The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, protects workers at sea. Because seamen are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits (unlike land-based workers), the Jones Act is critical for their protection. This act and general maritime law serve to protect seamen injured on or near the water, and ultimately help them seek compensation for their injuries—assuming they can prove their employer’s negligence.
After a serious accident, many workers worry that they will be blacklisted, blackballed or otherwise discriminated against at work if they file a claim. Common fears include losing a job or not being able to find one if other employers know that they filed a legal claim. However, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against you for protecting your rights. Any discriminatory behaviour by them can strengthen your case and may result in a larger settlement.
It is important to note that this act is very particular about who qualifies as a seaman. Because qualifying for a Jones Act lawsuit can be a complicated endeavor, it is imperative that you find an experienced maritime injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Qualifying for the Jones Act
According to the The Young Firm, the following must be true in order to file a Jones Act claim:
- You are a certified seaman and spend at least 30% of your working hours on the vessel or as a member of the fleet.
- As a seaman, you either contribute to the functioning of the vessel or are responsible for accomplishing an assigned task. Applicable tasks include those of chefs, barbers, crew members, musicians, operators, fishermen, etc.
- Your injury occurred on a qualifying “vessel in navigation” under the Jones Act.
- The vessel must be mobile and able to navigate waters. This includes special purpose watercraft. Note, however, that navigation does not have to be the craft’s primary purpose. A vessel is still considered in navigation if it is tied to a dock or mooring. An out of the water, on blocks or permanently anchored vessel is not considered a vessel in navigation.
- The vessel must be the property of an American entity.
- Casino barges vary case by case. Some states require casinos to be afloat, but not in navigation. If you were injured while working on a casino barge, contact your maritime personal injury lawyer to find out if it qualifies as a vessel in navigation.
While the maritime industry can be a rewarding career, it is notorious for exposing employees to a high-risk environment. Jones Act lawsuits are more employee-centric than other workers’ compensation laws, so it is essential to use your best judgment and enter the lawsuit with a clear head. This means you should fully recover physically and psychologically before beginning the process.
To better ensure you receive full compensation, here is a list of common mistakes to avoid from the Maritime Injury Guide (as well as alternative steps to take):
- Waiting too long to report injuries
- Report all injuries to your employer immediately after they happen, no matter how minor they are.
- Minor injuries may not seem serious at first, but it is important to still report them to your employer. In the event your injury becomes more severe and you failed to notify your employer, your employer may claim the injury happened outside of work.
- Try to be as detailed and accurate as possible. Don’t let the pressure get to you if the company urges you to admit fault. Stand your ground.
- Be sure to keep a copy of your ship logs, as well as records of all medical treatment and care received for your injury. It is good to keep a journal of everything that happens, so that you and your attorney can refer to it.
- Hiring the wrong attorney
- Maritime law is very specific. Hiring an experienced maritime injury lawyer should be the first thing you do. In contrast, hiring an inexperienced maritime attorney may negatively impact the outcome of your case.
- Signing paperwork too quickly
- Keep in mind that the insurance company is a business. Most insurance adjusters try to either reduce the compensation you are entitled to or deny your claim altogether.
- Contacting your maritime lawyer before signing any paperwork is always the best course of action.
The greater the injury and damages, the better possibility of a large settlement. For large settlement cases, the plaintiff has most likely endured extreme injury and loss.
According to the Maritime Injury Center, the following expenses are generally covered in your settlement:
- Lost wages—if the employer is at least partially at fault
- Medical cost and expenses—including surgery, rehabilitation, medical supplies, medication and more
- Permanent disfigurement—including hearing loss, eye loss and/or loss of limbs
- Mental and emotional trauma
- Lost earnings and capacity
- Past and future economic loss
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of the ability to enjoy life and/or perform formerly common tasks
The Benefits of Legal Funding
While Jones Act lawsuits often result in a high settlement, it may take years before you receive compensation. In the meantime, many plaintiffs face a heavy financial burden. The length of your claim can vary based on the following factors:
- The seriousness of the injury
- Will this injury keep you from working? Did the accident result in a permanent disability or disfigurement?
- The length of time you spend in treatment before reaching a maximum point of improvement determines the seriousness of your injury.
- Your earning potential at the time of your injury
- Most Jones Act settlements include compensation for lost wages. If you are able to prove negligence or unseaworthiness as a Jones Act seamen, you are entitled to all past lost wages and future wages.
- This exact amount can be difficult to determine early in the legal process.
- The jurisdiction of your Jones Act lawsuit
- Caseloads vary depending on the jurisdiction.
- Other factors to consider when determining the value and length of a Jones Act settlement include:
- How good is your lawyer?
- How good is the defense lawyer?
- Is it clear who was at fault?
- How serious was the negligence or violation?
- Was the accident foreseeable?
Do you have enough financial stability to withstand a long trial in order to reach a fair settlement? If not, legal funding can help. Provident Legal Funding has your back when you need help the most. Apply online or give us a call at 800-908-6860.