Every occupation has its own set of risks, even seemingly safe occupations. For workers in the maritime industry, however, the risks are far greater. Maritime workers face exposure to unique hazards due to their work environment and the often extreme conditions they work in.
Unlike land-based workers, maritime workers do not have the same federal workers’ compensation protection. If a seaman or other maritime worker suffers an injury on the job, they must utilize maritime laws like The Jones Act to pursue compensation.
Below, the Jones Act maritime lawyers at Kherkher Garcia explain The Jones Act, how the law helps maritime workers, the maritime claims process, and how our lawyers can help if you suffer a maritime injury.
What is The Jones Act?
The Jones Act (46 U.S.C. 688 1970), also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal law passed by the United States Congress that regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. The law requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on ships that are built, owned, and crewed by Americans.
The Jones Act was designed to promote and protect the U.S. maritime industry, including shipbuilding, shipping, and crewing. It helps to ensure that the U.S. has a viable domestic shipping industry and a pool of trained seafarers to support national defense and commerce.
For maritime workers, The Jones Act is an important law that allows them to recover damages if they suffer an accident or injury while in the course of their work.
Who Qualifies for The Jones Act?
The Jones Act applies to seamen who are employed on vessels that are engaged in maritime commerce between U.S. ports or between U.S. ports and offshore locations. In order to qualify as a “seaman” under the Jones Act, an individual must have a substantial connection to a vessel or fleet in navigation, and the duties they perform must contribute to the vessel’s mission or function.
This means that a wide range of maritime workers may be covered by the Jones Act, including:
- Offshore oil and gas workers
These workers may be eligible for benefits under the Jones Act if they suffer an injury on the job due to the negligence of their employer, a fellow crewmember, or other party. The Jones Act allows seamen to seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. Compensation and damages are discussed in more detail below.
Examples of Negligence Covered by The Jones Act
The Jones Act provides benefits to seamen whose injuries are the result of the negligence of someone else. It does NOT cover injuries resulting from the carelessness of the victim themselves. Some examples of the type of negligence that may lead to a Jones Act claim include:
- Lack of safety training for seamen
- Failure to provide seamen with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Failure to ensure vessel decks contain no-skid surfaces
- Lack of warning signs or barriers in hazardous areas
- Failure to perform routine maintenance on equipment and parts
- Failure to repair defective equipment and parts
- Owner/operator does not ensure vessels are seaworthy
These are not the only circumstances that may lead to a Jones Act claim. These are, however, some examples of the more common types of negligence that lead to maritime accidents, injuries, and deaths.
What Compensation is Available under The Jones Act?
Under the Jones Act, seamen may be able to recover several types of compensation, including:
Under The Jones Act, injured seamen may be eligible for compensation for their medical expenses, including:
- Emergency transportation
- Diagnostic testing
- Specialized equipment
- Mental health treatment
The extent of medical expenses varies greatly depending on the type and severity of the injury.
Lost Wages and Loss of Earning Capacity
The Jones Act also provides compensation to maritime workers for lost wages and a loss of earning capacity (if applicable). This coverage includes past and future income that the seaman is unable to earn as a result of their injuries. Jones Act claims may also compensate the victim for benefits, such as:
- Vacation time
Determining a loss of current earnings is fairly simple. However, it is more difficult to calculate future earnings and adjustments based on cost of living, potential promotions, etc. that may be lost due to the injury.
Pain and Suffering
Under The Jones Act, injury victims may be eligible for compensation for pain and suffering, including physical pain, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life. Workers who suffer catastrophic, disabling, or disfiguring injuries are more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Placing a value on pain and suffering can be challenging, and there are no set guidelines for doing so. Generally, several factors are taken into consideration, including the nature and extent of the injury, physical pain, and the extent of mental injury.
It’s important to note that the compensation available under the Jones Act can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the extent of the seaman’s injuries. An experienced maritime injury attorney can help injured seamen understand their rights and pursue the full compensation they deserve under the law.
What is the Claims Process?
