In answering this question, we will confine ourselves to what you should do to help protect your legal rights. We usually recommend you not even begin negotiating settlement of your claims with anyone until you have had an opportunity to speak with a qualified maritime attorney. Insurance companies and employers like the quick and cheap settlement and we are aware of crew members who have signed away huge claims for peanuts because they simply did not know their claims had such value.
If you were injured on or near water, you may have a Jones Act Claim. The Jones Act tends to be very favorable to injured parties, and if you can do so, you want to be sure to bring claims under that Jones Act. To do this, you must be certain to retain experienced admiralty/maritime legal counsel, familiar with possible legal and factual arguments to bring you within the scope of the Jones Act.
You have the right to an attorney. Your employer or the vessel owner will no doubt be using competent maritime counsel to resolve your claim. To put you on equal footing, you should be doing the same. You have every right to an attorney, and it is usually the wise move to retain one as soon as possible after your injury. Your attorney can act for you in dealing with your employer or the vessel owner, along with any involved insurance companies and insurance agents and adjusters.
The place of your lawsuit depends on many factors, including where you were when you were hired for your voyage or work, where you live, where the company is located that hired you, where the vessel is when you sue, what your contract says, whether there is an arbitration agreement, and whether a federal or state court is specified. Where to sue is oftentimes a difficult and important decision. The reality is that some courts tend to treat sea injuries more favorably than others, and as your counsel, it will be our job in each case to examine and analyze where we can sue, where geographically among those choices is the best place for you to pursue your maritime injury lawsuit, and in which court, federal or state.
The best way for us to answer these questions is to learn enough about your case so as to be able to decide and advise you. One free consultation phone call is usually enough to tell us whether your case is strong enough for us to pursue. In order to best maximize your call, gather relevant documents such as accident reports, insurance policies, photos, and information about the person, company or group that caused the injury, and then give us a call. We usually follow up that call with a no-obligation, no cost, review of your medical records and your vessel contract, along with other potentially relevant documents. In the event your injuries prevent you from traveling to our office, we can make home or hospital visits as necessary. The reality, though, is that each case is different, and no lawyer can precisely predict the value of a particular case, particularly at its early stages. However, due to our extensive experience in crew injury cases, we typically are able to provide a good estimated value range for each case after we have gained familiarity with it.