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Jones Act Lawyer

If You Qualify, a Jones Act Injury Claim Usually Provides Better Benefits Than Your State's Workman's Compensation Program

It is well-known that the officers and crew of ships engaged in maritime commerce face a higher risk of serious on-the-job injury. These injuries are often made worse by a delay in the accident victim's transfer to shore where a higher level of medical care is available. In recognition of these, and other, problems the officers and crew of vessels operating in maritime commerce are covered by a special form of Workers' Compensation known as the Jones Act.

On this page, the maritime injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm will explain the basic principles of the Jones Act as it pertains to 1) who is eligible for Jones Act injury benefits, 2) the types of benefits that may be available to an injured seaman, and 3) how a Jones Act lawyer can help injured seamen, and their families, receive the full amount of compensation due them for their injuries.

What is the Jones Act?

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act, established the legal framework for the U.S. Merchant Marine. One of the Jones Act's lesser-known functions is to protect those seamen injured while at sea or while, under certain circumstances, their vessel is docked at a harbor or port.

While the Jones Act is a form of Workers' Compensation, it is structured somewhat differently than other programs that protect workers injured on the job. The major differences between the Jones Act and other Workers' Compensation programs include:

The Jones Act is a federal program which benefits a relatively small group of workers

Unlike state-run Workers' Compensation programs, which cover large numbers of employees in many industries, the Jones Act deals only with seamen serving aboard a vessel that is in navigation. These terms will be defined in a later section on this page.

The Jones Act allows an injured seaman to sue an employer for negligence. Such lawsuits are not allowed in a state Workers' Compensation case

Workers' Compensation is a "faultless" system. This means that an injured worker can collect benefits without having to prove that someone else was "at fault" and caused the worker's injury. In return an injured worker loses the right to file a lawsuit against the employer, no matter how much the employer's negligence may have contributed to the worker's injury.

In Jones Act injury cases, benefits are paid in a manner much the same as with Worker's Compensation. However, the injured seaman does not give up the right to file a lawsuit against the seaman's employer and can ask a court to order the employer to pay punitive damages (damages that "punish" the employer for its negligence).

The benefits that may be paid to an injured seaman under the Jones Act are often superior to those available to an injured worker under a state Workers' Compensation program

One of the best examples of how the Jones Act is usually superior to state Workers' Compensation is that the Jones Act typically will pay around 67% of an injured seaman's average weekly wage as compared to not more than 60% of the wages allowed under Worker's Compensation.

Who is eligible to receive Jones Act benefits?

As noted above in order to qualify for Jones Act benefits, you must have been a seaman who was injured while working aboard a ship and that ship was in navigation. Since these terms may be unfamiliar to many viewing this page, they will be explained here. A seaman is any crewmember of a vessel whose duties contribute to the completion of the vessel's assigned mission. This means that, as far as the Jones Act is concerned, anyone whose presence aboard a vessel is necessary to complete its mission is a "seaman."

A vessel is in navigation if it is capable of moving under its own power and it is being operated on waterways that are commonly used for the purpose of interstate or international commerce. The opinion of a Jones Act lawyer should be obtained if there is any question regarding a vessel's "in navigation" status at the time an accident occurred.

How do I apply for injury benefits under the Jones Act?

As with any other on the job injury claim, the Jones Act has its own set of "rules" or "regulations" that are set by the insurance company that manages Jones Act claims for a particular vessel or fleet of vessels and, to a lesser extent, by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs. Since each insurer is allowed to set its own "paperwork" policies, the following information should be taken as being "general" in nature.

The most important thing to keep in mind regarding a Jones Act injury claim is that federal maritime law requires that you report any injury that you suffer to your captain, or to someone in authority, within 7 days. You have the right to request that your accident be recorded in the ship's log and that you receive copies of all forms that you are required to complete by your employer and/or your employer's insurance carrier such as accident reports.

Once you have reported your injury, you have essentially done all that is required of you by law and you need only follow your employer's instructions regarding matters such as how to obtain the medical care required to treat your injury or how to file for Jones Act temporary disability income support payments. You should also be aware that there may be occasions when the system will "break down" and you may need to contact a lawyer who is familiar with the Jones Act and how to protect the best interests of an injured client.

Why you need a Jones Act lawyer

From the information presented on this page, you can see that the success or failure of a Jones Act injury claim often hinges on the answers to questions such "Was the accident victim a 'seaman'?" or "Was the vessel on which the injury occurred 'in navigation' at the time?" To ensure that you will receive a fair settlement of your Jones Act injury case, you will need the services of an experienced Jones Act personal injury lawyer.

When choosing a Jones Act lawyer, you will want someone who:
  • has the training and experience necessary to understand complex legal issues such as liability and compensation
  • has experience in negotiating with multiple potential defendants
  • locating, and working with, expert witnesses
  • using accident reconstruction to identify unsuspected equipment failures

One lawyer with the experience and training necessary to win even the most complex maritime injury case is the Jones Act lawyer at the Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury law practice with offices in major cities around the country.

When you contact the Jones Act lawyer at the Doan Law Firm to arrange a review of your Jones Act personal injury case, your initial consultation with our firm is always free of charge and does obligate you to hire us to represent you in your Jones Act personal injury case. Should you later decide that we should manage your Jones Act personal injury case, we are usually willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for a previously agreed-upon percentage of the final settlement we will win for you.

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Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

  1. After an accident, the responsible party's insurance company may try to reduce the claim amount. Commonly, insurance adjusters are trained to get information from the injured to assist in reducing the claim. Though some insurers are less guilty of this practice than others, it is important to realize that insurance companies are profit-oriented corporations and reducing claims results in increased profits for shareholders. This can create a situation for the injured in which they are offered a settlement that does not truly reflect the damages suffered. If you accept this settlement, you lose the ability to get more money should your injuries require further medical treatments. It is critical that victims get legal assistance in any personal injury case, and The Doan Law Firm is prepared to fight relentlessly for your rights.
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