Jones Act FAQ – New Orleans Personal Injury Lawyers | Egenberg Trial Lawyers

Jones Act FAQ


What Happens if I Cannot File a Claim Under the Jones Act?

Some people do not qualify for the Jones Act. If you cannot file because you are a longshoreman or dockworker, there is a special program for them that is similar to the workers’ compensation program. This program is called the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and it provides benefits for injured maritime workers who are not covered by the Jones Act. This provides benefits that are comparable to a traditional workers’ compensation program. Seamen are not allowed to participate in their state’s workers’ compensation program because there are special federal laws that cover these injuries. The Jones Act is viewed as a pro-worker law because it allows for negligence lawsuits, while the workers’ compensation system makes it very difficult to sue an employer.


Why Do I Need a Lawyer for My Jones Act Case?

While being able to sue your employer for personal injury is a good thing, you still need to prove that they were negligent. Doing this requires a knowledge of maritime operations and the standard of care that is necessary. In addition, maritime cases may require extensive investigation, especially when much of the evidence may not be under your control. This is a unique and specialized area of the law, and you must have someone who understands it. 

Your employer knows the Jones Act well. They have their own lawyers working to protect their own interests. Their insurance company is also looking out for themselves too, meaning that you should have someone looking out for you. Jones Act cases are not well-suited for a DIY approach to your legal issues. 


Do Medical Benefits Get Special Treatment Under the Jones Act?

You do not need to prove any fault in order to obtain medical benefits to treat your injury. These are paid automatically after you have been injured without needing to demonstrate negligence. The employer is supposed to pay your medical bills until you reach maximum medical improvement. In practice, employers may be difficult about paying these bills, and you could need a lawyer. In addition to medical bills, you are also paid reasonable living expenses until you reach your maximum medical improvement. Proving negligence will entitle you to additional damages on top of that, such as pain and suffering and full lost wages. 


What Does Unseaworthiness Mean?

This is another way to prove negligence under general maritime law. When you are on a vessel at sea, the owner owes you a duty to provide you with a safe and seaworthy vessel. When there is a dangerous condition on the ship, or it is defective, it would be considered unseaworthy. This alone would be enough to entitle you to damages in a negligence lawsuit. This may be a separate type of claim that is not filed under the Jones Act. However, the damages that you would receive would still be the same. 


Will My Jones Act Case Settle?

Cases that go all the way to trial are rare. Employers and their insurance companies often realize that they will need to pay more in damages when the case ends up in the hands of a jury. At some point, you may receive a settlement offer from the insurance company. It usually makes sense for both parties to discuss a settlement during the case. You also benefit by reducing your risk at trial and getting your money quicker. Usually, the interests of both the plaintiff and defendant mean that the case will settle. However, you should not be afraid to go in front of a jury if the defendant will not make a reasonable settlement offer. 


What Is Maximum Medical Improvement?

This does not always mean that you are fully recovered, although getting better and being able to return to work is certainly a sign of reaching this level. However, you can also reach this point when you still have a permanent disability, but you will not recover from it. You can count on there being some disagreement with your employer about when you reach this level. They have every incentive to claim that you have achieved maximum medical improvement because they will not have to pay maintenance and cure to you anymore. You may need a lawyer to dispute the employer’s view that you have reached maximum medical improvement. If your employer decides that you have reached this level when you really have not, you may be left without medical care and a source of support.


Where Should I File My Jones Act Case?

It is not always apparent where you should be filing your claim, especially because Jones Act injuries occur at sea. There are a number of factors that come into play when determining venue under the Jones Act. If the accident happened within the borders of a state, you should file the case there. If not, you could file it where the defendant is headquartered or located. You can file a Jones Act case in state or federal court. 


How Can I Strengthen My Jones Act Case?

Make sure to preserve all evidence of your claim that you have in your possession. You should also get medical treatment as soon as possible and follow all of the doctor’s orders. Finally, you should hire an attorney with specific experience in Jones Act cases and maritime law. Your attorney will know the steps to take to put you in the strongest legal position. This is a call that you should not delay making. 


How Long Will My Jones Act Case Take to Resolve?

This depends on whether you settle the claim or need to go to court. Even for settlements, you should count on your case taking months to complete. You will usually not see a settlement before the 4-6 month timeframe because the defendant will need to assess the strength of your claim. Most settlements could take up to a year. If your case goes to court and reaches a jury, it will take about 12-16 months to get a resolution.