Jones Act Claims and Injuries at Sea

Barge inspection for Jones Act Claims and Injuries at Sea

We Help Injured Offshore Workers Just Like You

After being injured on the job you may think that you are legally entitled to workers' compensation benefits. However, if your job involves working on a vessel at sea, along the Gulf Coast, in a river system, or on an offshore oil rig, you are not entitled to workers' compensation. Instead, you are covered by federal admiralty law, also known as "maritime law" or the "Jones Act". Federal maritime law and the Jones Act are extremely complicated. Only a handful of law firms and lawyers across the country are considered experts in this area of the law. Brian Beckcom, one of our founding partners, is widely considered one the nation's leading lawyers for cases involving maritime accidents and injuries.

"I am very grateful." - Inocencio P.

Find out how we helped Inocencio, a Longshoreman, hold Moran Towing accountable for the safety failures that caused him to be crushed by a crane on a Moran Towing barge.
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"Brian's a wonderful guy." - Keidron S.

Find out how we helped Keidron, a rig hand injured working for ENSCO, hold the company accountable for the systemic safety failures that caused Keidron to suffer a career-ending back injury.
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"If you get hurt offshore, there is only one lawyer you should call." - Donnie G.

Find out how we helped Donnie make sure his employer followed the Jones Act and did right by Donnie after he got hurt working as an assistant driller on a jack-up rig.
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"They had my back... they are absolutely the best." - Marven H.

Find out how we helped Marven get the justice he deserved after his company tried to blame him for the injuries he sustained saving his crew from disaster.
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Learn Your Legal Rights Under Maritime Law or You May Lose Them

If you were injured on the job while working offshore, then you are not going to receive state workers' compensation benefits. Instead, your legal rights will be controlled by U.S. federal law. Under a U.S. federal law known as the "Jones Act," maritime workers who are hurt on the job are entitled to different legal benefits than land-based employees. Sometimes, these benefits can be much, much better than state workers' compensation benefits. However, you absolutely must hire the best lawyer for the case. Otherwise, you stand a very good chance of losing your legal rights entirely.

How Do You Know Which Laws Protect You?

The very first question you should ask is which law protects your legal rights? There are many different options. There are state laws and federal laws. And within the body of state and federal law, there are a number of specific laws like the Jones Act, the Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, General Maritime Law, maintenance and cure, and much more.

Generally speaking, if your job requires you to work on a "vessel" that is "in navigation," then you are probably covered under the Jones Act. The definition of "vessel" is quite broad, and covers the following, and even more:

  • Oceangoing ships like supply vessels, crew boats, cruise ships, cargo ships, and more
  • Brown water vessels like tugboats, barges, inland workboats, and more
  • Oil and gas vessels such as jack-up rigs, spars, semi-submersibles, offshore platforms, and drilling rigs.

Jobs Covered Under the Jones Act

​In order for you to be covered under the Jones Act, you must be assigned to a "vessel" and your job must contribute to the mission of the vessel. Again, "contribute to the mission" is quite broad. Basically, any job on the vessel will fit the definition. The following is a list of the types of jobs that are often covered by the Jones Act:

  • Captains and crew members
  • Roughnecks, roustabouts, drillers, toolpushers, derrickmen, company men, OIMs (Offshore Installation Managers), mud engineers, deck engineers
  • Ordinary seaman, able-bodied seaman, deckhands, engineers, mates
  • Tankermen and Barge workers
  • Cooks, galleyhands, and other supporting jobs

Differences Between State Workers' Compensation Laws and the Jones Act

Practically speaking, if you were hurt on the job while working offshore, you are going to be entitled to collect significantly more money in a settlement than if you were only protected by state workers' compensation laws. State workers' compensation laws are basically run by large insurance companies. The insurance companies have an incentive to provide the minimum amount of medical care. As a result, the insurance companies will hire doctors who often care little about the patients and more about making money from the insurance company. They will put you back to work well before you're ready, they will write reports saying your injuries were "pre-existing," and they will do all sorts of other underhanded things to prevent you from getting your full benefits.

Benefits of Being Covered Under Federal Maritime Law

It's different when you're covered by federal maritime law and the Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, for example, your employer is required by law to pay for all of your medical care until you reach maximum medical improvement. Unlike state workers' compensation laws, you get to go to your own doctors, not doctors hand-picked by your employer or some big insurance company. You are also entitled to something called "maintenance," which is a daily living stipend while you are off work recuperating from your injuries.

