Houston Jones Act Lawyers
Representing Injured Workers Nationwide in Maritime Lawsuits. Billions Won.
Working as a seaman in the maritime industry is a high-risk occupation. Heavy loads, large equipment, seaworthiness, and difficult conditions can all contribute to an elevated risk of injury. The isolation a seaman is subject to is another health factor. Where do you go when you suffer a severe head injury one thousand miles offshore? When an injury occurs, expert medical aid is often days away, while life-altering injuries have a window made of minutes. Due to all these factors, a maritime injury can be much more serious than a similar incident occurring on land.
What Is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act, formally known as The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is 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 specifically benefiting the maritime employee.
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 a maritime lawsuit, also known as a "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
- Physical 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 (for the most part). The Jones Act claims process is potentially lengthy, but only because a Jones Act claim is a fault-based claim: your lawyer must prove negligence on someone else's part for you to receive a settlement under the Jones Act.
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 an employer wrongfully refused payment of maintenance and cure.
Seaman 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. Learn more about your rights by contacting Arnold & Itkin today.
The Jones Act Claims Process
Ultimately, the Jones Act was created to make it easier for seamen to get back on their feet and to encourage vessel owners and operators to maintain a safe work environment. If any negligent or hazardous condition could result in a significant payout, it makes companies far more likely to keep workers safe. The Jones Act claims process still requires you to have an advocate, however. A lawyer who has represented injured seamen before is more likely to understand how to handle a maritime lawsuit than someone with no experience with Jones Act claims.
Here's the Jones Act claims process (in abridged form):
- You'll report the injury to your supervisor or captain
- The company will ask for an accident report
- You'll get medical treatment
- You'll hire a lawyer for injured seamen
- You'll settle the case or file suit
There are a few things to keep in mind. One, your employer cannot withhold medical care from you for any reason. We've represented cases where employers forced workers to fill out accident reports and sign waivers prior to seeing a doctor. This is unethical and a violation of your rights. If you're not comfortable filling out a form before seeing a doctor, then say so (and make it clear). Two, your accident report will ask you who was at fault. You have two choices: say it was the employer, or say you're not sure. Saying it was your fault or that you in any way caused the accident, even without meaning to, could end your case before its begun. Finally, you have the right to choose your own doctor and see someone you are fully comfortably with.
How Long Do Jones Act Lawsuits Take?
Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, we can explain the different factors that would lengthen or shorten your Jones Act lawsuit process. The first thing to consider is the investigation of your case. Investigating what happened, who caused it to happen, and how it affected your long-term 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 on the length of the case is how willing the other party is to settle. In many cases, our law firm will build such a strong case that the defendant will settle with you fairly quickly. In other cases, our law firm 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.
It is also important to note that in certain jurisdictions, Jones Act seaman may be entitled to preferential treatment and/or trials. If you have further questions, we encourage you to contact our firm today.
DIfferences Between Jones Act Cases & Personal Injury Cases
- Jones Act cases are filed against your employer
- Jones Act cases involve maritime insurance companies
- Jones Act cases tend to have a higher average value
- Jones Act cases require lawyers who are experienced with maritime law
- Jones Act cases often involve more life-changing injuries on average
Why You Don't Want to Settle Quickly
When it comes to serious accidents, the Jones Act claims process should take as long as it takes for you to reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). MMI is simply a medical term for when you've healed as much as you're going to. For example, if you lost the ability to walk, then MMI would be the point at which you're as good as you're going to get without regaining the ability to walk. The difference between your MMI before the accident and after the accident is what will determine how much your case is worth.
If you call us, a lawyer will be able to explain all of this in detail. The main idea is this: Jones Act claims require experience and strategy to maximize your settlement or verdict. Settling your case as quickly as possible may leave you without vital funds you'll need for the rest of your life. While you may be anxious to move on with your life, a good lawyer will recognize that having patience will pay off in the end.
Jones Act Claims Are Fault-Based
Another reason for the higher payouts is that a Jones Act claim is fault-based, but has 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’ comp 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 than in a workers’ comp 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 to provide compensation.
