HomeHow Do Maritime Claims Work?

How Do Maritime Claims Work?

Understanding Your Jones Act Claim

How does a maritime personal injury lawsuit work? Are there fees? Do cases have to go to court? What if the case is lost? If you’ve been injured offshore, you are probably weighed down by these questions and more. You may be like most of our clients and are worried about going to court. Just like most of our clients, you have probably never been through something like this before.  But like most things that we worry about in life, it’s usually not as bad as we imagine it will be.

How Does a Maritime Personal Injury Lawsuit Work?

Initial Discovery

First, you have to answer some written questions that the defendant (your company and their attorneys) will give you. This is called the discovery process. We walk you through these questions and review everything before the other attorney sees any of your answers.

The Depositions

Next, you will sit with us and the other attorney and tell your side of your case.  Lawyers call this a deposition but it’s really just a bunch of questions he will ask you one afternoon at our office.  We are with you the whole time and we meet with you and prepare you beforehand.

If he asks anything he shouldn’t ask, we step in.  Our clients always tell us two things after their depositions:

  • First, they always say ‘that lawyer asked me all the exact questions you told me he would ask me!’  After doing this for more than 22 years, we are pretty good at knowing what they will ask you.
  • Also, clients always say that their deposition was not as bad as they thought it would be.

We will also invite you to attend any depositions we may take of your co-workers and eye-witnesses to your accident, but you don’t have to attend these depositions if you are not comfortable doing so.  No questions are asked of you, but you can hear what your co-workers will say about your accident and injury.  Some of our clients enjoy doing this with us, while others choose not to.  It’s entirely your choice.

Medical Appointments

A large portion of your case will be making sure you attend any medical appointments you may have for tests or evaluations and treatment.  It’s important to know what type of injury you have and you want to get the best treatment you can.

Mediation vs. Settlements vs. Going to Trial

After our legal team has gathered sufficient evidence for your case, one of three things could happen. Depending on how willing the defendant is to resolve the case, your case could either go to mediation, settlement, or trial.

  • Mediation- A mediation is a meeting between the injured seaman and the employer during which they voluntarily try to resolve the claim without the assistance of the court.
  • Settlement- A settlement is a voluntary resolution between the defendant (employer, maritime company, etc.) and an injured seaman.
  • Trial- If mediations fails and the parties are unable to reach a settlement, often a case will go to trial (or court) before a judge or jury.

Learn more about the differences between mediation, settlement, and trial.

Understanding the Arbitration Process

Similar but less formal than a trial in many respects, arbitration is presided over by a neutral third party who will render a decision based on evidence and testimony. Although there are no set procedures for arbitration, the process will generally follow several steps:

  • An arbitration agreement may set out specific rules for procedures, such as how arbitrators will be selected, who will pay the fees, and whether the final decision is binding or nonbinding.
  • A pre-hearing conference may be scheduled to set a timetable, determine deadlines for discovery, and address various procedural details.
  • The arbitration hearing will allow each party to present physical evidence, oral arguments, and witness testimony for their side of the dispute.
  • The arbitrator will render an award based on the evidence presented.

When arbitration is binding, the decision – or award – is final. The decision can only be appealed under circumstances where there is evidence of corruption, fraud, or abuse of power.

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You May Not Have to Go to Court

Many of our clients think that they will have to do go to court before they can obtain a fair settlement of their claim. But the fact is the vast majority of cases are resolved before anyone has to go to court.  If your claim is like most claims, you will receive offers to settle your case out of court.  The decision is then yours if you accept the settlement or move forward to court.  We are with you during this whole process and we will give you our advice and opinion on the settlement offers.

Our clients who have gone to trial for their cases were scared and worried about appearing for the first time in a courtroom.  But we walked them through the process slowly, explaining exactly what was going to happen at each step of the way.  And you know what?  They were able to do it even though they thought they never could.

Having to file a claim to protect yourself and your family is not something you look forward to doing, but with a little help it can be easier and less difficult than you may think.  Sometimes we have to do things in life that we know are the right thing to do, but may not be the easiest choice to make.

To learn more about the legal process, check out a complete list of legal terms and definitions.

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You Won’t Be Alone

First, understand that we will be with you every step of the way.  Since the only types of cases we handle are those of injured maritime workers, we know exactly how your case will progress. You will never hear us tell you that we don’t know what is coming next in your case.

You Won’t Be Overwhelmed

Your involvement in your claim is actually pretty hands off once you turn things over to us. We’ll be able to take on the majority of the confusing paperwork and frustrations that accompany filing a claim and you’ll be able to take a step back and breathe.