In addition to medical payments and maintenance payments, you are also allowed to bring a lawsuit for negligence damages, which you cannot do if you are getting state workers' compensation benefits. Under state law, you cannot sue your employer if they have workers' compensation insurance, regardless of the amount of negligence committed. Under the Jones Act, you can sue for negligence.

The difference between state workers' compensation laws and the Jones Act can be a difference in you receiving nothing and receiving hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in a settlement.

What Jones Act workers can do about common causes of injuries at sea

If you have been injured while working offshore and have been reading up on your rights under the Jones Act, you may be unsure if your injuries were caused by the negligence of your employer, the unseaworthiness of the vessel where you were working at the time of the accident, or just plain “bad luck.” In the seconds it takes for an accident to happen, it can be very hard to figure out what happened at all—just that someone who was up and working a moment ago got seriously hurt as a result.

However, although it may not seem to matter how an accident happened, it is important to determine the cause. There are many ways that employers can prevent accidents and injury at sea, and seamen can hold those employers financially responsible for their medical care and expenses if they contributed to an injury.

Common Causes of Injuries on Vessels, Drilling Rigs, and Other Offshore Environments

There are many different ways that workers get hurt at sea, but the root causes usually boil down to:

  • Employer negligence. Working on the water is a dangerous job, whether it’s near the coast or in 50-foot seas. While most people understand that it’s a risky industry, employers still have a duty to make sure that workers are reasonably safe while they do their jobs. “Negligence” has to do with what your employer did (or failed to do) that led to your injury. The decisions an employer makes can affect the safety of every man and woman working on a vessel or rig, even when it isn’t directly obvious how their choices might have an impact. A crew’s safety can hinge on even small decisions about how relevant warnings are distributed, how potential problems are reported and addressed, what routes are taken, or how often vessels and equipment are inspected and maintained. Under the Jones Act, when employers make decisions that put profits or convenience over the safety of the men and women they employ, the workers affected may have the right to hold those companies financially responsible for their injuries and losses.
  • Captain and crewmember negligence. The decisions that captains and crewmembers make can also have a big impact on how safe seamen are at work. If a captain decides to ignore important warnings, or if a crewmember is unqualified to do the work or becomes violent, it can create the conditions for very serious accidents and injuries. While they can’t always predict what people will do, companies have a responsibility to adequately screen, train, and supervise employees to avoid potential problems. If they fail to do so, then the workers who get hurt may be able to file a Jones Act claim and get payment for their expenses related to an injury.
  • Unseaworthiness of vessel. “Unseaworthiness” has to do with the state of the vessel itself. Employers are responsible for making sure the vessels they operate are seaworthy. This might mean that they been properly maintained, have enough trained crewmembers to adequately operate the vessel in expected conditions, are safe for employees, and are functioning correctly. Vessels that don’t meet these standards can be dangerous for workers and cause accidents—even when workers performed at the very best of their abilities.
  • Unsafe working conditions. Beyond issues with the vessel itself, the conditions seamen must work in can contribute to accidents. This is especially the case when employers cut corners on safety to save money, putting workers in danger. Leaks that are allowed to leave slippery puddles, unlit stairways, malfunctioning equipment that isn’t repaired, long shifts in cramped workspaces, and even coworkers who haven’t been screened before hire can all contribute to unsafe conditions and tragic accidents.
  • Safety policies or procedures not followed. There are the safety rules on the books, and then there are the safety rules that are actually followed in practice. In offshore workplaces, workers can be put under pressure to skip steps or ignore the policies and procedures designed to keep them safe. Safety rules exist for a reason. When those standards aren’t followed carefully, it’s no wonder that people get hurt or killed as a result.
  • Lack of training and improper training. Of course, employees can’t do their jobs safely if they haven’t been trained. Companies must make sure that all employees get adequate training on job duties, safety procedures, and other important issues. If employees don’t know what they’re doing or how to do it right, accidents and injuries are almost inevitable on most vessels, tugboats, and drilling rigs.
  • Equipment malfunctions, defective equipment, and improper use or storage of equipment. If the equipment isn’t maintained or inspected, there’s no way to know that it will work right or work safely when it’s used. If it isn’t stored or secured correctly, then it could be a threat to workers. When faulty or potentially dangerous equipment is reported, employers need to take action to address the problem before someone gets hurt—and they should also be checking up on equipment every so often to prevent potential injuries.
  • Worker fatigue. Tired workers cause accidents. They aren’t able to focus on their jobs or react as quickly when something goes wrong. Although the seamen in this situation often blame themselves, the truth is that employers can prevent some accidents related to fatigue. A lot of workers on vessels and rigs are scheduled on long shifts, often with very little time to sleep or rest in between. Employers who create these schedules should be aware that they’re creating the perfect conditions for a serious accident.
  • Inclement weather. Unpredictable weather often plays a big part in accidents and injuries. Sometimes, injuries from bad weather are just bad luck. However, while employers can’t always predict exactly what the weather will be, they can take steps to plan for the possibility of adverse weather and have policies in place for reacting to unexpected conditions. Employers need to think about safety at sea and provide safety equipment and emergency protocols to deal with issues like slick walkways, high winds, rough waters, extreme temperatures, weather-affected equipment, and other conditions.

