Houston Jones Act Lawyers

Representing Injured Seamen in Maritime Lawsuits Nationwide. Billions Won.

Working as a seaman in the maritime industry is a high-risk occupation. Heavy loads, large equipment, seaworthiness of the vessel that you're on, and difficult conditions can all contribute to an elevated risk of offshore injury. Isolation is another health factor. Where do you go when you suffer a severe injury hundreds of miles offshore? When an injury occurs, expert medical aid is often hours away, while life-altering injuries need to be treated immediately. Due to all these factors, a maritime injury can be much more serious than a similar incident occurring on land.

If you or someone you love has been injured while working offshore, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Houston Jones Act attorney as quickly as possible. At Arnold & Itkin, we have earned a reputation nationwide for handling some of the most complex Jones Act cases in the nation. Our renowned Jones Act lawyers have recovered more than $20 billion on behalf of our clients and set both state and national records with our victories. You can trust that when you contact us, you have experienced advocates on your side who can help you move forward.

Contact our Texas Jones Act attorneys. We serve clients nationwide, from Dallas to Baton Rouge. Call (888) 493-1629 for a free consultation!

Abogados de lesiones por accidentes marítimos y en alta mar en Houston

What Is the Jones Act?

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What Is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act, formally known as The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a specific protection under admiralty law that provides for any U.S. citizen working as a seaman who suffers injury or illness due to unseaworthiness or negligence aboard a vessel operating in navigable waters.

The statute governs maritime commerce transported between U.S. ports. In addition, the Jones Act affords several key provisions benefiting maritime employees. The Jones Act was a federal statute enacted to encourage the growth of the American merchant marine. It was also created, in part, to offer relief to injured workers in the maritime industry and to ensure they receive appropriate compensation for their injuries in Jones Act claim. While a Jones Act claim is filed for on-the-job injuries, a Jones Act settlement is often far larger than a workers' compensation claim. One reason for that is, unlike a workers’ compensation claim, Jones Act claims are entitled to a wide array of recovery types.

Jones Act settlements include compensation for:

  • Lost wages
  • Loss of future earning capacity
  • Pain, suffering, and disfigurement
  • Mental anguish
  • Medical care
  • Cost of living during recovery

In comparison, claims under general workers’ compensation usually only cover basic medical care and a portion of an employee's lost earnings. This is not enough to help an injured seaman rebuild after a serious maritime accident.

What Are My Rights Under the Jones Act?

The Jones Act gives qualifying seamen the ability to file a maritime lawsuit after suffering an injury or developing an illness working on or aboard a vessel. Under the Jones Act, you can seek compensation for any injury that occurs as a result of the negligence of the vessel owner, operator, or another employee. This stems from the vessel owner's duty to maintain a safe vessel. The same goes for any equipment on board the ship.

In short, your rights as a seaman under the Jones Act include:

  • The right to a reasonably safe work environment.
  • The right to file a maritime lawsuit if injured because of negligence.
  • The right to maintenance and cure compensation related to injury or illness.
  • The right to additional compensation if the vessel or crew is deemed unseaworthy.
  • The right to additional punitive damages if refused payment of maintenance and cure.

Can I File a Jones Act Claim Against the Ship Owner?

Federal law recognizes the inherent danger of working at sea and the risk of on-the-job injuries in the maritime industry. To keep a workforce of trained seamen, the law gives maritime workers valuable legal rights, including the right to sue a ship owner for negligence or the unseaworthiness of the vessel in a Jones Act claim. This act is more specific than common maritime law. Even if you are outside of the U.S., if you work for an American company on an American vessel, you could be entitled to a Jones Act claim as long as you carry the title of "seaman."

Who Can File a Jones Act Claim?

In order to be eligible under the Jones Act, you need to qualify as a "seaman." Generally speaking, this means you must have been assigned to a vessel or fleet in operation on a navigable waterway, and your duties must have contributed to the vessel's function. A seaman must spend at least 30% of his or her working service on the vessel. For instance, deckhands, engineers, cooks, and housekeeping stewards can all qualify as seamen under the law.

Are Jones Act Claims Fault-Based?

Jones Act claim are fault-based, but they also have a lighter burden of proof than a civil lawsuit on land. For example, if a falling pipe strikes a construction worker, they would automatically be entitled to benefits under workers’ compensation. However, if their losses demand more than benefits allow, they could seek additional benefits from additional parties at fault—or potentially against their employer if criminal negligence was the cause of the accident. 

Even then, the likelihood of successfully suing an employer when you have workers’ compensation is low.

