On the surface, maritime accident reports may seem simple and straightforward. You may give a statement of what happened and sign the paperwork. However, sometimes there's more information hidden beneath the surface of the report: information that has been disguised to look blameless, but is ultimately harmful to the workers affected in the accident.
Check the report for accuracy.
When filling out or signing a maritime accident report, be certain that it is accurate. Oil companies and other employers in the industry do not want to be blamed for any accident. It is not uncommon for employers to present injured workers with reports filled with statements that may seem innocent, but are putting the blame on the injured worker.
Some statements can make the worker, not the employer, liable for the accident, and signing an inaccurate incident report may effectively release employer from paying for injury-related benefits.
If you feel like you are being rushed, pressured or forced into signing a maritime incident report or other document, speak with an attorney. A maritime law attorney can give you advice on the best action to take, as well as help maximize your claim for benefits.
Talk to a lawyer first.
If there is an accident on an oil rig, ship or other water-going vessel, talk to your lawyer before signing or agreeing to anything with your employer's representative. You and your lawyer can discuss your rights to make sure that you receive fair treatment. Many things could cause a maritime accident that the employer would be responsible for. A few are:
- Deficiencies on offshore oil rigs
- Operating in bad weather or rough weather conditions
- Inadequate crew
- Overworked crew
- Undertrained crew
- Defective tools and equipment
However, employers may try to focus the blame on injured workers and not the faulty equipment or lack of training.
As a seaman, it is important that you know your rights and benefits before ever setting foot on a boat or on an offshore oilrig. These dangerous maritime jobs are protected under specific maritime laws that do not apply to work accidents on land.
If you are injured because of unsafe conditions, the vessel and your employer may be liable. Offshore oilrig workers, seamen, crewmembers and others who work on sea vessels are protected under various federal maritime laws such as The Jones Act, which provides maritime workers with rights to maintenance and cure. The Jones Act was established in large part to protect maritime workers from negligent employers.
Under no circumstances should you ever sign a document that releases your employer from covering you for maritime maintenance and cure. Again, it isn't uncommon for employers to present you with seemingly harmless information, but it may be damaging to you. Before signing something that you may feel uncomfortable with, seek legal advice.
Before making any important decisions at all regarding your legal rights, consult with an experienced attorney at the Law Offices of John W. Merting.