Ultimately, there are a lot of reasons why accidents happen and seamen get hurt. The question of whether an employer is liable for an injury and must pay an injured seaman benefits often comes down to whether or not that accident—regardless of what happened—could have been prevented with appropriate care.

Examples of Preventable Accidents and Injuries

Unfortunately, there are so many things that can wrong in the dangerous work environments on vessels and drilling rigs that it’s not always easy to tell what went wrong or who was responsible. In fact, multiple issues could contribute to a seaman’s injury. Sometimes, all workers see is the symptoms of these conditions, such as:

  • Slips and falls on ladders, stairs, decks
  • Crane accidents
  • Accidents involving mooring lines, drilling pipe, or falling equipment
  • Injuries caused by improper lifting, loading, hauling, or throwing of heavy equipment
  • Fires and explosions
  • Problems during personnel transport to and from the workplace

If you have been injured while working offshore, you may have rights to compensation under the Jones Act and other laws that cover seamen. Whether you work in a brown-water environment or in international waters, it is likely that you are protected by the law when you are hurt at work. While you may not have access to the same kind of workers’ compensation available to those who work on land, it may be possible to recover the costs of your medical treatment and hold your employer responsible for failing to make safety a priority.

Common "tricks" your employer may use to defeat your Jones Act injury claim

We often see situations where employees working on offshore rigs or boats are injured and, after interacting with the company they work for, decide to wait before hiring an attorney for their Jones Act claims. The employees often "feel" like the company is taking care of them and watching out for their best interests. At least, this is what their company is telling them.

Then, after most of the deadlines on a Jones Act claim expire, the company seems to suddenly turn its back on the worker. The company stops benefits, stops helping with medical care and wages, and may even fire the employee. Since the company strung the situation out for so long, the injured employees have no recourse because all the important deadlines have passed.

Employers and vessel owners work hard to minimize their liability for accidents and injuries—and they don’t always play fair. Injured Jones Act workers should watch out for company attempts to:

  • Get you to see a company doctor. The good news is that, as a Jones Act mariner, you have the right to see your own doctor after you've been injured at work. And your company, under maintenance and cure, will cover your medical bills.
  • Offer a low settlement. Your lost wages, medical bills, and living expenses add up quickly. If you accept a settlement offer before you've fully recovered from your injuries, and the money runs out, you're stuck. If you accept a settlement offer before you find out that your injuries are career-ending, you're really stuck. The true cost of your injury could be tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars more than the company is offering.
  • Have you sign away your rights. If you sign forms you don’t understand or accept the company's initial settlement offer, you might be signing away your Jones Act rights. These are valuable rights that allow you to recover your lost wages, medical bills, expenses, future medical bills, and future lost wages. If you aren't 100 percent sure what you’re signing, review it with an attorney.
  • Prepare an inaccurate report about your injury. Typically, the company will downplay their own fault for causing your injury. They may blame you for your accident and claim you were not seriously injured. For these reasons, usually the company won't give you a copy of your own accident report.
  • Take recorded statements. The company will try to take recorded statements from you and your co-workers, and those statements could hurt your claim. The company tricks you and your fellow employees into giving statements that are bad for your claim. Your co-workers feel obligated to go along with what the company says about your accident because they don't want to jeopardize their jobs.
  • Hire a private investigator. The company may hire a private investigator to follow you around and secretly videotape you. Then, when you assert a Jones Act claim, they will pull up these videos and claim they show you were not injured as seriously as you claim.
  • Get copies of your private medical records. The company probably didn't tell you that you are not required to sign forms for release of personal records. They will try to get you to give up your full medical record, then send the records to a company doctor, who will write a report that downplays your injuries and returns you to work prematurely.

