Do You Have an Injury Case Under the Jones Act?

Do You Have an Injury Case Under the Jones Act?

Maritime accidents can cause catastrophic injuries and permanent impairments. Seamen have dangerous jobs. They face risks each day as they perform their jobs.

The Jones Act provides compensation for seamen injured on the job. It is not workers’ compensation, and it is different from other types of personal injury claims. The best way to know if you have an injury case under the Jones Act is to talk with a Houston Jones Act lawyer. 

Maritime workers injured at work can incur financial expenses and losses in addition to their physical injuries. They may also experience debilitating emotional distress and mental anguish. Injured seamen deserve to be compensated fairly for these injuries and damages.

The Jones Act gives you the right to sue your employer for negligent acts that led to your injury. In addition, a seamen’s family may have the right to sue for damages under the Jones Act when negligent acts contributed to the death of a seaman.

Who Can File a Jones Act Claim?

Who Can File a Jones Act Claim?

The Jones Act only applies to specific individuals who work in connection to a vessel. Therefore, not everyone who works on a ship or a water vessel is eligible to file a Jones Act claim, such as harbor workers and crew members of a permanently fixed oil rig. However, other maritime laws might apply to those injured workers. 

A seaman works aboard a waterborne vessel that navigates in the sea or a waterway. The vessel must be able to move and operate on a body of water. Ships in dry dock and platforms that are permanently anchored to the seabed do not qualify for Jones Act claims. 

Another requirement for a maritime injury claim under the Jones Act is the amount of time the seaman works on the vessel. The worker needs to spend a significant amount of time working on the vessel to be eligible to file a Jones Act claim. The worker needs to spend about one-third of his work hours aboard the vessel. 

A Jones Act Claim is Not Workers’ Compensation 

The Jones Act is not workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. The injured worker does not need to prove negligence or intentional acts to be eligible for benefits. 

Compensation for a Jones Act claim is similar to workers’ compensation benefits. For example, an injured seaman can receive compensation for lost wages (maintenance benefits) and medical treatment (cure benefits). Maintenance and care benefits are paid beginning when the seaman leaves the vessel until they reach maximum medical improvement or return to their job.

The injured sailor may also receive compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and diminished earning potential if the vessel was in an unseaworthy condition at the time of the accident. 

Unlike a workers’ compensation claim, the seaman must prove negligence to receive compensation for a Jones Act claim. There are several ways that an owner, captain, or other crew members can be negligent in causing the sailor’s injury.

Common examples of negligence include, but are not limited to:

  • Insufficient number of crew members to adequately operate the vessel
  • Lack of maintenance 
  • Failing to make timely and necessary repairs
  • Inadequate training for workers
  • Lack of safety equipment 
  • Failing to follow safety regulations and procedures
  • Failing to provide the crew with adequate tools to perform their jobs
  • Negligence by crew members
  • Assaults by fellow crew members
  • Improperly stored or secured cargo
  • Lack of fire extinguishers and fire suppression equipment
  • Failing to repair or install safety rails and guards
  • Failing to have sufficient equipment to abandon the ship safely

There are many ways that a seaman could be injured on a vessel because of negligence. Because the sailor is suing in civil court, there could be a jury trial. 

Proving Negligence for a Jones Act Claim

The burden of proof for a Jones Act claim is lower than the burden of proof for other personal injury claims. Instead of proving that the owner or employer caused your injury, you only need to prove that the employer’s or owner’s negligence played a role in the cause of your injury. 

Evidence that may be used to prove a claim under the Jones Act include:

  • Medical records
  • Photographs and videos of the accident
  • Eyewitness testimony
  • Maintenance and repair records
  • Violations of OSHA or U.S. Coast Guard safety standards
  • Testimony and evidence from expert witnesses

A Houston Jones Act lawyer investigates the cause of your injury and gathers evidence to prove negligence. Your attorney may hire experts and investigators to assist with the case. 

Contributory Fault and Jones Act Claims

The theory of contributory fault holds an injured person responsible for any liability the person has for the cause of their injury. Comparative negligence applies to claims filed under the Jones Act. 

Therefore, if you are partially to blame for the cause of your injury, you could receive less money for your claim. The court reduces your compensation by the same percentage of your fault. For example, if a jury finds you were 20 percent at fault for the cause of your maritime injury, you can only receive compensation for 80 percent of your damages. 

Your employer or its insurance provider may try to shift blame for your injury to you to avoid paying your claim. The statements you make after the accident could impact the outcome of your case. It is best to speak with a maritime injury lawyer in Houston before making a statement or answering questions.

How Much Time Do I Have to File a Jones Act Claim?

You need to report your accident or injury to your employer as soon as possible. However, you have up to three years from the date of your injury to file a Jones Act lawsuit. In some cases, the statute of limitations for a Jones Act claim could be extended for occupational illnesses or injuries not discovered immediately. 

Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Jones Act Lawyers in Houston

If you were injured at work aboard a vessel that navigates on the ocean or navigable inland waterway, you might be entitled to substantial compensation for injuries and damages caused by a work accident.

Contact an experienced Houston Jones Act lawyer to learn more. Most lawyers will offer a free consultation so you can understand whether you have a valid case.