If a rig worker suffered the same accident, they would need to prove their employer is at fault to receive benefits. However, they’re entitled to receive far more compensation than in a workers’ compensation claim—and they would only need to prove that the employer was in any way responsible for the accident. Theoretically, an employer even 1% responsible for a seaman’s injuries would be liable for providing compensation.

How Long Do Jones Act Lawsuits Take?

There are different factors that can lengthen or shorten your Jones Act lawsuit. The first thing is the investigation. Investigating what happened, who caused it, and how it affected your health all takes a great deal of time. Building a case out of the evidence also takes time, as does hiring expert witnesses to help with the presentation of the facts.

The other major effect is how willing the other party is to settle. In many cases, our Jones Act law firm will build such a strong case that the defendant will settle quickly. In other cases, our attorneys will have to take a case all the way to trial before a defendant will do what's right. There's a whole spectrum of potential outcomes between those two scenarios, but if your lawyer tells you that your case may take a while, don't worry: that's not a bad sign.

In certain jurisdictions, Jones Act seamen may be entitled to preferential treatment and/or speedy trials. If you have further questions, we encourage you to contact our Houston Jones Act attorneys as soon as you can.

What Is the Difference Between a Jones Act & Personal Injury Case?

Understanding the difference between a Jones Act case and a personal injury case is crucial. Jones Act cases are specifically filed against your employer and involve maritime insurance companies. They often result in higher average settlements and require attorneys who are specifically experienced in maritime law. Moreover, Jones Act cases frequently entail more severe, life-altering injuries compared to typical personal injury cases. It's essential to grasp these distinctions to navigate the legal process effectively and pursue rightful compensation.

What Is the Difference Between a Jones Act & LHWCA Case?

There are specific sets of laws that govern maritime workers; however, it can be confusing to determine who is covered by what. The Jones Act and the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act operate differently. It is important to understand where to turn if a worker is injured while working at sea. The LHWCA provides workers’ compensation to maritime employees who are not seamen (not part of a crew on a vessel). The LHWCA largely applies to harbor workers, shipyard workers, and any worker who is employed near the water but not on a vessel.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act covers mariners who work on the open sea. Many nuances can influence how a worker can seek compensation, such as whether they consistently work on the same vessel and how much time they spend offshore, but generally, workers who serve on operating vessels, such as fishermen will be able to seek compensation for injuries through the Jones Act. If a mariner is lost at sea or dies during an accident offshore, their family members will be eligible.

Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA)

The Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act covers workers harmed while performing tasks pertaining to navigable waters in the U.S. Ports and docks pose a number of dangers for dockworkers, from crane accidents to electrocutions. While workers perform tasks such as loading and unloading vessels, transporting goods, or operating drawbridges, they can be injured The LWHCA provides them the opportunity to seek compensation for their injuries. However, injured workers must seek out this payment from the U.S. Department of Labor through filing a certain claim.

Claims of Unseaworthiness Under the Jones Act

The Jones Act includes several clauses that protect offshore workers from the types of negligence that can cause a serious accident. For example, a claim of unseaworthiness can be filed when a ship owner has failed to fulfill their legal obligation to provide a seaworthy vessel. A vessel owner is not allowed to shift this obligation to anyone else, and the vessel must be deemed reasonably safe for the type of endeavor is it embarking on.

With the complex build of offshore vessels, many factors contribute to a ship's seaworthy condition:

  • An inadequate number of crewmembers or workers
  • Lack of appropriate safety guards or rails
  • Lack of fire extinguishers and mandatory fire suppression equipment
  • Untrained or incompetent crew or captain
  • Lack of sufficient food or unsafe living areas
  • Improperly stowed cargo
  • Lack of proper elevators or hoists

These factors may help support your claim of unseaworthiness. Maritime employers are never involved in this type of claim, except for cases in which they happen to also be the vessel owner. If you are considering filing this type of claim, it is important to know that claims of unseaworthiness do not cover a seaman's own negligence or irresponsibility.

Wrongful Death Actions Under the Jones Act

Sometimes, workers don't return home after an offshore accident. When this happens, families turn to our Houston Jones Act law firm for help. While we can't change what happened, we can demand answers from those who failed to prevent deadly accidents. This can happen when vessel owners demand that a ship go to sea in treacherous conditions, when offshore companies fail to evacuate crews from their rigs amid hurricane warnings, and when inspections are skipped.

Those who have lost loved ones may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act for funeral expenses, loss of consortium, loss of companionship and support, lost earnings, medical debt, and pain and suffering. This can go a long way in helping a family face a more stable future, plus it can bring peace of mind in seeing justice served.

Families have the right to bring a wrongful death action under the Jones Act if their loved one died as a result of a work-related injury or illness. 