​These are just some of the things your employer is doing behind your back while you are trying to recover from your injuries. While they are doing these things, they are telling you that they are looking out for you, and looking out for your best interest. They are also probably telling you not to talk to any attorneys about a Jones Act claim. The truth of the matter is this: your company is only looking out for itself and trying to find ways it can pay you as little as possible for your injury. The company tells you one thing, and does the opposite behind your back.

If one of the above scenarios sounds familiar, get legal advice immediately. Injured seamen should get legal advice immediately because there is no doubt the company has attorneys on their side working to protect the company. Our firm has often given "behind the scenes" legal advice free of charge to injured workers to make sure they don't start off way behind the company if legal action becomes necessary.

Find out how the Jones Act, maritime law, and the Death on the High Seas Act protect families of deceased mariners

Seafaring has always been a dangerous occupation. When the American colonies inherited their basic legal code from Britain, even before U.S. independence, we kept alive one important tradition: a separate law for people who work on or near the water.

Admiralty law, which includes the Jones Act, general maritime law, and the Death on the High Seas Act, also protects the family members of workers who are killed while working on a vessel or an offshore drilling rig. If your spouse is involved in a fatal accident on the water, you may have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim on your spouse’s behalf. However, the laws that cover workers who are killed on the water are completely different from the wrongful death laws on land. Because they are so different, many families who have lost loved ones don’t really understand their rights to compensation until they speak with an attorney who has a deep understanding of these laws.

The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)

Although grieving families are sometimes unsure if they want to take legal action, wrongful death lawsuits are important. They force employers to think hard about safety and avoid reckless actions that can endanger others. They provide relief for families who have unfairly suffered an unthinkable loss, and they sometimes help set a precedent for changes that protect other families from similar losses.

Until the early twentieth century, there was no wrongful death doctrine under maritime law. Congress created the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) in 1920 to provide a limited wrongful death benefit for fatal accidents on the water. DOHSA allows surviving family members to sue the ship owner or employer when a crewman dies because of negligent behavior or the ship’s unseaworthiness. While not every family is eligible for these benefits, investigating your family’s rights with an attorney can help you access the compensation you deserve and potentially hold the employer responsible for your loved one’s death.

Four Considerations That Affect Death on the High Seas Act Claims

DOHSA includes significant restrictions that limit when lawsuits can be filed. Some of these limits are expressly found in the original law, and other limits have been applied by years of federal court precedents. There are four major considerations that determine whether a wrongful death claim can proceed under DOHSA:

  • Location of the fatal accident. The death must occur aboard a vessel on the open sea, at least three nautical miles from the shore of any state. It may be necessary to determine the location of the vessel from the ship’s log. If the vessel was within the three-mile zone of state control, the case cannot continue under the Death on the High Seas Act, but it is possible that state law may permit a wrongful death claim.
  • Role of the decedent. The person who was killed must have been a seaman employed on the vessel. He or she need not have been on duty at the time of the fatal accident, but he or she must have had a regular and continuing job that furthered the mission of the ship.
  • Limitation on who can file. The personal representative of the decedent must file the lawsuit. This role is usually limited to the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate. The only people who can benefit from a DOHSA claim are the deceased person’s spouse, parents, children, and other dependent relatives.
  • The grounds claimed. The family of the seaman must be prepared to show that the seaman’s death was caused either by negligence or by the unseaworthiness of the vessel.

Note that the Death on the High Seas Act may take precedence over other laws that compensate families for a wrongful death at sea. If you have a close family member who has passed away due to an accident at sea, it’s important to contact an attorney who has experience handling maritime wrongful death cases so that your rights under various federal laws can be untangled.