The process of filing a Jones Act claim is similar to other personal injury claims, however, there are some nuances that warrant consideration. While there are always exceptions to the rule, a general guide to the claims process may entail the following:
- Report the Injury: You should always report an injury to your supervisor as soon as possible. Some companies require an accident report, while others simply require notifying the captain, shipmaster, or other supervisor.
- Provide a Statement: If your employer has insurance, you may need to provide a statement about the accident, injuries, etc. Often times, it is a good idea to speak with a maritime injury lawyer before providing a statement.
- Get Medical Treatment: You should always seek medical attention after a workplace injury. Maritime employers must ensure that proper medical care is available, even if you are at sea or in international waters. As soon as you are able, take steps to get medical treatment and document the injury thoroughly.
- Get Legal Counsel: Any type of injury claim has a better chance for success with the help of a lawyer. If you are a victim of a maritime injury, a Jones Act lawyer can help you protect your rights and pursue compensation.
- Preserve Documents: As you prepare to file a Jones Act claim, preserve all documents that relate to your accident and injuries, medical care, communication with supervisors or other parties, bills, etc.
- File a Claim: Once your lawyer has done a complete and thorough review of your case, your next step is filing the claim (lawsuit). Your lawyer will most likely do this for you, and will communicate with you as the claim is accepted by the court, and as any hearings are set, or motions filed.
- Be Patient: Lawsuits take time, especially if the case is complex or involves multiple parties. Be patient as your claim makes its way through the legal system. Ask questions and stay in touch with your lawyer along the way.
- Settlement Options: Many personal injury lawsuits are settled without the need for a trial. Your lawyer may attempt to negotiate with the opposing party to agree to a settlement that is fair.
- Going to Trial: If your claim cannot be settled, then your case will proceed to trial. It is important to have a skilled maritime injury lawyer on your side at trial. During trial, your lawyer will present your case and evidence, and will fight on your behalf for the best outcome possible.
Is There a Statute of Limitations on Maritime Injury Claims?
Like other types of personal injury, there is a statute of limitations for maritime injury claims. The statute of limitations for maritime injury claims in Texas is generally three years from the date of the injury. This means that the victim must file a lawsuit within three years of the date of the injury. After the statute has ‘run’, the victim may lose their right to seek compensation.
It’s important to note that the statute of limitations can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the type of claim. For example, claims for maintenance and cure benefits, which are intended to provide injured seamen with basic living expenses and medical care, may have a shorter statute of limitations.
In addition, it’s important to consult with an experienced maritime injury attorney to ensure that you understand your rights and obligations under the Jones Act and other applicable laws. An attorney can help you navigate the complex legal process of filing a maritime injury claim and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
How Can a Jones Act Lawyer Help Me?
A Jones Act lawyer can provide valuable legal representation and guidance to seamen who are suffering from an injury. Some of the ways that a Jones Act lawyer can help you protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve includes:
- Investigate the Accident: A maritime injury lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation of the accident to determine the cause and identify any parties who may be liable for your injuries.
- Protect Your Legal Rights: A skilled lawyer will advise you of your legal rights and the available options for seeking compensation under the Jones Act, including filing a lawsuit against your employer or a third-party.
- Negotiate with Insurance Companies: Your lawyer can negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf to ensure that you receive the full compensation you are entitled to under the law. Having a lawyer work on your behalf also reduces stress and allows you to focus on healing.
- Represent You in Court: If necessary, a Jones Act lawyer will represent you in court and advocate on your behalf. This helps ensure that you receive a fair and just outcome.
- Provide Emotional Support: A Jones Act lawyer provides emotional support to you and your family throughout the legal process. A maritime injury claim can be challenging and stressful, but lawyers are sensitive to this and are dedicated to providing relief.
Overall, a maritime injury lawyer can provide the legal knowledge, experience, and advocacy needed to help you recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses.
Kherkher Garcia Supports Offshore Accident Victims
If you are suffering from a maritime injury and want to explore your options for pursuing compensation, contact Kherkher Garcia, LLP today. Our offshore accident lawyers have more than three decades of experience helping maritime injury victims. Additionally, with billions of dollars recovered for our clients, we know what it takes to win.
Get started with a free consultation by calling us at 713-333-1030. You can also reach out to us online via our contact form.