If your employer has negligently injured you, the fact that you receive insurance provided by the company shouldn’t stop you from hiring an attorney. It is one of the reasons you should be calling an attorney right away. Companies often tell maritime workers, “Hey, we’re paying your insurance, so you can’t sue us.” Or “Because we’re paying your insurance and wages, we’ll only pay you a few thousand dollars for your injury claim.” Neither of these things are true. Some maritime companies use insurance as a threat or a way to convince injured workers they can’t file a lawsuit. This trick is why injured maritime workers need to consult a maritime injury firm as soon as possible. An attorney will make sure they’re getting accurate information and taking all the right steps to protect their claims.
When injured maritime workers consult us about this issue, there are typically two concerns that need to be addressed. When we look at payments that are made in relation to an injury (and a possible lawsuit). First, does the payment come from a “collateral source?” Second, if it is not a collateral source, does it count as a setoff? A setoff would reduce the amount of money you could earn in a lawsuit?
What is a collateral source?
A “collateral source” comes up when a person is injured, but they have their own insurance or some other way to get assistance that has nothing to do with the person or company that injured them. For example, it would be totally unfair to tell a person that they need to pay their monthly insurance premiums in order to reduce the amount that a company who injured them has to pay in court. For that reason, payments from a collateral source are typically not allowed to come into a trial. They also won’t be held against you.
What if my insurance is provided by the company who injured me?
This is where things can get a little bit trickier. As a general rule of thumb if the insurance (or other payments made on behalf of the company) are part of the company’s strategy to avoid liability in a lawsuit then it will not be covered under the collateral source rule. The courts generally believe that a company has the right to protect itself from liability, if the company does it the right way. That means that the company cannot double dip by trying to claim that it is both was protecting itself from liability and trying to give you a benefit.
If your insurance was a benefit of the job, it probably was not to protect the company from litigation and you probably can count that as a collateral source. That means the company cannot tell the jury that your medical bills have been paid, that you have received some percentage of your normal wages, or whatever other benefit they may try to show the jury.
How does a setoff work?
Under some circumstances a company will be able to show the judge that it has made payments for your hospital bills etc. and then reduce the amount of your verdict by that amount. However, that is something that only a judge will see. The jury would not be allowed to see that because they should be able to make a full and complete determination of what the verdict would be without the setoff. Not only will the jury not see it, the judge will reduce the setoff to the extent that the judge feels is appropriate based on what evidence is submitted.
If you got hurt and your employer paid for your insurance, consult a maritime injury firm right away
In Jones Act cases there are frequently unique issues with the collateral source rule because there are different laws that protect seamen and maritime workers (such as the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act) that may present issues that most lawyers are not used to handling. Because these are unique and complex issues, you need to hire a maritime injury firm experienced in dealing with setoff payments. When you consult maritime injury attorneys, you should ask if they have experience handling cases that involve insurance and setoff payments. At VB Attorneys, our experience puts you a great advantage in making sure that your case is handled quickly, efficiently, and with the best outcome. To get started today, call our Board Certified attorneys at 877-724-7800 now.