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Representing the Rights of Maritime Workers Who Have Sustained On-the-Job Injuries
If you have been hurt in a maritime accident, you may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act. To protect your legal rights and have an attorney review your case at no cost to you, call Egenberg, APLC today.
Working on the water and around seafaring vessels is an extremely dangerous occupation. Every year, a significant number of seamen are injured in serious accidents. Many of the injuries that seamen sustain leave them with significant medical issues and economic losses. The Jones Act—sometimes referred to as the “Merchant Marine Act of 1920”—is a federal law that protects seamen. It also regulates maritime commerce in domestic waters and between United States ports. The law covers a wide variety of maritime accidents, including those occurring on a ship, dock, barge, fishing boat, oil rig, or even a dock. To find out if you have a Jones Act claim, you should discuss your case with a New Orleans Jones Act lawyer as soon as possible.
Maritime Accidents Can Result in Extremely Serious Injuries
Maritime accidents have the potential to leave victims with severe injuries, many of which can affect victims for the rest of their lives. In many cases, people who are hurt in these kinds of incidents are unable to work for weeks, months, or even years, and they can require significant medical treatment. As a result, it is critical for anyone hurt in a maritime accident to have an experienced Jones Act lawyer on their side. Some of the more common injuries that seaman can sustain in maritime accidents include the following:
Traumatic Brain Injuries – TBIs can occur anytime a person hits his or her head on another object, and are often caused by slips, trips, or falls.
Spinal Cord Injuries – When the spinal cord is damaged or severed, it can result in serious complications, including paralysis below the site of the injury.
Broken Bones – Many maritime accidents result in broken bones, including serious compound fractures that can take months to heal.
Burns – When vessels or cargo explode or catch fire, people in the vicinity can sustain extremely serious burns, which can be incredibly painful and cause permanent scarring.
Your Rights Under the Jones Act
Unlike land-based workers, seamen are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for work injuries they sustain in the course of their employment. The Jones Act was passed to ensure that individuals who are injured in maritime accidents are able to recover compensation for their losses. It covers all seamen who spend at least 30 percent of their working time on any type of vessel—from a dingy to a cruise ship. The law allows injured seamen to sue their employers for negligence and, if successful, to recover compensation for the losses they have sustained as a result of their accident. Some of the more common types of losses that are often recovered in a Jones Act claim include the following:
Physical and emotional pain and suffering
Loss of quality of life
The law requires employers to provide seamen with a reasonably safe work environment and to use ordinary care to keep the vessel on which they work in a reasonably safe condition. Importantly, employers can be vicariously liable for the acts of their employees. This means that accidents caused by the negligence of another seaman will typically entitle victims to compensation from their employers under the Jones Act. Some examples of incidents that could potentially result in a Jones Act claim include the following:
Slip and falls
Falling or shifting cargo
Poorly secured equipment
Inadequate training of crew members
Importantly, there are some cases where a seaman’s own negligence contributes to an accident. Jones Act claims incorporate a legal concept known as “comparative negligence,” which means that seaman accident victims can still recover compensation if their negligence contributed to the accident, but their recovery will be reduced by their proportion of fault. For example, if a victim is found to have been 20 percent negligent and her damages are considered to be worth $100,000, she would receive $80,000.
What Should I Do if I Am Hurt at Work?
If you are a seaman and are hurt while you are at work, there are certain steps that you should take to protect your right to recover compensation. The first thing that you should do after an accident on a vessel is report the incident to your management. While there is no legal requirement to do so, reporting the injury will likely result in the generation of an incident report that may prove helpful to your case later. In addition, failing to report the accident could be interpreted as evidence that you were not as injured as you claim to be.
At this point, you should be very careful about the things that you say about your accident, as your statements could potentially jeopardize your right to recover. Do not provide a written statement to the insurance company handling your claim before speaking to an attorney.
It is imperative that you seek medical attention for your injuries after an accident occurring on a vessel. Doing so will ensure that your injuries are property identified and that you start any necessary treatment as soon possible. In addition, it will create an official record describing your injuries and their severity, which can be relevant to the issue of damages in settlement negotiations or at trial. You should be certain to do everything your doctor recommends and attend all of your appointments, as failing to do so could hurt your chances of recovering for all of your losses.
Finally, you should contact a Jones Act lawyer as soon as you can after an accident. Doing so will ensure that your rights are protected and that you are treated fairly by your employer and your employer’s insurance company.