You Deserve Assistance from a Knowledgeable Jones Act Attorney

Unlike other workers' compensation or personal injury cases, work-related injuries sustained on a navigable vessel often fall under the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Seamen Protection and Relief Act. Maritime workers on the U.S. coast, an inland waterway, or offshore can pursue legal action and seek damages that can extend beyond workers' compensation. As these cases can be difficult to navigate, it is important to work with a Jones Act attorney to ensure you seek the restitution you are entitled to. If you have been injured on a vessel, the Law Offices of Richard R. Kelly in Lafayette, LA, can help. Contact us today to arrange a free consultation.

Providing a Safe Work Environment

According to the Jones Act, it is the responsibility of your employer to provide a safe maritime working environment. This responsibility extends to the vessel on which employees work and live. If a worker is injured and the vessel is found unseaworthy, injuries may be covered by maritime law.

photo of a shipping barge

To be deemed unseaworthy, a vessel must be unfit to perform as designed. This includes everything from the engine and hull to the crew member bunks. The owner of the vessel is required to attend to any damage or equipment malfunction as soon as possible to prevent accidents. Otherwise, employers can be found negligent and held accountable.

In comparison to the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA), which enables employees to file for workers' compensation upon injury, the Jones Act protects workers' rights to sue for damages in the event of negligence. To obtain benefits, seamen must establish their duties contributed to the function of the vessel or the accomplishment of its mission. They also must demonstrate a connection to a vessel or fleet in navigation that is substantial in duration and nature.

DETERMINING YOUR ELIGIBILITY

Not all maritime workers are covered under the Jones Act. It is primarily designed to protect seamen working on a vessel in navigation. The definition of a vessel may vary. Some examples include:

  • Dredges
  • Tugboats
  • Barges
  • Towboats
  • Crew boats
  • Work boats
  • Utility boats
  • Tanker boats
  • Supply boats
  • Fishing boats

If you are injured on an oil rig, the type of rig on which you work will affect the outcome of your claim. If the rig is mobile, in the case of some jack-up rigs, employees can seek compensation under the Jones Act. However, rigs that are embedded in the sea floor are typically covered by the LHWCA.

There is a different protocol for LHWCA case than Jones Act cases. If your claim falls under the Jones Act, you file a lawsuit in court. LHWCA cases involve an administrative process overseen by the U.S. Department of Labor. As such, payouts from Jones Act cases are often much larger than those of workers’ compensation. If you file a claim through the LHWCA, you may no longer be eligible to pursue damages under the Jones Act. Be sure to review your case with a qualified attorney before filing any claims to ensure you receive the maximum compensation possible. 

Filling a Jones Act Lawsuit

If you are injured while working at sea, filing a claim under the Jones Act is the only way to recover lost wages and other damages. Typically, the best route is to hire a maritime attorney who understands the Jones Act, as not every lawyer is qualified to work in Admiralty law. Make sure to see a physician for your injury and keep detailed records of any medical treatment. 

You will need to provide several forms of documentation, including complete medical records, an accident report, any documents from your employer, and pictures of the accident. You may also require a list of witnesses. It is important to start gathering this information as soon as possible after an accident to help your attorney build your case. 

Our firm can hold your employer responsible for their negligence and fight for the justice and compensation you deserve.

Avoid giving any recorded statements or signing anything you do not understand. You may feel pressure from your employer to admit you were at fault. However, doing so can severely jeopardize your case. Our team can provide you with the support and counsel you need throughout the process to help protect your rights. In many Jones Act cases, employers and their insurance companies try to prevent workers from collecting the compensation they deserve. Having an attorney who will advocate on your behalf is integral to the success of your case. 

Maritime Injury Statute of Limitations

It is important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible after your injury as there are several different statutes of limitation that may affect your case. In most maritime injury cases, you have three years from the date of your accident to file a claim. However, maritime workers employed by government-owned vessels have to file within two years of the incident. There are other considerations when deciding when to file a Jones Act lawsuit, which you can discuss with a member of our team during your free initial consultation.

Understanding Your Rights

According to the Jones Act, seamen who sustain a work-related injury are entitled to what is known as "maximum cure." Your employer is required to pay for your medical treatment until you reach the maximum level of medical improvement possible. If you reach a point in your recovery process after which you are not expected to improve further, your employer is no longer required to pay for your medical treatment. In some cases, you and your employer may disagree about what constitutes maximum medical improvement. Having an attorney who understands the complexities of the Jones Act and maritime workers' compensation laws can help ensure you receive the care to which you are legally entitled. 

Contact a Maritime Injury Lawyer Today

At the Law Offices of Richard R. Kennedy, our team is well-versed in all aspects of maritime law and has secured significant reparations for employees injured in the workplace. Our firm can hold your employer responsible for their negligence and fight for the justice and compensation you deserve. To discuss your claim, we invite your to schedule a free initial consultation by contacting us online or calling us at (337) 232-1934 or (800) 440-1934.