Houston Jones Act Lawyers
Representing Injured Workers in Texas & Nationwide
Working as a seaman in the maritime industry is a high-risk occupation. Heavy loads, large equipment, seaworthiness of a vessel, and difficult conditions can all contribute to the elevated risk. 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 refers to The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a federal statute enacted to encourage and maintain the American merchant marine. The statute governs maritime commerce transported between U.S. ports. In addition to general regulations over the maritime commerce industry, the Jones Act affords several key provisions specifically targeting the maritime employee. The nature of maritime work is unique, as much of it takes place on water and involves far more dangerous equipment and responsibilities than any other type of work.
The Jones Act 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 Jones Act was created, in part, to offer relief to injured workers in the maritime industry and to ensure they receive appropriate compensation for their injuries. While a Jones Act claim is usually filed for cases similar to workers' compensation, a Jones Act settlement is usually far greater in terms of actual dollars awarded to an injured worker or their family. 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 covers basic medical care (for the most part).
What Are My Rights Under the Jones Act?
The Jones Act gives qualifying seamen the ability to seek compensation 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 negligence of the vessel owner, operator, or other 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 make a legal claim if injured because of negligence.
- The right to maintenance and cure compensation related to the 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.
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.
Let’s look at a common example.
If a construction worker is struck by a falling pipe, 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 exact 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 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 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, there are many factors that contribute to a ship's seaworthy condition:
- An inadequate number of crewmembers or workers
- Untrained crew or captain
- 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!
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. There are many nuances that 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. In the event that 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 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. 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 offshore injury 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.
Maritime Lawyers Protecting Injured Seaman Nationwide
If you have recently been injured while offshore, it is important that you have an injury 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 offshore injury 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 today to speak with our team! We’re happy to help answer your questions.
"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.