Injuries to crew members and maritime merchants were so common at the beginning of the 20th century that Congress established the Jones Act, officially titled the Marine Merchant Act of 1920. Although originally sought to protect Marine merchants, the Jones Act now generally covers a broad spectrum of people who are employed or assist in ships and other vessels, which operate in oceans, offshore lakes, rivers or canals.
The types of professionals likely to be covered by the Jones Act include:
• Marine merchants
• Port workers
• Ship officers
• Barge workers
• Tug Workers
• Offshore workers
The Jones Act requires ship owners to provide safe and well-maintained vessels for their employees. Each part of the vessel must remain in a position to navigate, which means that the vessel is not defective and in good working order.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies the majority of these workers in marine transport occupations. This is considered one of the most dangerous job categories, along with commercial fishing and working on oil rigs and platforms, which also involves sea travel.
Weather hazards while out in the water add danger to what are often physically demanding jobs. In 2018, two out of every 100 workers in the water transport industry were injured. Since maritime workers can be classified into various types of jobs, it is difficult to obtain a true number of injuries and deaths related to those who work onboard or with boats, but what is clear is that many workers in this field could use the help of a maritime lawyer.
Unique Aspects of Injury Law that Apply to Seamen
In order to work with a Jones Act attorney to recover damages related to a ship owner or an operator’s injury, a crew member must establish that his injury was, at least in part, the fault of the maritime employer. In other words, the employee must demonstrate that a defect in the ship or boat caused or contributed to the injury.
Unlike other traders injured in the course of their employment and covered under workers’ compensation, the only remedy for an injured sailor is to pursue a lawsuit under the Jones Act.
Legal Benefits Under the Jones Act for Injured Maritime Workers
Once liability has been established against an employer, an injured sailor is entitled to temporary benefits known as “maintenance” and “Cure”. Maintenance is a stipend paid to workers who are removed from work by a doctor because of their injuries. Cure refers to compensation for medical expenses, hospitals, and prescription drugs. Our Jones Act attorneys are experienced and can help you get more information.
In addition to distinguishing Jones Act’s benefits from those normally provided under workers’ compensation, an injured seaman may be entitled to significant damages for lost wages, disability, fringe benefits, and pain and suffering. It is important that workers have a Jones Act attorney who understands the law and their legal rights so they can fight to obtain financial damages for their injuries.
The Federal Statute of the United States Code n. 46, section 883 (better known as the Jones Act), made it easier for seamen to obtain compensation for work injuries. This statute allowed for workers onboard ships to be covered by the Federal Employer Responsibility Law (FELA), which initially only protected railway workers.
Under the Jones Act, the employers of shipboard workers may be required to pay compensation for injuries caused by negligence. The employer will bear responsibility for injuries caused in whole or in part by the negligence of their own, officers, agents or other employees.
This may include faulty equipment or dangerous conditions on board. The employer may still be liable, even if the crew member is injured between shifts (while onboard).
It is important to note that not all crew members will be able to receive compensation for injuries under the Jones Act. The excluded cases can be the following:
• Employees who are part of a consortium – If a crew member benefits from the company (instead of receiving a fixed salary as a crew member), the owner of the ship will not be held responsible for his injuries.
• Volunteer members of the crew – If a yacht crew member is a volunteer and does not receive a salary, the Jones Act will not apply. However, the law will take effect for paid pleasure yacht crew members.
Damages provided for by the Jones Act
Under the Jones Act, a sailor or his family could receive compensation for the following damages:
• Loss of income
• Medical expenses
• Loss of future remuneration
• Funeral expenses
• Loss of social benefits
• Pain and suffering
• Mental anguish
• Association loss
These damages awards can occur in cases of personal injury, wrongful death or acts of survival related to the crew members on board.
What should I do after suffering a maritime injury?
After suffering an injury at sea, you must take steps to protect your health and the ability to obtain compensation. After an accident at sea, it is important that you:
Always get medical treatment after an accident at sea, even if your injuries seem minor at first. Some injuries take days to appear. Others can cause serious secondary health problems, such as infections.
Fill out an accident report
It is vital to have correct records that show your injuries and the circumstances related to your accident. So, complete an accident report for your employer and make sure you keep a copy.
Get a second opinion
If your employer has its own medical staff, also look for independent verification of your injuries from a medical professional not related to your employer. The medical staff that works for your employer can minimize the seriousness of your injuries to avoid paying more in compensation.
Call a lawyer
In addition to the initial report, do not sign any document from your employer before it is reviewed by a lawyer. You could be waiving certain rights. You should also never give any recorded statement about your injuries without the advice of a maritime lawyer.
Should I hire a maritime lawyer after an injury at sea?
Our maritime attorneys will explain compensation for injuries at sea. Maritime accident cases are different from common workers’ compensation claims because injuries at sea do not necessarily fall under the jurisdiction of the laws of any state. Instead, some federal laws apply to maritime injuries, including compensation law to shoreline workers and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
This entitles maritime workers to different benefits after a work injury, depending on the circumstances. But these maritime laws can be complex and your ability to obtain compensation depends on many factors, such as your position and the circumstances of the accident.
Unfortunately, these factors are not always clear, making it easy for your employer to deny your claim. So, if you are injured at sea as an oil worker, fisherman or any other related occupation, then you should speak with a lawyer experienced in maritime laws about your options and rights.
Maritime law attorneys at PMR Law have handled more than a thousand injury cases. Because of this, they have first-hand knowledge of the shortcuts companies take to make a profit while jeopardizing the safety of their workers. Our legal firm uses this specific knowledge to fight for the rights of injured maritime workers.
Hire Lawyers Who Understand the Jones Act
A Houston maritime injury lawyer from our firm can help an injured seaman determine what rights they may have and advise if a possible claim can be filed against an employer. If you were injured on a boat or dock in Texas or lost a loved one in a marine accident, contact one of our maritime accident attorneys.
When it comes to protecting injured workers on Texas waterways and applying the provisions of the Jones Act, PMR Law is determined to hold responsible parties accountable for their negligence. At no cost to you, our firm will investigate and process your case according to the most advantageous legal position for your situation. We invite you to contact a Texas Jones Act attorney today to discuss your case and the legal options for financial recovery through the Jones Act.
We will be honored to have the opportunity to review your potential case under the Jones Act. Call PMR Law at 832-667-7700 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation with a personal injury lawyer who will tirelessly fight for your legal rights.
Get in touch with us immediately so we can evaluate your case for free. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can also fill out a form by clicking here.
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