Answers to Your Questions About the Death on the High Seas Act

Many families have questions about pursuing a legal claim for their loved one’s death. Some of the most common questions include:

  • What kinds of damages are available under the Death on the High Seas Act? Damages in this type of action may include compensation for loss of financial support, loss of care, loss of nurturing and guidance, loss of household help, funeral costs, medical expenses incurred prior to death, and possibly more. Additional laws may also supplement this type of action and provide other types of damages.
  • Is it right to profit from someone’s death? By acting negligently, the people responsible for your loved one’s death directly harmed you. You have been deprived of the income, companionship, and attention that your relative would have given you for years to come. Your lawsuit isn’t an attempt to profit from the death, but it is your chance to reclaim a small measure of the benefits the deceased person would have shared with you.
  • What happens if DOHSA doesn’t apply to my case? If your loved one did not die on the high seas, or you otherwise do not qualify for relief pursuant to the Death on the High Seas Act, that is not the end of the story. You may still be able to recover damages pursuant other maritime laws. The attorneys with VB Attorneys have extensive experience pursuing wrongful death claims on behalf of families of deceased seamen. We know the law, and we can tell you if your case falls within the scope of the Death on the High Seas Act or another statute.

The death of a loved one leaves a lot of questions. Our attorneys focus on making sure that you understand your rights and can make informed decisions about your case.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act and 905(b) injury claims

The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) applies to certain classes of workers who are injured offshore, or close to offshore. The most common workers who can claim under this law are those engaged in stevedore operations, such as loading and unloading large vessels. It also applies to other workers who repair, dismantle or build vessels, and those who work on or near offshore platforms, piers, wharves, dry docks, terminals and marine railways.

The LHWCA is similar to land-based workers compensation laws. If it applies to you and you suffer an injury, then you are automatically entitled to certain financial benefits, no matter who caused your injury.

 

Benefits and compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act

The federal government estimates that about 500,000 workers qualify for benefits pursuant to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act every year. You, and other dock and harbor workers, may be able to recover:

  • Medical expenses, including compensation for doctors’ appointments, surgeries, and hospital stays.
  • Two-thirds of your weekly salary (up to a maximum amount set by law) if you are disabled. You may continue to recover this compensation until you are able to work again. Compensation is also available if you have suffered a permanent disability.

If your loved one has died and was covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, then you may also be entitled to benefits. Those benefits may include compensation for medical expenses and half of your loved one’s average weekly income for the rest of your life or until you remarry.

905(b) Cases and Injury Claims Against the Shipowner

A 905(b) case is a unique kind of offshore injury case. The section of the LHWCA that addresses these claims is 33 U.S.C.A. s. 905(b); however, most people just refer to these claims as "905(b)" cases. Under this part of the LHWCA, titled "negligence of vessel," if your injury was caused by the negligence of the owner or operator of a vessel, then you can bring a claim against the vessel owner. This is similar to a "third party" claim under land-based law.

Our offshore injury lawyers have handled a lot of 905(b) claims. Unfortunately, we often see that injured offshore workers, and even their attorneys, fail to identify that this claim exists. The result? A lot of money is left on the table. The maritime companies and their insurance companies certainly don't mind paying less money on claims, and therefore they don't go out of their way to educate their employees about these claims.

Here is where things get trickier. Section 905(b) does not come out and say what you must provide in order to win your third party case. To learn that, one must be familiar with a case the United States Supreme Court decided back in 1981, called Scindia Steamship Navigation Co., Ltd. v. De Los Santos.

Three Types of 905(b) Claims

In the Scindia case, the Supreme Court basically created three types of claims you can bring under 905(b), named after the duties it placed on shipowners with respect to these claims:

  1. Turnover Duty;
  2. Active Control Duty; and
  3. Duty to Intervene

​All of these claims are very narrowly defined, and generally they are more difficult to win than your average offshore injury case.

Turnover Cases

In a Turnover case, you must prove the shipowner turned the ship over to the stevedore (or repair, or whatever) company in a dangerous condition, which was a cause of the injury. Example: the shipowner knew about a defect in a crane aboard its vessel, which caused your injury, but didn't do anything to fix the crane or warn you or your company about the problem.

Active Control Cases

In an Active Control case, you must show that the shipowner retained control over part of the operations on the vessel, and did something that caused your injury. Example: the shipowner involves itself in stevedore operations aboard its vessel by having its employee operate a gantry crane on the vessel, and the crane strikes a stevedore and injures him.

Duty to Intervene Cases

In a Duty to Intervene case, you must show the shipowner was aware of a dangerous condition and that you were not aware of it, and the dangerous condition caused your accident. This is somewhat similar to a Turnover case, discussed above.

Keep in mind, as a general rule you can keep collecting LHWCA benefits, while at the same time pursuing your 905(b) case. However, there are certain exceptions where you can forfeit your third party case by collecting LHWCA benefits, but the details of this are beyond the scope of this article.

