Jones Act Lawyers in Houston, TX
The Jones Act, also called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal law that lets an employee sue their employer following injuries sustained at sea.
The Jones Act allows an injured seaman to sue his or her employer for negligence and to receive fair compensation for medical costs, physical pain, disfigurement, mental anguish, physical limitations, and loss of earning capacity. If you’ve been injured at sea or offshore, the Houston maritime accident attorneys at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. know how the Jones Act works and what it will take to recover everything you deserve.
Contact our Houston Jones Act lawyers today at 281-283-8500 to receive a 100% free consultation.
What is the Jones Act?
Laws similar to the Jones Act date back to the earliest days of the United States, but the Jones Act itself followed the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic. The accident showed the world just how unsafe it could be to work aboard a seagoing vessel—and how little protection maritime employees had.
Today this federal law remains a vital resource for seamen injured while performing their duties.
Who Is Covered by the Jones Act?
The Jones Act protects only certain maritime workers, specifically, sailors and seamen working on an American vessel.
Seaman & Sailors
To qualify as a seaman, you must spend at least 30% of your time on a vessel in navigation. The term “vessel” is broadly used since everything from a large cargo ship to a small tugboat is considered a vessel.
To be “in navigation”, the vessel must not be drydocked or have ceased operations. It does not require that the ship be out to sea the entire time you are working or at the time of the accident occurred. Additionally, to be a seaman, your position must contribute to the function or mission of the fleet.
If you are unsure about your classification as an injured seaman or sailor, discuss the facts with our team. We can help determine whether you are covered by the Jones Act or another maritime law. For instance, if you are a longshoreman or harbor worker, you may be covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
Compensation Under the Jones Act
Based on the Jones Act, you can pursue compensation for your past, current, and future medical expenses associated with the accident and resulting injuries. If you need a lot of medical care in the coming years, speak with an attorney. Your case may benefit from a medical expert who can discuss your ongoing medical costs.
Another item covered by the Jones Act is your lost wages and reduced earning capacity. If your injuries resulted in a long-term physical or cognitive impairment, making you unable to work or forcing you to change careers, then you can seek compensation for the difference in your earning potentials. An economic loss expert can provide support for your case regarding lost income and earn capacity.
You are also entitled to non-economic damages, including your physical pain and mental anguish. It can be challenging to translate these injuries into a monetary figure. An experienced lawyer at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. can help determine an appropriate method for valuing your physical and psychological injuries.
Vocational Training & Punative Damages
The Jones Act also entitles you to vocational rehabilitation. Following a permanent injury, you may need to be re-trained to work a new type of job. If your employer is responsible for your injuries, then they can be held accountable for your training.
Additionally, if you believe you were injured due to recklessness or intentional misconduct, speak with your lawyer about possible punitive damages. Since a 2009 Supreme Court case, injured seamen have been entitled to pursue punitive damages if they can prove willful wrongdoing by their employer.
The Jones Act Claim Process
While the Jones Act may sound like a workers’ comp claim, it is very different.
In many workers’ compensation claims, you will file paperwork with your employer or the state. You do not have to file a lawsuit unless something goes wrong, and then you must enforce your right to workers’ compensation benefits in court.
For the Jones Act, you must go beyond dealing with your employer. A lawsuit is actually required in federal court against your employer claiming that another employee or agent of the business is guilty of negligence or intentional misconduct.
Jones Act Insurance
Many maritime employers have a maritime insurance policy to cover incidents like yours. They may cont you to discuss a possible settlement, but ut’s usually best to let an attorney negotiate because accepting a settlement will likely involve forgoing a lawsuit and giving up your ability to file a lawsuit.
Steps for a Successful Jones Act Claim
- Seek medical care and notify your employer right away after an injury
- Consult & hire an attorney.
- File the complaint in federal court.
- Serve the defendant – your employer.
- Wait for the defendant to file an answer to the complaint.
- Attend the first court hearing.
- Utilize the discovery process, including depositions, interrogatories, and requests for documents.
- Obtain, review, and analyze evidence.
- Hire essential expert witnesses.
- Attend the preliminary conference, during which a date for trial may be set.
