While every job has its own hazards, the personal risk involved in working on a ship is significantly greater than it is for most careers. For Houston, TX, area residents employed in this unique environment, their legal rights with regard to work-related accidents aren’t covered by the usual workers’ compensation laws. Instead, their rights fall under a section of law known as the Jones Act.
The Jones Act is a federal law that focuses on and governs issues related to maritime commerce in the U.S. In addition to regulating maritime shipping in the country, the Jones Act extends the FELA, also known as the Federal Employer’s Liability Act, to seamen. That way, it enables seamen and other maritime workers who suffer worker-related injuries at sea to file an injury claim against their employers.
Under the Jones Act, an injured maritime worker can bring an action against their employer in a federal district or state court. While admiralty law generally doesn’t afford complainants the right to a jury trial, this law grants injured maritime employees that right in work-related personal injury cases.
With Texas ranked third among states with the highest number of domestic maritime industry jobs (56,290) and being a major shipyard state, it is important to understand the impact of the Jones Act on the country’s economy and workers’ welfare. Experienced Houston Jones Act lawyers at Johnson Garcia LLP can help you determine the validity of your claim under the Jones Act and the possible damages you may receive if you’re eligible.
The terms “Jones Act” and “maritime law” are often used together, sometimes even interchangeably. However, maritime law and the Jones Act are two distinct legal terms. Put simply, maritime law — also called admiralty law — is an entire area of law that deals with a variety of incident types and failures to observe industry regulations. The Jones Act is only one part of maritime law.
The Jones Act is an aspect of maritime law that deals specifically with the rights of seamen who suffer personal injury or harm while working on ships traveling in navigable waters. Maritime law, as a whole, governs all kinds of seafaring industry issues, such as environmental harm, financial fraud, and contractual disputes.
In order to be considered a “Jones Act seaman,” you don’t have to work in any particular position on a ship — you simply need to be involved in working with a vessel operating on navigable waters. Everyone who works on such a vessel is legally covered by the Jones Act, from deckhands to kitchen staff.
In 1995, the Supreme Court case of Chandris, Inc., v. Latsis defined a Jones Act seaman as any employee who spends more than 30% of his or her time working on a vessel operating on navigable waters. If you are still uncertain whether you are considered a seaman under the Jones Act, the Jones Act attorneys of Johnson Garcia LLP in Houston can help you make that determination.
Jones Act accidents include any personal harm an employee suffers due to employer negligence. The following are just a few examples of situations that warrant Jones Act claims:
Offshore careers can be extremely lucrative but also present unique personal and legal challenges. As a Jones Act seaman, you work in an inherently more dangerous environment than your standard office building on dry land. If you’re injured on the job, a potential obstacle is that your employer may argue that your accident was an unforeseeable act of nature rather than the result of negligence.
It can also be difficult for seamen to go up against their employers, whose legal teams are undoubtedly more experienced in Jones Act cases than they are. Because it can be difficult to know your rights as a worker under the Jones Act, it’s important that you enlist the help of an experienced Jones Act attorney in Houston as soon as possible. With the right legal counsel, you can get the help you’re entitled to under U.S. law.
Under the Jones Act, maritime workers must meet the following criteria to receive compensation after a work-related injury or illness:
While the Jones Act doesn’t offer a binding definition of a seaman, a maritime worker is generally considered a seaman if they spend at least 30% of their working hours on a seagoing vessel and contribute to its function or mission.
A maritime worker must be employed on a “vessel in navigation,” meaning it must be afloat, capable of moving, and engaged in maritime commerce to receive compensation. The vessel’s operations must also involve transporting goods or passengers on U.S. navigable waters or between U.S. ports.
An injured maritime worker can only recover damages under the Jones Act if their injury resulted from the negligence of their employer, vessel owner, or fellow crew members. Further, the seaman’s injury or illness must occur while working within the scope of their employment on the qualifying vessel.
Consider the case of John, who works as a deckhand on a tugboat operating between two U.S. ports. On a working day, he slips and injures his back. Since John is a seaman employed on a qualifying vessel and his injury occurred while working on navigable waters, he is eligible for compensation under the Jones Act.
In another case, Sarah is an offshore oil drilling company employee. A moving piece of machinery strikes and injures her hand during their drilling operations. In this case, Sarah may not be eligible to receive compensation under the Jones Act as an oil drilling platform isn’t considered a vessel in navigation and isn’t covered under the Jones Act.