If you think you may have a 905(b) claim, you should immediately contact a qualified offshore injury lawyer.  This type of law is simply too complicated for you to analyze your rights on your own. Beyond that, maritime law is too complicated for most lawyers who don't have extensive experience in this area of the law.

How Jones Act mariners can recover punitive damages if you have an asbestos claim

A federal judge in Pennsylvania, presiding over a large docket of maritime asbestos-related claims, issued a key ruling favorably impacting sweeping number of plaintiffs’ cases.

Judge Eduardo C. Robreno’s opinion considers three questions: (1) whether punitive damages are available to seamen’s claims for unseaworthiness under general maritime law; (2) if so, whether punitive damages are available in maritime cases for asbestos-related claims; and finally (3) whether the plaintiffs in the case had satisfied the (relatively) new pleadings standard for requesting punitive damages.

Here are Judge Robreno’s answers to those questions:

(1)  Punitive Damages in a Seaman’s Claim for Unseawortiness?

Yes, live seamen may be vindicated with punitive damages under an unseaworthiness claim; but all things equal, a dead seaman’s family members cannot be similarly vindicated.  (That is, there are no punitive damages available for survivor’s claims.  While it might seem that the distinction reflects a suggestion to all nefarious tort-feasing vessel owners and operators to “finish the job” so to speak, the awkward distinction merely boils down to the fact that Congress has already limited claims brought by survivors of seamen, but had not similarly limited live seaman’s claims.)

With respect to the favorable ruling allowing punitive damages on unseaworthiness claims for live seaman, Judge Robreno correctly noted that that neither the Supreme Court nor the Third Circuit has precisely answered this question.  Nevertheless, Judge Robreno interprets the Supreme Court discussion in Atlantic Sounding allowing punitive damages for a seaman’s maintenance and cure claim as sufficiently suggestive of the same result for unseaworthiness claims.   Judge Robreno refers to the majority opinion in the McBride case issued by the Fifth Circuit last winter for authority directly supporting his ruling. (There is no question Judge Robreno knows that Fifth Circuit opinion is not yet set in stone and will be reviewed again by an en banc panel.  I thank Judge Robreno for doing his part to steer that en banc panel in the right direction.)

(2)  Punitive Damages in a Seaman’s Asbestos-Related Claim for Unseawortiness?

Yes, in appropriate cases a seaman’s asbestos-related unseaworthiness claim will merit punitive damages.  However, the Judge Robreno acknowledges that there are some limits to how much punitive damages a seaman can recover and Judge believes that the best starting place is the 1:1 ratio discussed in Baker (Exxon Valdez Case).

(3) Whether the plaintiffs’ punitive damages claims satisfied the federal pleading standard? 

No.  But the judge acknowledged that the plaintiffs’ asbestos cases were old, filed a while back, before the Supreme Court tightened up the federal pleading standard, eg. These cases were filed before Twombly (2007) and Iqbal (2009).  With that in mind, Judge Robreno allowed plaintiffs’ whose pleadings did not comply with the pleading standard leave to amend in conformance with Iqbal in Twombly.   This result stresses the importance of properly drafting punitive damages demand within a claim for unseaworthiness.

What damages you can recover if your employer’s negligence caused the injury in your Jones Act claim?

Offshore workers deal with some of the harshest conditions of any industry. Their jobs require lifting, going aloft, throwing heaving lines, tending capstans, loading stores, and a whole array of other physically demanding tasks. To make it worse, they are often performing these tasks in a very dangerous work environment, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that sometimes things go wrong. Under the Jones Act and other relevant laws, injured seamen may have the right to recover damages from employers who fail to protect their safety or don’t address unsafe conditions. But many seamen aren’t aware of their rights or just how many of their expenses can be covered if they are hurt at work.

Medical Expenses

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 costs of:

  • Hospital stays
  • Doctor’s visits
  • Specialist 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. If you have any questions about whether an expense will be covered, don’t wait any longer to investigate your rights further.

Mental Health

While anger, fear, depression, anxiety, and sleeplessness may seem like natural reactions to a terrible event, make sure that you communicate with your doctors and loved ones if you notice changes in your behavior or if your emotional state is beginning to interfere with your life or your recovery. Seeking out a professional can help you find effective strategies for:

  • Coping with the trauma of the event
  • Coping with a long or complicated medical recovery
  • Coping with new limitations imposed by your physical injuries
  • Coping with financial and family stress related to your injuries and care
  • Coping with lingering feelings of anger, hurt, and fear

It is hard to deal with a serious or disabling injury, and it can take a toll on your health. Necessary mental health care is covered under the Jones Act, and it’s generally compensated as a part of your overall medical care.

