Thousands of seamen are injured in offshore accidents in the Gulf Region each year, often as a result of negligence. Fortunately, a federal law known as the Jones Act allows seamen to seek compensation for on-the-job-injuries. Given the complexities involved in Jones Act claims, it is crucial for an injured seaman to consult an experienced maritime attorney.
At Koch & Schmidt, we believe that seamen are entitled to a safe work environment, despite the fact that working in the maritime industry is a high-risk occupation. We’ve been handling Jones Act claims and maritime litigation, and fighting for the rights of injured seamen in Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coast region, for over six decades. If you have been injured in a maritime accident that was caused by negligence, you may be entitled to significant compensation. When you become our client, you will have peace of mind knowing our dedicated maritime lawyers are in your corner.
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act, formally known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, was enacted to foster the growth of the U.S. merchant marine, as well as to provide relief to a seaman who suffers an injury or illness due to negligence or unseaworthiness aboard a vessel operating in navigable waters. This law allows seamen to file a maritime lawsuit in federal court seeking compensation for injuries caused by the negligence of the vessel owner, operator, or another employee.
While the Jones Act does not define the term “seamen,” the courts consider whether the individual contributes to the operation of a vessel and the completion of its objectives or function, as well as the nature and duration of the individual’s connection to the vessel.
In any event, this generally includes captains, mates, deckhands, engineers, stewards, fishermen and sailors who work on a wide variety of vessels, such as:
- Container ships
- Cruise ships
- Casino boats
- Charter boats
It is worth noting that the term “vessel” is not limited to boats and also applies to offshore drilling rigs, drilling ships, production platforms, and submersibles.
What types of compensation are available under the Jones Act?
If you have been injured on a vessel due to the owner’s negligence or because of defective equipment, you may be entitled to compensation that includes economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages compensate you for actual monetary losses, such as lost and future income, current and future medical expenses, and cost of living during recovery, whereas non-economic damages are intended to cover intangible losses such as pain and suffering, permanent disability, disfigurement, and mental anguish.
Maintenance and Cure
The Jones Act also provides a form of workers’ compensation benefits known as “maintenance and cure.” Maintenance is designed to cover your daily living expenses for each day you are unable to work. Cure is your employer’s obligation to pay all your medical costs until a doctor determines you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) — the point where further medical treatment will not improve your condition.
If your employer has failed to provide maintenance and cure benefits as required under the Jones Act, the maritime attorneys at Koch & Schmidt will file a lawsuit in federal court to secure these benefits, as well as to obtain additional damages that may be available.
The Jones Act Claims Process
Although the Jones Act provides injured seamen and their loved ones with powerful legal recourse, and any negligent hazardous condition could result in a substantial monetary award, it takes a skilled maritime attorney with a proven track record of success to navigate the claims process.
The first step obviously is to obtain medical treatment immediately after your injury occurs; delaying or failing to do so can thwart your injury claim. It is also critically important to report the injury to your supervisor or captain — remember, your employer cannot withhold medical care from you.
You may be asked to complete an accident report or sign a waiver prior to seeing a doctor; however, do not sign away any of your rights or acknowledge any fault when completing an accident report. In fact, the best way to protect your rights is to consult an experienced maritime attorney before you sign any documents.
At Koch & Schmidt, our maritime attorneys have extensive experience resolving Jones Act claims through settlement negotiations; however, our trial lawyers are fully prepared to litigate any matter in federal court when necessary. Above all, our objective is to win you the maximum compensation you deserve, whether inside or outside of the courtroom.
Claims of Unseaworthiness Under the Jones Act
There are a number of grounds lawsuits under the Jones Act, including a claim of unseaworthiness. Under general maritime law, a shipowner has a legal obligation to provide a seaworthy vessel. This means that the vessel must be safe to transport passengers and crew, the owner must provide adequate safety measures, and there must be enough crew members to handle the mission. In short, claims of unseaworthiness under the Jones Act can arise from a wide range of negligent conduct:
- Inadequate number of crewmembers
- Untrained or incompetent crew or captain
- Improperly stowed cargo
- Lack of appropriate safety guards or rails
- Lack of mandatory fire suppression devices
- Unsafe living areas
- Lack of proper elevators or hoists
Given that claims of unseaworthiness are complicated and typically require a detailed analysis of the conditions aboard the vessel, it is crucial to work with an attorney who knows how to demonstrate the owner’s negligence. If you believe your offshore accident was caused by an unseaworthy vessel, Koch & Schmidt will fight for the compensation you need and deserve.
Contact Our Louisiana and Gulf of Mexico Jones Act Attorney
If you have been injured while working offshore, you need the informed representation that Koch & Schmidt provides. We regularly represent ship crew members, oil rig workers and other seamen and maritime workers whose livelihoods depend on the Gulf of Mexico. Our maritime lawyers will fight to help you obtain just compensation.
If a loved one has been killed in an offshore accident, you may have grounds for a wrongful death action under the Jones Act. Although money cannot replace a life, you deserve compensation for your loss and the support and guidance your loved one would have provided.
At Koch & Schmidt, we are dedicated to holding negligent offshore employers accountable and fighting for the rights of injured seamen and maritime workers. We have a proven track record of achieving successful settlements and jury verdicts, having recovered millions of dollars for our clients. Please contact our office today for a free evaluation of your case.