The Importance of Properly Documenting Your Maritime Injury Claim

In the aftermath of a maritime injury, proper documentation can have a significant impact on the outcome of any resulting claim. It can influence an injured worker’s ability to prove negligence under the Jones Act or that an injury qualifies under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. It might influence the outcome of a claim of unseaworthiness and the perceived value of an injured seaman’s claim.

Here, we will take a closer look at the types of documentation you might need to gather after a maritime accident and how this evidence can be used to prove your claim and the extent of compensation to which you should be entitled.

Types of Documentation to Gather

Medical Records
Seeking medical attention immediately after your injury is crucial for your health and for your claim. Medical records are vital pieces of evidence that can help demonstrate the extent of your injuries, the treatments you've received, and the ongoing medical care you may need. Ensure that you keep copies of all medical records, including doctor's notes, prescriptions, medical bills, and any other relevant documents. Try to keep everything together and organized, attaching or making notes as needed with dates and additional information while it is fresh in your mind.

Accident Reports
In the aftermath of an accident, it's important to file a report with your employer or the appropriate authorities. This report should detail the incident, the injuries sustained, and any contributing factors. Be sure to keep a copy of the report for your records. You may also want to make a personal record of the incident and its aftermath, as time can take a toll on recollecting specific parts of the accident and its impact on a worker from physical and mental standpoints.

Visual evidence can be extremely powerful in supporting your claim. Photos of your injuries, the accident scene, and any equipment or conditions that may have contributed to the accident can help illustrate the severity of your injuries and the circumstances surrounding the incident. Gathering photographic evidence as quickly as possible is important in these situations, as the conditions may change, the scene may be cleaned up, or the equipment repaired.

Witness Statements
If there were any witnesses to the accident, collect their contact information and written statements about what they saw. Witness testimony can help corroborate your account of the incident and provide additional evidence to support your claim. Crew members should be able to provide statements or reports without fear of retaliation. Under the Seaman’s Protection Act (SPA), seamen are protected from retaliation by employers for reporting violations of maritime laws, cooperating with safety investigations, or providing information about a fellow crew member’s injury.

Communication Records
Keep records of all communications with your employer, insurance company, or any other parties involved in your claim. This includes emails, letters, and any other written correspondence, as well as notes from phone calls or in-person meetings. Be sure to track the dates and times on all communication as well, as this can help build a timeline of the accident, your claim, your treatment, and more.

Using Documentation to Prove Your Maritime Injury Claim & Secure Compensation

Proper documentation serves as the foundation of a strong maritime injury claim, by:

  • Establishing liability. Your documentation can help prove that your employer or another party was negligent in their duty to provide a safe working environment, leading to your injury. In a Jones Act case, for example, you will need to prove that your employer’s negligence caused or contributed to your injuries. An email, photograph, or witness statement could prove invaluable in establishing liability.
  • Demonstrating the severity of your injuries. If you have medical records and photographs can illustrate the extent of your injuries, supporting your claim for compensation. Witness statements about your recovery after the accident can also help establish the impact that your injuries have had on all areas of your life.
  • Calculating damages. Documentation such as medical bills, records of lost wages, and records of any property damage can help determine the financial impact of your injury, helping to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Calculating damages can be one of the most complicated and subjective parts of a maritime injury claim, but detailed documentation can provide a judge and jury with the information they need to make a decision that takes all of your losses, expenses, and trauma into account.
  • Strengthening your case. Thorough documentation can help your attorney build a compelling case on your behalf, increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome.

The importance of properly documenting your maritime injury cannot be overstated. By gathering and maintaining comprehensive records and involving an attorney as early in the process as possible, you can give yourself the best chance of securing the compensation you deserve for your injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured in a maritime accident, the experienced offshore injury attorneys at Arnold & Itkin are here to help. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and let our team guide and support you through the process.

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