Compensation for injury claims under the Jones Act differs from one case to another. Some of the factors that affect the type and amount of compensation one may recover in a Jones Act claim in Houston include:
Talk to the experienced Houston Jones Act lawyers at Johnson Garcia today for a free consultation. Let our attorneys be your advocates in seeking the justice and financial compensation you deserve. We are committed to providing you with the highest level of service and obtaining the best possible outcome for your Jones Act claim.
Generally, you’ll need to prove the four elements of negligence to receive compensation in your Houston maritime injury claim under the Jones Act. These elements include:
The Jones Act has a lower standard of proof than typical injury claims. The “featherweight causation standard” under the Jones Act allows injured workers to recover damages by presenting the slightest proof of causation in their injury claim.
It’s essential to consult with an experienced Houston Jones Act lawyer to guide you through your case and help collect and present crucial evidence to build a strong case. This includes:
The laws surrounding maritime injuries are complex, and an experienced Houston Jones Act attorney can protect your rights and help maximize the chances of a successful outcome.
Our team of seasoned attorneys possesses an in-depth understanding of the intricacies involved in maritime accidents. Our legal team will leave no stone unturned in investigating every aspect of your case. We have a network of industry experts and professionals at our disposal, ready to provide expert testimony to support your claim. Rest assured, we will fight relentlessly to ensure you and your family receive the compensation you rightfully deserve for medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering.
Injured seamen or family members intending to sue under the Jones Act have three years from the date of the injury or relevant event to bring legal action against the defendant. This statute of limitations means that the aggrieved party may lose their right to sue and recover compensation if they don’t file their claim within the stipulated time limits.
While you cannot file a Jones Act claim outside the three-year deadline, a Houston Jones Act Lawyer, such as those at Johnson Garcia LLP, can help you file your claim after the deadline if yours is an exceptional case. In some cases, you may file your claim outside the required time frame if you become aware of your injuries after the date of the accident.
The Jones Act gives injured seamen the right to sue their employer or vessel owner and receive damages after a work-related injury.
At Johnson Garcia LLP, we take immense pride in being the go-to option for injured maritime workers and their families seeking to recover the maximum possible compensation under the Jones Act. Our unwavering dedication to justice, combined with our unparalleled expertise in maritime law, makes us the top choice for guiding you through the complexities of a Jones Act claim.
Below are the damages available to maritime workers filing a claim under the Jones Act:
On-the-job injuries can prevent offshore or maritime workers from carrying out their work-related duties temporarily or permanently. Depending on the situation, such workers may receive damages for lost earnings in cases of temporary disability, for the duration of medical treatment recovery, or for lost earning capacity in cases of permanent disability.
The Jones Act covers injured maritime workers for medical bills and expenses outside the maintenance and cure benefits. Such medical expenses include physical therapy, occupational or vocational therapy, mental health treatment, counseling, and full-time nursing care, among other treatment types. Provided a physician has recommended treatment for an injured seaman, the worker is entitled to receive reimbursement for that particular treatment.
Injured seamen may also receive damages for pain and suffering, including compensation for physical and mental pain and psychological trauma. Physical pain and suffering arise from physical injuries, disfigurement, and scarring.
On the other hand, mental pain encompasses emotional distress and loss of enjoyment of life. In severe cases, injured workers may experience sleep disturbances or even post-traumatic stress disorder. Following an accident that was the result of their employer’s negligence, injured seamen may receive compensation for their pain and suffering.
Our experienced Houston Jones Act lawyers can help you receive the maximum damages for your maritime injury. The lawyers at Johnson Garcia LLP have over three decades of experience successfully representing injured maritime workers and can help ensure you are adequately compensated for your injury by building a strong case against the defendant. If your employer’s insurer isn’t negotiating fairly, your attorney at Johnson Garcia LLP will file a lawsuit, take your case to trial, and fight tirelessly for you to obtain just compensation for your injury.
If you’re a Jones Act seaman in the Houston area who has been harmed while working on a vessel in navigable waters, you should absolutely have legal representation from a Houston Jones Act attorney. Regardless of whether the negligence on your employer’s part is obvious or indirect, your Houston Jones Act lawyer will fight for the damages you need to cover things like medical bills, lost income, medication costs, etc.
At Johnson Garcia LLP, we leverage 35+ years of combined legal experience to represent Houston area seamen in a variety of Jones Act cases. We know that when you’re recovering from an injury, the last thing you need is another expense. That’s why we operate on a “no recovery, no pay” basis; if we can’t recover damages for you, you don’t pay us a dime. To learn more or schedule your free case evaluation, call us today at 832-844-6700.