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Arbitration is a process where lawyers determine the outcome of a case instead of having a judge and jury decide. Many offshore workers who are covered through the Jones Act opt to have arbitration in Houston instead of going through the court system. This is popular because if they go to court, there is a good likelihood that the court might limit what they can recover from a claim.


The Jones Act, a section of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, makes it illegal for any seaman to be required to go to arbitration. Many employers, however, can override the law by making employees sign an agreement of arbitration after they are injured at sea.


In short, the Jones Act is a maritime law that outlines how employees at sea receive compensation if they are injured while on the job. It requires that employers pay for the injuries of anyone who is hurt while working.


Although there are specific ways that employees are supposed to be compensated, there are ways that employers can avoid their responsibility and put an employee in a position where the employee is willing to take less than they deserve. Arbitration takes an injury case away from a jury and allows Houston Jones act lawyer to decide to what someone is entitled.

How arbitration might limit seaman compensation in Houston


Seamen sometimes have to rely on trusting the good nature of their employer when it comes to maintenance and cure. Maintenance and cure requires that an employer pays for a seaman’s daily living expenses until they are fit to return to work.


According to the Jones Act, an employer is required to pay for “maximum cure.” Some employers will offer their injured employee a percentage of their current salary as well as maintenance if the employee will agree to sign an arbitration agreement.


Often, injured employees are in a position where the additional income offered is so attractive that they will sign an arbitration agreement, regardless if it is a good idea or not. If an employee signs the agreement, then it prevents them from going in front of a jury to plead their case and may limit the full amount that they might be awarded if injured.


How employers can use tactics to coerce employees into signing an agreement in Houston


Some employers will use coercive tactics to get their employees to sign away their rights to standing before a jury. There are individual cases where an employee has been denied medical care expenses or wages until they agreed to sign an arbitratIon agreement. Although unethical, there are very few regulations when it comes to maritime employers and arbitration.


If an employee needs to have their bills paid for and can’t pay the bills themselves, then the employer’s offer of having an advanced paycheck is often enough to make the employee sign their right to a jury trial away. Unfortunately, employers who are so inclined to be unscrupulous, know it that this is often the case.


Once an employee signs an arbitration agreement, they have very little control over what they can recover or to what they are entitled.


Why an employee is better off with a trial jury


An employee is almost always better off pleading their case in front of a trial. The reality is that deciding things between two lawyers in an office is much less personal. When you have a jury trial, there are real-life people who are left to consider the injury that someone sustains, and the how much they suffered.


Interested in more than just numbers, a jury will be forced to think about things like a seaman’s suffering and be far more sympathetic than a group of professionals considering what monetary award is in the best interest of everyone involved.


Arbitration is far removed from reality and the empathic nature of human beings. Lawyers for the employer are going to push for the least amount of compensation possible. Although a long jury trial might seem arduous and the injured individual might be in financial trouble and ready to settle, it is in the employee’s best interest to hold out to have someone who isn’t fiscally involved settle the case (like a jury), so that the employee receives adequate compensation.


If your employer is forcing you to sign an arbitration agreement, take heart! There are better options available. To get all that you are entitled to for your injuries, it is best to hold out to go in front of a jury of your peers to decide what you deserve.


If you are injured at sea and being asked to sign an arbitration agreement, hire a maritime lawyer in Houston who understands the complexity of the Jones Act and the tactics that employers will use to get around it.