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There is a big difference between hiring an attorney and talking to an attorney. You can talk to a good maritime lawyer for free and get a good idea of what your case is worth (not the dollar value, just the quality of your case from the standpoint of liability and damages). You can also get free advice on how to proceed if your case is small and you are considering handling it without an attorney. If you are severely and permanently injured, you should always have an attorney to protect your rights.

 

For a Jones Act Seaman or other maritime worker, hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit is a big decision. Your career may never be the same. Therefore, you probably should not sue unless your career is never going to be the same anyway, because of your injuries.

 

The following discussion deals with issues you should consider if your case is a close call.

For a Jones Act Seaman or other maritime worker, hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit is a big decision. Your career may never be the same. Therefore, you probably should not sue unless your career is never going to be the same anyway, because of your injuries.


There is an organization called the Marine Information Bureau ("MIB") to which some employers subscribe which keeps a database of marine claims made. Not all claims are submitted to it and employers generally do not check the list when hiring workers, but the point is that the industry does pay attention when a claim is filed.

This is not to say that if you file a suit you will never work again. There are many many seamen at work today who overcame significant disabling injuries and were able to go back to work for the same or different employers.

Employers will vehemently deny that there is any "black list" of former claimants, but a lawsuit does have a tendency to follow you around. Therefore your injuries must be disabling enough to warrant becoming a claimant. How do you know?

 

img-bigbargeThe simple question you have to answer is: Are my injuries permanent and will they keep me from going back to my job for a long time? If you are going to be off for six months healing up and then you will return to your old job, then you will have damages of six months lost wages, medical expenses (which your employer should have paid), past and future pain and suffering, and emotional damages. These are not huge amounts of money if you are going to be well in six months. You might very well make more over the next five years if you cooperate with your employer, go back to work, move up the ladder, and take over the company. On the other hand, if you are never going back to heavy duty labor, probably you are looking at finding a lower paying job on land, and your damages are much greater. Plus, you are not going to be working in the industry anyway. You should take all necessary steps to protect your rights. For more information on evaluation of your damages, click here.

You have other considerations when hiring an attorney. If you do so, your relationship with your employer will change. Your employer will deal with your attorney, not you, and they will be quicker to cut off your benefits and refuse to pay your medical expenses. If you are destitute, some attorneys will loan you money to survive on while your case is pending. However, if your case is not big enough to make it economical for your attorney to risk the loans, it can be rather uncomfortable for you when the rent comes due.

All these factors should be considered before you sign up with an attorney. More importantly, they also should be discussed with your prospective attorney before you ever sign up with him or her. If your prospective attorney pushes you to sign without weighing these issues with you, reconsider whose interests the attorney is pursuing.


If you would like to discuss these issues with me, I will be happy to think through them with you with no pressure to sign up. If you are considering hiring another attorney but want a second opinion, don't hesitate to call. However, if you already have an attorney, I will not be able to discuss your case with you.

 

If your prospective attorney pushes you to sign without weighing these issues with you, reconsider whose interests the attorney is pursuing.

 

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