Houston Jones Act Lawyer
Houston is one of the top cities in America for domestic maritime activity; it has the country’s third-largest marina and the Port of Houston, with tens of thousands of workers on dock warehouses, marinas, ships, and shipyards. Not surprisingly, many Houston workers suffer injuries every year that qualify for compensation under the Jones Act.
If you have been hurt on the job as a seaman in Houston, TX, you may be eligible to file a Jones Act claim for compensation. Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C. has over 45 years of combined experience representing injured maritime workers.
How Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C. Can Help You with a Jones Act Claim in Houston
Jones Act cases are far more complicated than typical personal injury cases. These cases often involve life-changing injuries and complex maritime laws. Moreover, it can also be difficult to investigate and gather evidence of injuries that occurred offshore. You deserve a Houston personal injury lawyer experienced in maritime law to help you recover the compensation you need.
Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C. has 45 years of combined experience handling complex maritime law cases. Founding attorney Brian White is nationally recognized and a member of the invitation-only Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum. He is a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Lawyer.
Choose our law firm to represent you in your Jones Act case, and we will:
- Provide the sound legal advice you need
- Conduct a thorough investigation to gather evidence
- Build a case proving unseaworthiness to pursue additional compensation
- Ensure your claim is filed correctly and handle all communications and paperwork
- Negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf
- Take your case to court if a fair settlement offer isn’t made
Count on Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C. to protect your best interests and fight for the compensation you deserve. Call our law office in Houston, Texas, today for a free consultation to discuss what we can do to help you.
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act (46 U.S. Code Section 30104), also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal law regulating personal injury and wrongful death in the maritime industry. This federal legislation gives injured seamen the right to sue their employer for compensation.
The Merchant Marine Act is similar to workers’ compensation, but it works slightly differently. Seamen are not eligible for workers’ comp benefits under federal or state law. Instead, they must pursue compensation for on-the-job injuries through a Jones Act claim.
The Jones Act covers all water-going vessels and ships and requires that vessels be maintained in seaworthy condition. This act allows injured seamen to pursue compensation against the vessel owner, captain, and other crew members. However, unlike workers’ compensation, a Jones Act claim requires proving negligence.
Who Can Recover Compensation Under the Jones Act?
To qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, you must meet the definition of a seaman.
A seaman is:
- Someone who works on a “vessel in navigation.” This means the vessel is afloat, operating, capable of moving, and it is on navigable waters. You do not need to be working offshore, nor does the vessel need to be moving. It is considered “in navigation” while docked or moored as long as it is not in a drydock. An oil drilling platform does not meet this definition.
- Someone who contributes to the work of the vessel.
- Someone who spend a “significant” amount of time working on the vessel. At least 30% of your time must generally be spent on a vessel.
A seaman can include a captain, crew member, or any other ship worker. Common occupations include commercial fishermen, sea captains, ship chandler, and non-disabled seaman. Jobs that are not considered traditional seaman careers also qualify, including cruise ship bartenders and chefs, dive instructors and masters on charter diving vessels, commercial divers, and welders on jack-up vessels.
If you are a harbor worker, longshoreman, or contract worker, you are typically not entitled to compensation under the Jones Act. Instead, you may be entitled to benefits through the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
What Compensation Can I Recover in a Jones Act Claim in Texas?
Injured workers can recover several forms of compensation through a Jones Act claim. At a minimum, a successful Jones Act case entitles you to maintenance and cure benefits. In the case of unseaworthiness, you may be entitled to additional compensation.
Maintenance Benefits (Lost Wages)
The Jones Act and general maritime law entitle injured seamen to maintenance. This term refers to wages, room, and board, beginning when the worker leaves the ship until they reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) or return to their job.
An employer must usually pay your cost of living as maintenance. This weekly rate covers housing, utilities, food, transportation, and other basic living costs.
Cure Benefits (Medical Care)
Injured seamen are also entitled to compensation for reasonable medical expenses in a successful Jones Act claim. These cure payments for medical treatment continue until you reach MMI.
Cure benefits can cover everything from surgery, emergency treatment, and doctor visits to medication, medical devices, and occupational therapy.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 requires vessel owners to maintain their vessel in safe, seaworthy condition and provide a reasonably safe workplace. If the vessel, masters, crew, or equipment are found to be unseaworthy, an injured worker can recover compensation beyond maintenance and cure.
When the vessel is in unseaworthy condition, you may be entitled to:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Diminished earning capacity
An experienced Houston Jones Act attorney will help you investigate whether your vessel was unseaworthy.
Surviving family members of a deceased seaman may seek compensation under the Jones Act for work-related deaths. Under the Jones Act, a wrongful death action may be used to recover compensation for funeral expenses, lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.
How Do I Prove Negligence in a Jones Act Case in Houston, TX?
To recover compensation through a Jones Act claim, injured workers are required to prove the captain, owner, or crew was negligent and responsible for their injuries.
There are many ways an employer can be found negligent and responsible for injuries under the Jones Act.
The following are common examples of hazards for which an employer may be liable:
- Improper maintenance of equipment on the vessel
- Failing to provide the crew with necessary equipment
- Inadequate training of crew
- Crew member negligence
- Crew member assault
- Cargo is not properly stowed
- Lack of proper hoists and elevators
- Lack of working fire suppression equipment and fire extinguishers
- Lack of adequate safety rails and guards
- Insufficient number of crew members
A court generally considers standards provided by OSHA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and maritime safety authorities to determine if an employer was negligent and failed to provide a safe workplace.
It’s important to note that the Jones Act has a lower burden of proof than typical personal injury cases. In a standard personal injury case, you must prove the defendant caused your injury. With a Jones Act claim, you only need to show that your employer’s negligence played a role in your accident.
You are still entitled to recover compensation even if you are partially at fault for your accident. However, if your own negligence contributed to your injuries, the compensation you recover may be reduced accordingly. Your maintenance and cure benefits for lost earnings and medical treatment will not be affected even if you contributed to the accident.
How Long Do I Have to File a Jones Act Claim in Houston?
You have just three years from the date of your injury to file a Jones Act claim. This statute of limitations can be extended in some cases, such as with occupational illness or an injury that is not discovered right away.
It’s crucial to begin pursuing your claim as soon as possible. Contact a Houston Jones Act injury attorney at Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C. today to begin building your claim.
Contact a Houston Jones Act Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Attorney Brian White & Associates, P.C. understands that seamen face a dangerous job. We will help you pursue the benefits you deserve after an injury. Contact our law firm today to schedule a free case review with a Houston Jones Act lawyer prepared to fight on your behalf.