Different Outcomes Possible with Maritime Injury Case Lawsuits
When it comes to personal injuries within the maritime industry and how claims are made, lawsuits filed can and do vary based on the area of maritime laws which govern the injured party. In some cases, the injured person could have a Jones Act claim.
In others, they may have to claim under a different maritime admiralty law. Regardless of which maritime law you file your injury claim under, there will be similar steps in the process as follows:
Step 1: Seek Medical Treatment
In order to establish a claim for personal injuries, you must seek medical treatment. Even if you believe your injuries are not as severe as what they may seem, obtaining medical care is still recommended. Often, many types of injuries do not always appear right away and may take several days or weeks before they become evident.
Step 2: Consult with a Maritime Attorney
After you have sought medical care, your next step should be to speak to a maritime attorney of your own choosing. Your attorney will provide you details with what you should or should not do next. They will go over the claim process and when to file a lawsuit.
Step 3: File a Claim with Your Company
Your maritime employer, ship owner, or another responsible party may require you to fill out and file an injury claim. Your employer’s insurance company may request a formal interview where they will ask you questions about the information you provided on the injury claim. Your lawyer should have advised you to be careful how you respond to the insurance company’s questions, as they will try to shift blame in an effort to limit which damages you can seek.
Step 4: File a Lawsuit
The insurance company may be willing to offer a settlement at this point, although the amount they offer may not always reflect what you are entitled to receive. It is best to allow your personal injury lawyer to handle settlement offers to determine if they are in your best interests. If a settlement cannot be reached, then your lawyer will file a lawsuit to resolve the matter at trial.
Step 5: Resolve the Lawsuit
After a lawsuit is filed, there can be several different outcomes. The insurance company and responsible party may now be willing to make a reasonable settlement to avoid going to court. If not, then the case goes to trial, where both the plaintiff and defendant will be allowed to present evidence and call witnesses.
Afterwards, a judge or jury will rule on the case and determine how much will be awarded to the injured party if they rule in their favor. Another possible outcome may be that the judge or jury rules in favor of the defendant. If this occurs, then there may be grounds to appeal the case.
What Is a Settlement?
A settlement is where the responsible party’s insurance company offers a lump sum monetary amount for compensation for your injuries. They may offer this right after filing your claim or hold out until after you file a lawsuit.
Once a settlement is accepted, you can no longer sue the responsible party in court or seek future damages. As such, it is important you have your maritime attorney review all settlement offers to ensure the amount being offered is fair and just. If not, then your attorney will turn to mediation next.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is where your injury lawyer will attempt to reach a settlement with the responsible party. For instance, the insurance company makes an initial settlement offer. However, your lawyer knows you are legally entitled to a higher amount of compensation. Rather than accepting the offer, they will make a counteroffer and submit it to the insurance company and/or their lawyers.
After the insurance company and their lawyers review the counteroffer, they may agree to it or make their own counteroffer. This process continues until a settlement agreement can be reached or the case goes to trial.
What Is a Trial?
A trial is where a judge or jury will determine the outcome of the maritime injury case. Even after a case goes to trial, the defendant may decide to make a settlement offer if they believe they could lose the trial. If you and your lawyer decide to accept the settlement, then the trial is dismissed.
What Types of Compensation Can One Seek in a Maritime Injury Case?
It is important to remember each maritime injury case and claim has its own set of circumstances. Even in cases where two claims seem almost identical, the types of compensation one can seek can and do vary. In general, you could potentially seek compensation for the following types of injuries:
- Pain and Suffering: You may be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering you experienced as a result of your accident and injuries you sustained. This type of compensation may also be sought if your injuries are causing ongoing pain and discomfort.
- Lost Wages and Future Earnings: You are entitled to seek compensation for any wages you lost as a result of the accident and your injuries. Future earnings compensation is allowed in cases where you are not able to return to your formal position.
- Reasonable Living Expenses: Maritime admiralty law allows injured Jones Act workers maintenance payments, regardless of fault or negligence. Maintenance payments cover reasonable living expenses on land until the injured worker is released and able to return to work. In some cases, the employer refuses to pay maintenance payments, and these then are included as part of the compensation sought in your maritime injury case.
- Medical Expenses: All medical care and treatment expenses related to your injuries are another form of compensation the responsible party will have to pay. Your lawyer may even request future medical expense payments for ongoing treatments, such as physical therapy or future surgeries.
- Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress: The anxiety, fear, and stress of being injured, as well as any mental or emotional side effects or psychological injuries, could result in compensation. This could also include loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment. These are compensations when your injuries affect your relationship with your spouse and prevent you from engaging in activities you used to enjoy.
- Disfigurement: If you lost fingers, a hand, limb, foot, or toes, or experienced another bodily disfigurement, you are often entitled to seek this form of compensation.
- Death: In the event a loved one perished as the result of the maritime accident, the surviving spouse and/or children could seek compensation for the death of their spouse or parent. This compensation could include funeral expenses, as well as a one-time death compensation payment to the surviving spouse and/or children.
- Punitive Damages: This type of compensation is where the responsible party behaved in such a manner that was considered rather careless or with a general disregard for the safety of workers. These damages are typically awarded in court cases where judges want to make an example out of the responsible party to deter others from doing the same thing. However, your lawyer may include these in your lawsuit and negotiate punitive damages as part of your settlement.
How Much Compensation Can One Receive from a Maritime Injury Case?
The total amount of compensation one can recover from a maritime injury case will vary from case to case. This is because each case has its own set of circumstances. Your injury lawyer will review with you the total amount you could seek after meeting with you and discussing the events which led to your injuries.
In addition, you need to remember the final amount you receive will not be the total amount awarded through settlement or positive verdict in court. You will need to pay your maritime injury lawyer their fees for representing you in the case. Next, you have to pay all of your outstanding medical bills not covered by insurance.
If you took out a short-term loan to help cover living expenses and other bills while awaiting your compensation, you will need to pay off that loan as well. After all of these things are paid, the remaining money is the final amount you receive.
Even with these deductions from your settlement amount, it is essential to point out that you end up receiving a higher amount of compensation with help from personal injury and Jones Act lawyers than you would by attempting to negotiate a settlement on your own.
If you or a loved one is injured while working in the maritime industry onshore or offshore, you could have grounds to seek damages through a maritime injury lawsuit. To find out what options you have available, as well as what maritime act or law you should file your injury claim under, please feel free to contact the personal injury maritime attorneys at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P. by calling 713-893-0971 now! Our maritime lawyers are available to speak to you 24/7.