Working aboard a vessel in the maritime industry comes with inherent risks. Consequently, as a USCG-licensed officer, there’s a possibility that you’ll be involved in a shipping incident or casualty at some point in your maritime career. While not all incidents involving professional mariners lead to suspension and revocation (S&R) proceedings, some of them will. Quite often, the course of these hearings or the decision not to move forward with one, is established early on in the investigation, when the initial verbal statements are provided to authorities responding to the accident scene.
One of the best things that you can do to legally protect yourself after an incident is to let the investigators determine who bears fault, and that starts with refraining from making any statements at the scene of an accident that can be misconstrued.
The aftermath of an incident can be a stressful and confusing time, even for experienced and highly-skilled mariners. There may be a natural tendency to want to verbally defend yourself to other crew members, company officials, Coast Guard investigators, and anybody else involved. However, it’s crucial to avoid offering excuses or explanations about the accident. Steer clear of sharing opinions or theories as to why or how the incident occurred or who may be to blame. Put simply, anything you say to anyone can and may be used against you in an S&R proceeding. Even statements that may appear to be innocent can be interpreted differently by investigators and lead to career-threatening consequences.
As a professional mariner, you have the legal right to have your attorney present or, at least, consult with counsel via telephone, before making any statements in a post-casualty situation that may come back to haunt you…and your maritime career. That’s, of course, assuming you already have a maritime attorney. After an accident has occurred is not exactly the best time to be looking for a lawyer, and even if you are successful in finding one, the costs for legal representation can amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
A better alternative is to protect your finances and your livelihood with marine license insurance now. This type of policy provides fully-paid legal representation and defense if you’re involved in an incident that leads to action against your USCG license and is designed for professional mariners operating aboard vessels of any size in every sector of the industry.
When you purchase a policy from a long-standing, reputable company, such as MOPS Marine License Insurance, the total annual premium for coverage is typically less than you’d pay as fees for two or three hours of legal services. MOPS has spent decades fostering relationships with lawyers who routinely represent the interests of individual mariners in S&R hearings, so you can be speaking with an experienced maritime attorney who will advise you about any statements you can or should make, if any, usually before the Coast Guard even arrives to investigate.
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