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The Young FirmJones Act Cases

Jones Act Cases

What they are, who they apply to, and the benefits of filing one after a maritime accident

Under the Jones Act, seamen and other maritime workers are entitled to file Jones Act cases for damages for occupational accidents and illnesses. While land employees are limited to workers’ compensation benefits for workplace injuries resulting in personal injury, permanent disability, or wrongful death, injured seamen have the right to full compensation for damages

What is the Jones Act?

And How Does the Jones Act Affect Injured Maritime Workers?

The Jones Act is a federal statute that allows an injured seaman to sue their employer for the damages he or she has suffered as a result of a work-related injury. The Jones Act applies to seamen injured on ships, offshore oil rigs, barges, tug boats, tankers, riverboats, shrimp boats, trawlers, fishing boats, ferries, water taxis, and all other vessels on the ocean or intra-coastal rivers and canals; it also applies to commercial divers and other underwater personnel.

Jones Act Eligibility: Who Qualifies?

In order for the Jones Act to apply to you, you must qualify as a seaman. To be considered a seaman, and therefore have Jones Act eligibility, you must be:

  • more or less permanently connected with a vessel or fleet of vessels
  • in navigation at the time of your accident
  • aboard the vessel to perform duties necessary to the operation of the vessel or a mission being carried out on the vessel

Generally, any worker who spends more than 30 percent of his or her time on a vessel in navigation qualifies as a seaman according to the Jones Act. An employee that does not qualify for a Jones Act claim may instead be covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act.

navigable waters in Jones Act cases

The “more or less permanent assignment” has generally been interpreted to mean that a seaman has spent at least 30 percent of his or her time at sea. So even if 65 percent to 70 percent of your time was spent on land, you may still satisfy the permanent assignment requirement.

**Even if your accident occurred on land, you may still file a claim under the Jones Act if you were assigned to a vessel but only working on land temporarily.**

Jones Act Benefits for Injured Workers

The Jones Act offers various benefits to injured maritime and offshore workers and bears only a passing resemblance to workers’ compensation. Although the employee must prove that his or her employer was negligent under the Jones Act, claims filed under the act provide comparatively larger cash settlements.

A Jones Act lawyer at our New Orleans, Louisiana law firm will protect your rights and fight on your behalf to obtain compensation for:

  • Lost wages
  • Diminished earning capacity
  • Medical bills
  • Rehabilitation expenses
  • Occupational therapy
  • Permanent disability or impairment
  • Pain and suffering
  • Diminished quality of life

Jones Act Statute of Limitations

In Jones Act cases, you technically have until three years after the accident to file your claim; however, in most cases, it is critical to file your claim much sooner than that.  If you think you might have a claim under the Jones Act, contact one of our experienced maritime lawyers today for a free consultation.  Maritime law is all we do, and we are here to answer any questions you have.  Call us today at 504-680-4100.

Jones Act Cases vs. Workers’ Comp

Jones Act lawsuits, while superficially similar to workers’ compensation claims, are in fact very different and require an experienced, especially skilled lawyer. Successful workers’ compensation claims cover medical bills and a portion of lost wages. Conversely, if your injury was caused by the negligence of your employer or a co-employee and you qualify as a seaman according to the Jones Act, you may be eligible to collect compensation for all of your expenses and losses. This includes money for pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, and past and future lost wages and fringe benefits.

Claims made through the Jones Act provide comparatively larger cash settlements than civil claims, and additional damages can be collected if negligence was involved.

Negligence and Unseaworthiness

Each seaman, admiralty, and maritime injury lawyer at our New Orleans, Louisiana office has extensive experience handling claims in which negligence or unseaworthiness resulted in injury.

