Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents people with maritime injuries suffered in accidents that occur on open waters and other types of professional negligence. Our personal injury law firm has collected a series of Jones Act accident FAQs related to the medical and legal aspects of an accident involving injured seaman, offshore workers, and other maritime workers. Should you have additional questions, we invite you to contact our office for a free review of your legal rights.
Jones Act Frequently Asked Questions
The job duties of maritime employees can be extremely hazardous when performing tasks on or near water. The Jones Act protects the rights of sailors, offshore workers and maritime workers involved in a severe maritime accident. By law, the employer is legally required to make "maintenance and cure" payments to the injured employee to relieve the financial burdens of their healing process or to adapt to life-altering changes involving job-related temporary or permanent disabilities.
The maritime accident attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC have compiled a comprehensive list of the most frequently asked questions involving maritime personal injury cases and Jones Act accident lawsuits and posted the answers below. Many families use this information to determine how to take legal action for justice and to obtain the financial compensation they deserve for their injuries and damages. If you have questions about your specific situation, we welcome the opportunity to discuss your case with you in person. Call us any time at (888) 424-5757.
Maritime Worker (Jones Act) Injury Accidents FAQs
What Protections do Maritime Workers Have if They are Injured on the Job?
Maritime workers enjoy several protections and benefits under the Jones Act Jones Act. The Jones Act (also known as the Merchant Marine Act) is a federal law passed almost 100 years ago that governs maritime commerce. The law provides compensation to qualifying sailors who have suffered injuries in accidents while on the job or those who developed an illness associated with their job-related tasks. The sailor's employer pays monetary compensation to the injured worker. The Act is based on general maritime rules and laws that secure the rights of qualifying seamen. It draws on similar protections given to railroad workers. The relevant provision that provides relief and compensation for injured sailors is 46 U.S.C. Section 30104:
"Any sailor who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right to trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply…"
The Jones Act provides broad coverage and protection to workers employed in maritime jobs. Injured seamen are likely covered under the far-reaching coverage under the general maritime laws that apply to workers on most vessels including cruise ships. These laws allow plaintiffs to bring cases for negligence and unseaworthiness. These causes of action were not typically available prior to the Jones Act and may afford relief to victims not considered "workers." To be considered a worker employee within the meaning of the Jones Act, a worker must spend at least 30% of your time working on a vessel in navigable waters. Chandris, Inc., v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347 (1995).
Additionally, successful Jones Act cases allow maritime workers to recover compensation for maintenance and cure benefits. "Maintenance" refers to the treatment you received after you were injured, and "cure" relates to the amount of financial compensation you are entitled to receive. The amount of compensation we seek in Jones Act cases for maritime worker injuries is based on your past, current and future medical needs and to pay for other damages including the loss of enjoying your past lifestyle before you were injured. Under the Jones Act, your employer, if found at fault for your injuries, is required to pay maintenance and cure compensation until you are fit to return to your previous employment, if ever.
The Jones Act might also provide legal relief if sailors were injured, hurt, or sick offshore in Illinois or elsewhere. The key is whether or not the harm arose as a part of their job as a seaman. If it did, then they may be able to successfully file a claim for compensation.
How do You Qualify for Benefits Under the Jones Act?
To qualify for protections and benefits under the Jones Act, plaintiffs must pass the three-point status factor test based on the vessel's assignment, connection, and contribution. This test can identify their job status based on qualifications. To pass this test, workers must illustrate that they worked as a seaman on a consistent basis for the vessel and company in question. This can normally be established by showing they worked there at least 30% of the time. Next, they will need to show how their injuries qualify them as defined under the provisions of the Jones Act. Finally, they will need to prove that the careless or negligent actions of the vessel owner resulted in their damages.
Procedurally, plaintiffs must file their maritime injury case in the venue that complies with local court rules and also offers them maximum compensation and relief. An attorney working on your behalf can help you decide the ideal court to file your claim. The law firm will help you identify your unique circumstances and specific facts associated with your injuries or acquired illness and the location where your employer's company is based.
