse. Although it may be very appealing to return to work as soon as possible to receive weekly paychecks, these weekly paychecks may be sacrificing your yearly income for the rest of your life.

Hiring an Attorney Can INCREASE How Much Money You Get

When you bring an attorney on to your case, that attorney will more than likely increase the value of your settlement.  Essentially, you must ask yourself, “Can an attorney add value to my case?  Does he/she know more than I do about the law?”  The answers to both of those questions are usually “yes.”

Your company is very experienced and has handled thousands of similar claims. When you go it alone, you forfeit access to vital resources that work in your favor to give you the settlement you deserve.

If you have any questions about our fee structure and how we can help you with your maritime case, contact us today to discuss your situation.  You do not have to go through this alone – let a professional guide you in the process.

* The results are specific to the facts and legal circumstances of each of the clients’ cases and should not be used to form an expectation that the same results could be obtained for other clients in similar matters without reference to the specific factual and legal circumstances of each client’s case.

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