Written by attorney Timothy Justin Young

Advantages and Disadvantages of Marine Arbitration of a Jones Act Claim

When there are disagreements with a Jones Act claim, marine arbitration may be the claimant’s only option. This is an alternative to litigation, where a neutral third party may make the final decision.

Although there are pros and cons of marine arbitration, sometimes an injured maritime worker has no choice as to whether or not a Jones Act case is arbitrated. There may be a clause in the employer’s contract that mandates marine arbitration.

Or there could be confusion as to how a case is best settled when injuries occurred in international waters. The best scenario is when both parties can decide whether it’s truly the most effective means of resolving a Jones Act case.

Advantages of Arbitration in a Jones Act Case

Going to trial can be expensive and time-consuming. Arbitration sometimes can be much more cost effective and take a lot less time. This is especially true because scheduling for the hearing is much more flexible than going to court.

Choosing the neutral third party (arbitrator) generally is done with input from both sides. In fact, that is one of the overall advantages of arbitrating a case -- both sides being given the opportunity to be heard.

Another advantage is that unlike a trial, in which transcripts could be made available to the public, arbitration is a much more private setting. For those who wish to keep their name or company out of the media, it’s a definite benefit.

Disadvantages of Arbitration in a Jones Act Case

Despite the advantages, there might be more disadvantages, which is why it’s generally a good idea to talk with a Jones Act lawyer in New Orleans, LA, from the very start. Although cost effectiveness usually applies to arbitration, it isn’t always necessarily the case.

If it’s a non-binding arbitration, any decisions made aren’t necessarily final. After spending whatever costs were involved in this process, it could still go to court. This, of course, means spending even more money.

Another reason costs may not necessarily be lesser than litigation is because some cases are especially complicated. So in some circumstances, it could actually be more expensive than litigation.

The same applies to length of time. Generally, litigation takes longer, but if the disputes are complicated and there are multiple parties involved, it could be just as lengthy as marine arbitration. According to a recent study by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, the average time from filing to decision was about 475 days in an arbitrated case, while a similar case took from 18 months to three years to work its way through the courts.

One of the main disadvantages is that little can be done if the decision made was unfair. If it’s a binding arbitration, even if the arbitrator got it all wrong and there were legal mistakes made, there usually is no recourse available.

This could be significantly disadvantageous to an injured maritime worker seeking damages. But this is yet another reason when a seaman has sustained serious injuries while onboard a vessel, legal counsel should be sought.

The Young Firm has handled complex maritime cases, including Jones Act claims. A Jones Act lawyer in New Orleans, LA, can help an injured seaman better understand his or her rights and determine if arbitration is mandated or an option. If it’s an alternative, we may be able to clarify if marine arbitration is in the best interests of the maritime worker.

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