After complying with these requirements, plaintiffs can list a number of claims as a basis for recovery and compensation under the Jones Act. The Jones Act provides benefits for numerous types of injuries where the employer must pay financial compensation to the injured seaman. To qualify for any one of these claims, your attorney must prove the recklessness, carelessness or negligent action of your employer directly resulted in your injuries. Also, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1333, plaintiffs can bring these claims in either state or federal court. This flexibility allows claimants to choose a venue and jurisdiction that affords them the most potential relief.
What Claims can You Make for Benefits Under the Jones Act in Illinois Court?
You can claim benefits in Illinois under the Jones Act by arguing that that your employer was negligent or reckless. However, this can be difficult. Because of legal challenges, many injured seaman, offshore workers, and maritime employees will hire personal injury attorneys specializing in maritime law and offshore injury cases. You, or your lawyer, will need to prove that your employer was negligent, and their actions directly caused your injuries. Negligence under the Jones Act was defined in a case that set the precedent (Tiller V. Atlantic Coastline R. Co.) as the following:
"Negligence is the failure to do what a reasonable and prudent person would ordinarily do under the circumstances or doing what a person under the circumstances would not have done."
Therefore, you must illustrate how your employee did not do what a reasonable and prudent actor would have done in the same circumstances, and that failure directly caused your injuries and subsequent damages.
Maritimes workers may also claim compensation under the Jones Act in court by making an unseaworthiness claim. Unseaworthiness claims are founded on circumstances where the injured worker suffered injuries or harm on the vessel because a dangerous condition existed. According to the Jones Act and maritime law, vessels must be reasonably designed, built, and maintained in order for the workers to perform their intended job in a safe and suitable manner.
If a certain aspect of the vessel fell below that standard and the seamen suffered as a result, the injured or aggrieved worker might bring a Jones Act unseaworthiness claim. However, the employer must have known or should have known that the vessel was not safe or seaworthy at the time to bring such a claim.
Your case could be based on both an unseaworthiness claim, and a Jones Act negligence claim involving the injury you sustained. Your attorney might identify and articulate the unseaworthiness of the vessel and your employer's negligence under the Jones Act to prove your case for monetary compensation.
However, to succeed on any claim for damages in court under the Jones Act, plaintiffs must demonstrate that they were working on a qualified vessel at the time of the event. Most cruise ships, cargo ships, and tugboats are usually considered Jones Act vessels. Therefore, if you were injured or suffered an illness while working on these vessels, then you are likely qualified under the Jones Act. The Jones Act encompasses all vessels that are actually in navigation or that are merely capable of being in navigation.
The broad definition pulls in a lot of vessels into the orbit of the Jones Act. Further, the Supreme Court codified this construction in Stewart. v. Dutra when it ruled that all vessels that were potentially capable of maritime transit (through actual building or artificial contrivance) were governed by this law. Accordingly, qualifying vessels under the Jones Act include all kinds of watercraft such as dredges, barges, tugboats, cargo ships, floating platforms, and fishing trawlers.
A brief and incomplete list of some employees who are covered under the Jones Act include:
- Cargo ship merchant seamen
- Tugboats deckhands
- Dredge deckhands
- Marine construction barge pile drivers
- Tank barge tanker men
- Vessel-based divers
Currently, there are over 40,000 vessels that operate on navigable waters in the United States performing domestic trade transport. Those vessels move more than 850 million tons of cargo annually. The Jones Act was initiated to protect the nation's interests against the need to outsource transportation of cargo to foreign vessels while relieving heavy congestion on US railways and already crowded American roads.
Can I Still Obtain Compensation Under the Jones Act Even if I Contributed to the Accident?
Yes, you can still seek and obtain compensation under the Jones Act even if you were partly to blame for the accident. However, the compensation you receive will be reduced by the amount you contributed to the incident, and that will be determined by the jury or court. As an example, if the court decides you were 50% responsible for your injuries and your employer was 50% at fault, you will receive half the amount of the jury trial award. If the court decides you were 100% at fault, you lose your right to obtain financial compensation.
How Long do Maritime Accident Lawsuits Take?