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 and others may help support your claim of unseaworthiness against a vessel owner. 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.
If you believe that an unseaworthy ship caused your offshore accident, it is wise to consult an attorney on how to proceed. Claims of unseaworthiness usually require a detailed analysis of the conditions aboard a vessel, and you need legal protection during every step of the claims process. We at Arnold & Itkin can work to alleviate your suffering by pursuing the maximum amount of compensation available!
How to Prepare Yourself for a Jones Act Case
Use your recovery time as wisely as possible. Don't rush in to anything, and don't sign anything until your injuries have been fully understood. That means knowing how long you'll be injured. It's not always clear how long you'll be injured, and signing away your rights before knowing if you'll be injured for the rest of your life could be disastrous for you.
Instead, focus on seeing as many doctors as necessary to understand what you're facing. Request specialists to examine your injuries to understand the ramifications of your accident.
If you're not sure who to call next, speak with our Jones Act claims lawyers in a free consultation. We can put you in touch with leading medical specialists for your injuries and discuss how you can provide for yourself while we investigate your accident. We can also discuss how much your Jones Act case might be worth, and how our firm can help you recover your medical costs, lost earnings, and more.
Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act vs. the Jones Act
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 (LHWCA) operate differently, and 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—that is, 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. Thought it is a federal workers’ compensation program, the LHWCA still provides better benefits than general claims.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act specifically covers mariners who work out 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 able to pursue a claim under the Jones Act.
Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA)
The LWHCA 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 on the job. The LWHCA provides them the opportunity to seek out compensation for their injuries. However, injured workers must seek out this payment from the U.S. Department of Labor through filing a certain claim.
Why Should I Hire a Texas Jones Act Lawyer? Won't My Offshore Company Take Care of Me?
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? There are a lot of things that set us apart, including our preferential location in Houston, TX.
Some of the benefits of working with Arnold & Itkin:
- We move cases faster. If you have been seriously injured and you're looking to fight for compensation, 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 have preferential trial settings. We have preferential trial settings. By law, Texas courts have to give Jones Act seamen a preferential trial setting. That means that your case will move to the top of the list and not have to wait behind other cases. This also means that we can get you justice sooner in Texas than we could in other states where the laws are not as favorable to workers.
- We get better values. 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. If you want to learn more about our verdicts and settlements, please click here.
- We have the experience to take on big companies. If you're filing a claim against a large company, you need to know that your attorney has the experience to handle the high-stakes situation. At Arnold & Itkin, we have taken on large corporations before and been successful. We won't be daunted, and we won't be overwhelmed. We know the best way to do it and will fight for you. Better yet? We will be fighting them on our turf and in our backyard. The experience that small town lawyers simply are not going to be able to provide to you.
Your future is simply too important to leave into the hands of a lawyer who is unfamiliar with maritime law or an attorney handling their first big case. You want someone who knows the ropes and knows the system, 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 billions on behalf of our clients. We have the experience, qualifications, and desire to help you. So what are you waiting for? We work on a contingency fee basis, so you have nothing to lose.
Houston Jones Act Lawyers Protecting Injured Seaman Nationwide
If you have recently been injured while offshore, it is important that 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. Our legal insight and professional opinion on the maritime industry have been featured on networks like CNN, the Houston Chronicle, ABC News, and more. When you want proven courtroom warriors, we are the name oil corporations and shipping companies fear most.
Call (888) 493-1629 to speak with our team! We’re happy to help answer your questions.
Jones Act FAQ
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 work in the best interest of injured workers. If you’re taken to a company doctor, you have the right to receive a second opinion later or request to see a private doctor later 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.
"Once they came here, they pretty much told me they just wanted me to get back focusing on trying to continue living my life without the lawsuit going on. They just wanted me to focus back on my family and just having that peace in life. They told me they were pretty much going to handle everything, I wasn’t going to have to worry about anything—which they held up to that. Just knowing that they were going to do everything that they could to make sure that they find out the truth, to make sure we were taken care of for life. Just seeing that they actually cared. I truly believed that they actually cared and wanted the best for the families. They didn’t just think you were a number. They actually care."
- Tinisha T.