When an injury occurs on the seas, help can oftentimes be days away. Due to the high-risk nature of the maritime profession, many things can prove problematic, such as large equipment, difficult sea conditions, and immense loads. Fortunately, seaman have a law they can usually count on if they happen to suffer a maritime injury, called the Jones Act.
WHAT IS THE JONES ACT?
Originally conceived as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act is a set of protections under maritime law that provides relief for offshore workers who suffer injury or illness due to negligence or unseaworthiness while aboard a maritime vessel in navigable waters. Jones Act claims are typically settled in a larger fashion than a workers’ compensation claim, mostly because of the widened scope of coverage that the Jones Act entails:
- Mental Anguish
- Lost Wages
- Cost of Living During Recovery
- Physical Pain and Suffering
- Medical Care
- Compromised Future Earnings
In contrast, a workers’ compensation case usually only covers medical care, and as such, a Jones Act settlement can be quite a bit larger. Such a case hinges on proving negligence, and that is why the experienced offshore lawyers at the Kolodny Law Firm are positioned to offer the best guidance on how to seek fair compensation for maritime personal injuries.
JONES ACT RIGHTS
Generally speaking, the act gives maritime workers the ability to file a suit in the instance they are injured or contract an illness while on a maritime vessel due to negligence on the part of someone other than themselves.
Owners, vessel operators, other employees and equipment are all accountable entities that can be protected against when filing suit under the Jones Act. These rights include:
- Punitive damages for employers who refuse payment
- Additional compensation for unseaworthiness
- Right to suit for negligence
- Reasonably safe workplace
- Maintenance and cure related to the injury and/or illness
To participate in the Jones Act process, you should have a representative. An experienced personal injury lawyer is a far better option than one without, and that’s what helps put the maritime lawyers at the Kolodny Law Firm in the perfect position to help guide you through the process:
- Report the injury
- Fill out accident report
- Get medical treatment
- Hire representation
- Settle the case or go to trial
Being unprepared with incorrect knowledge can be costly when trying to procure a just and fair settlement for negligence. One of the most common mistakes made in the Jones Act claims process is not knowing that employers are generally NOT allowed to withhold medical care. Oftentimes, employers will require the injured employee to fill out accident reports AND sign waivers in an unethical attempt to skirt accountability. It is important to know that you are well within your rights to refuse to sign waivers before seeing a doctor.
Another pitfall during the process is when the injured is filling out the accident report and they are asked whose fault it is. Here, the employer is often looking for any semblance of admission that can later be used to mitigate responsibility.
JONES ACT LAWSUIT LENGTH
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer that applies to all cases insofar as to how long they last. Many variables factor into how long a Jones Act case can last, one of which is the investigation phase. Determining, and being able to prove, who was at fault, what negligence occurred and with what, and how exactly it affected your health in the immediate and long term can all factor into the investigation phase.
Another major point is the opposing side’s willingness to play ball. An experienced and effective maritime personal injury lawyer can build a case strong enough that the opposing side will likely settle before trial, however that is not always the case. Many times, a case can drag out for various reasons, but that is not always bad news.
Another factor to consider is Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). When a serious injury occurs, it may take some time to determine MMI. MMI is basically the extent to which you have healed from the injury as much as possible. Whatever the injury is, there will be a point where the doctor and rehab specialists will declare that your body has recovered as much as it can on its own. That will be your MMI point, and can be used in determining fair compensation. This is why settling too quickly is oftentimes advised against. While it is understandable that a victim will want to move on as quickly as possible, an experienced maritime lawyer, such as the ones you can find at the Kolodny Law Firm, will understand that patience can pay off in the end.
UNSEAWORTHINESS UNDER THE JONES ACT
Unseaworthiness is another facet of a Jones Act claim that an experienced maritime lawyer will be able to give adequate attention to. It is the responsibility of a vessel owner to maintain seaworthiness, and there are many factors that can prove the opposite:
- Inadequate crew
- Lack of proper hoists
- Improperly stored cargo
- Incompetent crew
- Insufficient railguards
- Lack of food
- Unsafe living conditions