It normally takes at least a few months to resolve a maritime accident lawsuit but that could be more or less depending upon strategy. Our legal team is compassionate about your need for quick settlement. We work to ensure that your claim is filed in the appropriate courthouse quickly, so we can begin building your case by gathering evidence, speaking eyewitnesses, and reviewing your medical records with experts. We strive to resolve our cases quickly by fighting aggressively on behalf of our clients to ensure they receive all the financial compensation and benefits they deserve as soon as possible.
Typically, you will receive medical benefits immediately through your employer's insurance carrier. However, if you do not, our lawyers will ensure you receive the medical care you deserve now. We have access to qualified doctors who will postpone payment for their services until after your case has been resolved through a negotiated settlement or the court system.
How Valuable are Jones Act Claims?
Jones Act claims for maritime injuries may be worth tens of thousands of dollars or even more. The value of each claim is entirely independent of all others and based on the plaintiff's pain, expenses, losses as well as any possible disability from the maritime accident. Our maritime accident injury attorneys fight aggressively on behalf of our clients to ensure they receive adequate monetary recovery to pay for hospitalization expenses, medical costs, funds for rehabilitation and therapy, daily living expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and attorneys' fees. In some cases where the employer's actions were egregious, the court system may allow the jury to award the plaintiff punitive damages in addition to the compensatory damages they award.
How Long do I Have to Bring a Jones Act Claim for a Maritime Accident?
Federal law requires you to bring a Jones Act claim for maritime accidents and injuries within three years of the incident. The Jones Act follows a strict statute of limitations where all necessary paperwork, and documentation must be filed within three years after the plaintiff was injured in the proper venue for litigation. The specific law is 46 U.S.C.A. Section 30106:
"Except as otherwise provided by law, a civil action for damages for personal injury or death arising out of a maritime tort must be brought within 3 years after the cause of action arose."
However, an attorney working on your behalf might be able to identify certain unique circumstances involved in your case that might extend the time limit to file your claim as defined by the court system. Also, remember that you are technically required to report your injury to your employer within the first 30 days after you were injured, or you could forfeit your rights to obtain compensation forever.
What if I Think I Have a Jones Act Claim for Maritime Injuries?
If you suffered an injury or developed an illness from working on a vessel on navigable waters and think you may have a Jones Act claim, you should bring legal action against your employer for all the harm, suffering, costs, and damages that the event caused you. The Jones Act gives you the right to file this claim. Your case is likely very complicated and will require the skills of an attorney with experience in resolving maritime cases.
Remember, you should absolutely not give a recorded statement to your employer's investigator regarding maritime injuries and claims. If the investigator working for your employer asks you for a sworn recorded statement, you should seek the advice of a Jones Act lawyer. Your lawyer will advise you to refuse the request to make a statement without legal representation. If you avoid giving testimony to the investigator, the insurance company and your employer will not be able to twist your words and statements against you. Then, you will be in a better position to make your case and seek financial compensation.
Our law firm provides every potential client a no-obligation, initial case consultation at no charge to them. Call our law offices today at (888) 424-5757 to schedule an appointment. Let our team of attorneys discuss your case, listen to your complaints, and provide numerous legal options on how to ensure your family receives the financial compensation they deserve.
What Have Injured Workers Obtained in Illinois Maritime Accident Lawsuits?
Sailors in Illinois have obtained substantial jury awards and settlement agreements for their workplace harms and injuries. Here are some sample case summaries to show you what that recovery might look like and what the circumstances of the incident were that triggered such recovery.
$7,500,000 ILLINOIS SETTLEMENT.
This case started out explosively. That isn't a figurative statement. The plaintiff was working on a boat. It was docked on the Mississippi River. It had come up from Puerto Rico. When the incident occurred, it was in Illinois waters. The man was just 37 years old. He was in the engine room. Someone was working on one of the air tanks. Yet, there wasn't a relief valve on it. Also, there didn't appear to be a drain valve. At some point, it exploded. The force sent him flying in the air. He came crashing down on his neck. The event left him paralyzed. He needed multiple surgeries and long-term treatment. Still, his life would never be the same. He obviously couldn't work. Plus, he had to deal with the pain of the accident. He brought a Jones Act claim. He listed these issues and sought compensation. His past medical bills totaled over $500,000. His project future care costs hovered around $1 million. In the end, the company's insurance company sought to settle. They gave the man over seven million. This represented his past/future care. It also paid him for his changed life and suffering. Finally, it accounted for his lost income. This is one of the highest Jones Act claims in Illinois history.