Examples of negligence include:

  • An employer’s failure to adequately hire, train, or staff the vessel
  • Not providing proper or adequate gear, protective clothing, or equipment for the job
  • Failure to follow or enforce safety measures
  • Improper maintenance of the ship or its equipment
  • Working in weather too inclement for the safe operation of the vessel

Examples of unseaworthiness include:

  • Poorly maintained decks, gangways, and passageways, including slippery surfaces
  • Inadequate crewing of the vessel
  • Loose or improperly stored lines, wires, and cables
  • Defective hulls, rails, and bulkheads
  • Insufficient lifeboats and malfunctioning emergency response gear
  • Dangerous or extreme work methods, including excessive lifting

Wrongful Death at Sea

At The Young Firm, our attorneys have handled many Death on the High Seas Act claims. Wrongful death at sea commonly results from:

  • Vessels sinking or capsizing
  • Parting tow lines
  • Fires and explosions aboard ships
  • Cargo handling accidents
  • Crane and winch accidents
  • Failure to provide prompt emergency medical attention

Providing a Recorded Statement

Do I Have To Provide A Recorded Statement Under The Jones Act If I Am Hurt Offshore?

NO, NO and NO!  There is absolutely no legal requirement that you provide a recorded statement to your employer or its insurance company or adjuster if you have been hurt offshore or on a vessel.  Providing a statement can only help the company, not you.  Your company may threaten that they will refuse medical treatment to you if you don’t provide a statement.  If they do so, what does that tell you about who they are looking out for?  Maritime law and the Jones Act give you the absolute legal right to receive medical treatment from a doctor you select.  Insist on seeing your own doctor after a maritime injury.  If you are told you must give a statement first, they are lying to you, and that means they will lie to you again.  Call our maritime lawyers in New Orleans, Louisiana if you have questions about your rights.

What is “Featherweight” Burden of Proof?

The Jones Act Works in Favor of Injured Seamen

When it comes to civil cases, the plaintiff has the “burden of proof” or “preponderance of the evidence”.  In the case of Jones Act claims, this means that the injured seaman must prove the negligence of his or her employer or co-employee.  However, because the Jones Act relies upon a “featherweight” burden of proof, it can be easier to acquire damages in Jones Act cases than in other civil suits.

Where Do I File My Jones Act Case?

You can file a Jones Act claim in either state or federal court, even though the Jones Act itself is a federal statute.  The “savings to suitors clause” provides that claims can be filed in state courts if those courts recognize federal claims under the Jones Act.

It is important to note, however, that if you file in federal court, the right to select either a judge or jury trial is completely up to you, while if you file in state court, both parties have the right to a jury trial.  Many times, it is actually better to have a trial by judge rather than one by jury, depending on the specifics of your case.

More often than not, you will have more than one option for where you can file the suit; the location of the courthouse where you can file varies greatly between cases.  If you file federally, any federal court in the country can hear your case.  In federal courts, however, there does exist the rule of “forum non conveniens”, which means that the court you select must be positioned close to some of the necessary actions that did or will happen surrounding your case, including the site of the initial accident, medical facility of your treating physician, or the location of witnesses in your case.  Even filing in state court will have some of these location requirements, but the requirements can generally be satisfied if the company has a local office, or if you left for offshore from nearby.

The Young Firm routinely files Jones Act lawsuits in both state and federal courts in southern Louisiana from across the Gulf Coast, because very often the companies in these cases have offices in Louisiana, or the employee worked out of Louisiana.

Contact our Personal Injury & Jones Act Lawyers Today

Since the inception of the Jones Act, thousands of injured seaman deck hands, fishermen, divers, etc. have successfully filed Jones Act claims against employers whose negligence has resulted in catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death. Each Jones Act lawyer at our New Orleans, Louisiana office knows the law and is able to determine what victims are legally entitled to and what employers and insurance companies are required to provide. Our clients are able to rest assured in the knowledge that their case is in qualified, expert hands.

If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury or wrongful death while on the job offshore or on the river, our maritime and admiralty attorneys can help you obtain fair compensation. With over 40 years of service and millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements to our credit, The Young Firm has the knowledge and experience necessary to help you maximize the return on your claim.  Our attorneys will carefully evaluate your claim, explain your legal options and help you pursue compensation for your injuries.. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your Jones Act case, contact a lawyer at our New Orleans, Louisiana office.