Lost Income

If your injury leaves you unable to work, you may be able to recover damages for your economic losses, including wages and employee benefits. Keep track of how much work you miss, and consider speaking with an attorney if you’ve missed a large amount of work or can’t work in the same type of job because of your injuries. In order to “prove” that you are owed compensation for lost income under the Jones Act, you may need help from skilled attorneys and economic experts.

Keep in mind, too, that these claims for lost wages are distinct from claims under maintenance and cure.  A lot of maritime companies tell their workers that "maintenance and cure" is a substitute for Jones Act claim. Don't fall for this trick.

Pain and Suffering and Other Damages

There are other costs of a serious injury that can be hard to put a price tag on. Rather than compensating you for just your mental health care bills, the Jones Act recognizes and tries to account for the intangible pain and emotional anguish that you experience as a result of your injury. This might include financial compensation for:

  • Physical impairment
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disfigurement
  • Pain, suffering, and mental anguish

While you might not receive a bill in the mail for all the ways an injury has changed your life, there can still be steep emotional costs. In cases involving very serious injuries—like permanent orthopedic injuries, amputations, burns, or death—seamen may be able to recover large amounts of money for these damages, into the many millions of dollars.

Future Needs

Many serious injuries require years, or even a lifetime, of costly care. Under the Jones Act and other maritime laws, you may be able to recover compensation for your potential medical needs, lost earning capacity, and other costs in the future. Don’t forget to take these projected costs into account when negotiating a Jones Act claim.

If you have questions about what compensation you may be able to recover after a serious injury at sea, an experienced attorney can be a valuable ally in determining the exact damages you can recover, gathering the necessary evidence, helping you protect your rights, and fighting for a favorable settlement for you and your family.

Why You Need a Lawyer With Experience Handling Offshore Work Injury Cases

First of all, you can be absolutely guaranteed that your employer has lawyers and insurance adjusters on its side from day one. Most maritime employers have insurance adjusters prepared to come work for them at a moment's notice, and they have lawyers in house or law firms that are experienced in defending injury claims ready with a phone call. You may not even realize it, but from the moment you are hurt, you can be absolutely guaranteed that your employer has contacted its insurance adjusters and lawyers.

If you try to go it alone against your employer, its insurance adjusters, and its lawyers, you are going to lose every single time. You must have effective legal counsel on your side.

Second, you cannot hire just any lawyer for these types of cases. Simply put, 99% of lawyers are not qualified to work on cases involving federal maritime law. By hiring a lawyer with no experience in these types of lawsuits, you aren't helping protect your rights at all, and in fact, you may be damaging your legal rights more than protecting them. We have seen it time and time again. A hard-working employee gets hurt on the job. He or she thinks they are automatically covered under workers' compensation. They trust their employer to help them, only to find out weeks or months later that their employer had been spending the entire time protecting itself behind your back. Or, even worse, the injured employee hires the wrong lawyer and loses everything.

Why You Should Consider VB Attorneys for Your Jones Act Case

Who you hire as your lawyer may be the most important decision you make. It can be the difference between a small settlement and a large settlement, between a quick settlement or one that drags on for years and year, between collecting everything to which you are legally entitled or collecting nothing at all.

Our law firm is considered one of the best law firms in the country for injured maritime workers. Our lead lawyer in Jones Act cases, Brian Beckcom, studied Admiralty Law under the leading admiralty professor in the country, David Robertson, at the University of Texas School of Law, where he graduated with honors. Mr. Beckcom has been involved in admiralty law, maritime law, and the Jones Act his entire legal career. He has published hundreds of articles, books, news items, and other expert analysis on offshore injury claims. Mr. Beckcom has successfully represented hundreds of individuals in injury lawsuits.

Ready to Get Started? Contact Us to Discuss Your Injury Case For Free.

If you are ready to get started, you can call us toll free at 877.724.7800. You will speak to a lawyer immediately. The consultation is free, and we will walk you through the entire legal process, answer every single question, and give you an idea what to expect. You can also use the contact forms on our website to send us a confidential email, and we will schedule an immediate appointment for you to learn your rights and how to protect those rights.