$122,500 ILLINOIS SETTLEMENT.
This Jones Act suit was a slip and fall type incident. A man was working on a dock when he fell into a pile of ratchets. He was 67 at the time of the event. He brought a claim to recover. He alleged the defendant should have laid non-slip paint. Also, he complained that the ratchets weren't properly stored. For his damages, he alleged various injuries. He tore muscles in his shoulder. Some of those had to be repaired through surgery. He also lost money because he couldn't work. In discovery, documents showed that the defendant was aware of the slippery surface. This helped the plaintiff's case a lot. It further highlighted the egregiousness of the situation. It made the defendant look more negligent. However, the plaintiff still had challenges of his own. He had to overcome the response that he too was culpable. Defendants often charge plaintiffs like this with comparative negligence. This means they shouldn't recover if they took part in the fault. Put another way, the plaintiff could have avoided incident with more caution. To combat this, the plaintiff needed to show that the defendant's unreasonable conduct was more to blame for the accident than his own. When it appeared likely that he would do that, the defendant sought to settle. Note, his medical bills and lost income were paid immediately. That was due to the fact that this was a Jones Act claim. The settlement amount above took care of his suffering, pain, lost normal life, and future lost income.
$2,010,450 ILLINOIS SETTLEMENT.
This tragic tale involved a carpenter. He was working on a barge. The ship was going down the Chicago River. As it reached the corner of Archer and Ashland, trouble sprang up. The man was high up on a crane. He was taking down a platform off the Stevenson. The city had been engaging in reconstruction. As he was doing this, the crane toppled over and he fell to the water. A bunch of his coworkers jumped into the river to try and rescue him. Yet, they couldn't remove him from his safety suit. He drowned because of that. He was survived by a wife and four kids. They brought a claim for damages. This was a Jones Act case because of the man's employer. Their suit largely rested on wrongful death. They sought compensation for his passing. The damages they cited included lost support, companionship, and expenses. Their main target was the crane maker. They drew out a products liability argument. Then, they pointed to the business as responsible for his death. Had it not been for the defectively made crane, he would still be alive in their opinion. In the end, it was that business that paid the most to the family. The company's insurer gave the family $2,000,000. The employer added about $5,000 and the barge owner added roughly the same.
$4,500,000 ILLINOIS SETTLEMENT.
This claim shows how simple accidents can affect seamen for the rest of their lives. Here, a young worker was injured. He was only 24. The incident took just a second. It's the kind of thing that happens all the time. He merely slipped and fell. In most cases, people get up and think nothing of it. Yet, because of the dangerous setting, the effect here was far greater. The man was told to couple two barges by his boss. They were on the Chicago River, near the downtown area. The lighting wasn't good. There was gravel on the edges of both boats. The two edges had the same color. This is important for differentiation purposes. Anyways, he jumped down there and tried to couple them. In the process, he slipped, and his foot got caught in between. It was smashed entirely. It had to be amputated above the knee. For the bills, the pain, and the long-term damage, he brought a case. Due to the type of work and employer, it was a Jones Act claim. The case settled. Thus, we can't decide how issues of negligence would have played out. We can see where the compensation came from though. He got about $516,043 for past medical costs. He obtained $2,000,000 for future medical costs. He received $42,000 for maintenance. Finally, he recovered $600,000 for future care and suffering. This last portion also went to lost income.
Our Law Firm can Handle Your Maritime Accident / Injury Claim
The maritime injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC can help you resolve your claim for compensation. Our law firm accepts every maritime and offshore injury claim for compensation through contingency fee agreements. This arrangement will postpone payment of your legal services until after we have successfully resolved your case through a jury trial award or negotiated an out of court settlement on your behalf. Additionally, we provide every client a "No Win/No-Fee" Guarantee, meaning if we are unable to secure financial compensation on your behalf, you owe us nothing.