- Participate in settlement negotiations, which may include mediation.
- Go to trial, if the case is not settled.
- Enforce a settlement or verdict.
- An appeal, if denied compensation in court.
Jones Act Settlements
Most Jones Act claims are settled out of court. But, this is not a reason to skip getting an attorney. During settlement negotiations, you will go up against major insurers and their lawyers. They will have the upper hand in knowledge, experience, and time.
While you have other things on your plate, including recovering from your injuries, the insurer has plenty of time to go back and forth and pressure you into accepting a lower settlement.
By hiring a maritime lawyer, you have someone who won’t be intimidated or pressured into accepting a low-ball settlement.
During a Jones Act claim, your employer can claim your negligence as a defense. In many cases, this is not a total defense. It does not let your employer entirely off the hook. However, if a court finds you are partly responsible for the accident and your injuries, then your compensation may be reduced.
If the court determines you were also negligent, it will assign you and your employer percentages of fault. It could be 50/50. Or, your employer could be 75% at fault while you are found 25% at fault. The proportion could be reversed too. The court could find you are mostly responsible.
Under the Jones Act, you can still recover compensation if you are more than half at fault, though it significantly reduces your compensation.
Texas Maritime Rights Under the Jones Act
Injured seamen can also file claims for workers’ compensation without proving that the unsafe conditions, faulty equipment, or negligent employers were wholly responsible or at fault for their injuries. Rather, the injured employee may only have to prove that their injuries occurred within the scope of their employment as a sailor on an American flagged or owned vessel operating in navigable waters.
Maintenance & Cure Benefits
Injured seamen have the right to maintenance and cure separate from the Jones Act.
- Maintenance, is defined as your daily living expenses, such as housing costs, food, and utilities.
- Cure refers to the medical costs associated with a seaman’s injury.
Maintenance and cure begin as soon as the injury occurs and continue until the injured seaman reaches a state of maximum medical improvement. That means you have recovered as much as your physicians expect you to recover.
As a seaman, you have a number of rights under federal law. It is important to determine if you have a claim under the Jones Act or another statute. But even if you do not, a lawyer can ensure you receive appropriate maintenance and cure. This compensation may not cover all of your damages, yet it is essential to ensuring the financial repercussions of the accident do not fall squarely on your shoulders.
Common Injuries for Sailors & Seamen
As a maritime worker, you face harsh elements and a risky work environment every day. All it takes is one person making a mistake or acting carelessly for you to suffer.
- Severe lacerations
- Strains, sprains, and other soft tissue injuries
- Bone fractures
- Dislocated joints
- Crush injuries
- Neck injuries
- Back injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Inhalation injuries
- Respiratory impairment
- Vision loss
- Hearing loss
- Electric shock
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
How a Jones Act Lawyer Helps Your Case
The Jones Act requires a vessel owner or employer to ensure a reasonably safe working environment and maintain a safe, seaworthy craft. Under the law, an employee can file a suit against his or her employer or the vessel owner for allowing or creating a variety of unsafe conditions aboard a vessel.
A Jones Act lawyer can help by determining if you are covered by the Jones Act or another maritime law. If you are covered, your attorney will investigate the accident to gather evidence of negligence.
Your lawyer will then guide you through filing your claim under the Jones Act and pursue the damages you are entitled to under the law. Without someone on your side, your chance of receiving fair compensation decreases. Despite your relationship with your employer, a business will want to limit their liability and expenses to your detriment.
Speak with The Krist Law Firm Today
At The Krist Law Firm, P.C., our team of experienced Houston maritime lawyers understands the Jones Act and how to get results for injured seamen and maritime employees.
This insight and familiarity with the complicated Jones Act statute give us the knowledge, experience, and resources to win maritime accident cases. Our Houston personal injury law firm is known throughout Texas for our work on offshore injury cases and our impressive track record of successfully representing people injured in maritime accidents.
If you are the victim of a maritime accident, it is essential to work with lawyers who have a significant track record of success and who are well versed in all legal matters related to federal maritime laws. Contact us to receive a free, initial consultation and learn how we can help today at 281-283-8500 .