How to Prepare Yourself for a Successful Jones Act Case in Houston, TX

Preparing for a Jones Act case requires careful consideration and strategic planning. First, use your recovery period wisely by avoiding rushing into decisions or signing any documents until the full extent of your injuries is understood. Seek multiple medical opinions, including specialists, to fully grasp the ramifications of your accident.

It's crucial to understand that settling a Jones Act case too quickly can be detrimental. 

Initially, it may be unclear how severe your injuries are, especially if you're examined by doctors appointed by your employer, who may prioritize minimizing your injuries over your well-being. Settling too early risks overlooking the full extent of your injuries and may leave you without sufficient compensation for future medical expenses and lost earnings.

Instead, seek guidance from experienced Houston Jones Act lawyers, such as those on the Arnold & Itkin team, who can provide valuable insights and connect you with reputable medical specialists. They can assess the worth of your case and develop a strategy to maximize your settlement or verdict. While it may be tempting to resolve the case swiftly, exercising patience is essential to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve to secure your future well-being.

Why Should I Hire a Houston, Texas Jones Act Lawyer from Arnold & Itkin?

If you have been hurt while working offshore, then it may seem as if you are without hope. This could not be further from the truth. There are laws put into place with the specific purpose of protecting your rights during a time such as this. All you need is an experienced Jones Act attorney. This is why we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible. Over the years, we have established ourselves as leaders in maritime law and demonstrated the ability to protect the rights of the injured. We know what is on the line with complex litigation and have proven that we can be counted on. 

So why choose us to take on your case? Here are some of the benefits of working with Arnold & Itkin:

  • We move cases faster. 
    If you have been seriously injured, the last thing that you want is to deal with a delayed case. You want help that is going to expedite the case, not slow it down. Due to our resources and our location, our Houston Jones Act law firm is known for moving cases fast. We have the same interests as you: to get justice as fast as possible.
  • We get better results for our clients.
    Your main concern when you're knee-deep in a maritime claim is to get the maximum compensation that you deserve. Our firm has been known to be able to help maximize recovery for our clients. We have been involved in several multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. This experience and track record isn't a promise or a guarantee since every case is unique, but it is indicative of our ability to help our clients and should be taken as such.
  • We have the experience to take on big companies. 
    If you're filing a claim against a large company, you need to know your attorney has the experience to handle the high-stakes situation. At Arnold & Itkin, we have taken on large corporations successfully again and again. We won't be daunted, and we won't be overwhelmed. We know the best way to do it and will fight for you.

Your future is simply too important to leave into the hands of a lawyer unfamiliar with maritime law or an attorney attempting to handle their first big case. You want someone who knows the ropes, someone with an intimate knowledge of what you are facing. This is exactly what you will find should you choose to work with our lawyer. We have recovered more than $20 billion on behalf of our clients. We have the experience, qualifications, and desire to help you. 

Our Houston Jones Act Law Firm Protects Injured Seamen Nationwide

If you have recently been injured while offshore, it is important you have a lawyer on your side who is well-versed in the Jones Act and other pieces of maritime law. At Arnold & Itkin, we recognize the importance of these types of claims. We are prepared to go the distance in our efforts to help our clients obtain the best outcome possible—fighting for the just outcome that they deserve. Our team has secured billions of dollars for injured clients all along our shores, including more than two dozen crew members of the Deepwater Horizon. We are the leading Jones Act lawyers in the nation, fighting on behalf of oil rig employees, ship crew members, and other at-sea maritime workers. 

Call (888) 493-1629 to speak with our top-rated team of Houston Jones Act attorneys.

Common Questions

  • Why Is the Jones Act Important?

    Before the Jones Act, injured offshore workers were only able to obtain maintenance and cure from their employer. In other words, they were only able to obtain compensation for immediate medical care and the cost of living as they recover. The Jones Act enables workers to hold their negligent employer accountable by pursuing damages including lost wages, medical bills, the cost of future care, and much more.
  • Do I Have to Use My Company Doctor?

    No. Company doctors might not act in the best interest of injured seamen. If you’re taken to a company doctor, you have the right to receive a second opinion or request to see a private doctor if it doesn’t place your health at risk.
  • Should I Accept a Settlement Before Speaking to a Jones Act Lawyer?

    No. While you’re right to hope that your company is treating you right, they likely aren’t. Initial settlements are purposefully low because, once a worker accepts one, they are unable to pursue their employer for further damages. Speaking to a Jones Act lawyer will help you decide if the company’s offer is fair or if you should demand an amount that is fair and appropriate for your injuries.
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