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What to do if you think you have a Jones Act claim - VB Attorneys

Brian Beckcom

Brian Beckcom


If you believe you have a Jones Act claim, here’s what you need to do next:

  1. Make sure an accurate incident report has been filed with the company. If the company wouldn’t let you fill out an incident report, or if they made you sign a blank one, write down your own on a blank sheet of paper. Include the names and job titles of everyone who witnessed you get hurt, was on board when you got hurt, and who interacted with you after you got hurt.
  2. Do not sign any paperwork, give a statement, or agree to anything. Some companies will ask you to sign a form so you can access your benefits, see a doctor, or go to shore. The only thing you should have signed is an accurate incident report. Anything else is suspicious. You do not have to sign anything or give any statements in order to go to shore or receive medical care.
  3. Consult an experienced Jones Act and maritime law attorney. When you discuss your case with one of our attorneys, we will help you understand if your company is treating you fairly or if it’s time to get help.

Once an attorney has confirmed that you do have an injury claim, find out what to expect in your Jones Act settlement

Jones Act claims and maritime injury claims can be very valuable. That’s why some companies fight you every step of the way. They think it will be cheaper if they can convince you to take a settlement that’s worth a fraction of your actual medical bills and injuries. They think they can trick you into signing away your legal rights. But you know what company tricks to watch out for and how to protect your legal rights.

Once you know you have a claim, it helps to know what to expect in the lawsuit process and what your settlement may be. While no lawyer can guarantee you anything about how long your case will take or what amount you will receive in your pocket, we can tell you what to expect to happen based on our years of experience.

Whether you work on an oceangoing vessel, tugboat, or drilling rig, you know you work in a potentially dangerous environment every day. Here are some crucial things you should know in order for you to collect Jones Act benefits. First, you must be able to prove that your employer’s negligence contributed to what happened to you. If you are successful, you may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Past, present, and future medical care and therapy
  • Emotional or psychological suffering
  • Loss of enjoyment and engagement in life
  • Lost wages while you are unable to work
  • Loss of your ability to work in the future

However, there are some benefits that seamen have access to regardless of the part their employer may have played in their injuries. In many cases, the right to maintenance and cure goes hand-in-hand with your Jones Act rights.

Your rights to maintenance and cure

Under maritime laws, a seaman who is hurt or becomes ill while working on a vessel is eligible for “maintenance and cure.” You do not have to prove negligence or wrongdoing in order to receive these benefits, which cover the payment of reasonable medical and living expenses until you reach maximum medical “cure.” If you have questions about these rights, or if you have been hurt at work without receiving compensation, don’t hesitate to start investigating your rights with an experienced attorney.

If you have seen doctors for your injuries, you may make a claim to get your medical bills paid. Under the Jones Act, this might include the following costs:

  • Hospital stays
  • Doctor’s visits
  • Specialist doctor and therapist visits
  • Lab testing
  • X-rays and imaging studies
  • Surgeries
  • Physical therapy
  • Medical equipment
  • Other medical needs

While it makes sense for an employer to help pay your medical bills after an injury the company is responsible for, you should be aware that there is sometimes more to your costs than just doctor and hospital visits. Bills pile up when you get hurt. From car payments and mortgages to grocery bills and your power bill, your life continues even though you’re not working.

Part of maintenance and cure is that, for maintenance, your company is supposed to pay you a daily, living wage. What the company calls a living wage and what the average person calls a living wage can be very different. If your company is not paying you any maintenance, or they are trying to get away with paying you $27 a day, consult a lawyer immediately. An experienced Jones Act lawyer will fight the company to get your maintenance increased to a reasonable amount. Some maritime companies will stoop to playing tricks on you to avoid paying you what you are owed under federal law.

How offshore employers try to deny benefits to injured Jones Act seamen

Despite the Jones Act and other maritime laws, some offshore employers will go to great lengths to avoid paying seamen the compensation they deserve after they’ve been hurt. Some employers may try to minimize injuries, mislead workers about their rights, or even blame the injured workers for the accident. For example, an employer may try to claim that you aren’t eligible for Jones Act benefits for an injury because:

  • You lied about a preexisting condition on your medical history forms.
  • You have private insurance coverage that covers some or all of your medical care.
  • The injury was your own fault.
  • The injury did not happen at work.

Whether or not an employer is telling the truth, seamen who find themselves in this situation may accept the denial because they aren’t sure about their rights and don’t want to face potential retaliation from their employers.

Steps to take if  you have been denied medical care for an injury at sea

Although some workers have no problem seeing a doctor and going through the process of filing for Jones Act benefits after an injury at sea, there are many others who are surprised to find that their employers won’t help them get the medical care they need. Whether you have been prevented from seeing a doctor entirely or subjected to a biased or cursory examination by a company doctor, you still have a right to get the care you need. Here are two steps you can take to make sure you have the best chance at recovery:

  • Seek medical attention on your own. Your health should be your priority. As soon as you are able, see a doctor of your own choosing for treatment. Make sure you tell your doctor that the injury happened while you were working at sea, and give him or her contact information for your employer.
  • Contact an attorney who has experience with Jones Act claims and injuries at sea. While your employer is required to pay for your medical care under the Jones Act, some employers don’t play by the rules. If your company is refusing to pay for your care, speak with an experienced legal representative as soon as possible about protecting your rights to treatment.

If you’ve been hurt while working on a vessel or rig, your company may not be telling you everything you need to know. It’s up to you to get informed about your rights under the law—and what you can do to get the help you need.

If your Jones Act benefits have already been denied, VB Attorneys may still be able to help you. Call now.

If you are eligible for compensation under the Jones Act, you may be able to fight an unfair denial, even if your employer has refused to take responsibility for your medical bills. However, to do so, you will need the assistance of a skilled attorney who has experience in successfully pursuing Jones Act and other offshore injury cases. An attorney can help by:

  • Explaining your rights and options after a denial of Jones Act benefits.
  • Making sure your rights are protected.
  • Taking care of your claim so you can focus on recovery.

Ultimately, whether or not you can successfully fight a denied claim depends on the details of your situation. If you have been denied benefits under the Jones Act or only received partial benefits, there may be a good reason—or there’s a good chance that your employer is simply attempting to avoid paying you the benefits you deserve.

You don’t have to swallow your employer’s excuses for not paying you the benefits you are entitled to under the law. To start taking action today, reach out to us at 877-724-7800 or fill out the contact form on this page. In a free and confidential case review, an experienced attorney will investigate the details of your injury and help you get answers.

Topics: Jones Act