Navigating the high seas can be treacherous for maritime workers, who face dangers and challenges that can lead to injuries. For these workers, the Jones Act offers a lifeline, providing protection and compensation in case of on-the-job injuries. But what is the Jones Act and how can a Houston maritime attorney from Abraham Watkins help my case?

Cargo ship in the ocean.

This federal law works to ensure the rights of injured maritime workers. With the help of a competent Houston maritime attorney, injured seamen can get the compensation they deserve. At Abraham Watkins, our experienced maritime attorneys know the ins and outs of the Jones Act and offshore personal injury cases. Give us a call today at 713-535-9319, and let our experienced legal professionals navigate the intricacies of the Jones Act on your behalf. Your understanding of this critical legislation begins with us.

Understanding the Jones Act and Its Importance

Known as the Merchant Marine Act, the Jones Act is a federal law regulating shipping between American ports. It provides offshore workers the right to file claims against employers and vessel owners for injuries incurred on the job. This law is vital in the maritime industry, as it ensures that injured seamen can seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. By holding vessel owners and employers accountable for negligence, the Jones Act promotes safety in the maritime workplace.

The Jones Act covers those workers who suffer injury or develop an illness working on or aboard a vessel.  A Jones Act claim may be brought for compensation when a worker suffers injury due to the negligence of the vessel owner, operator, or another employee.   A vessel owner is obligated to maintain a safe vessel. This duty extends to all equipment on the ship as well. If you are injured due to negligence or the unseaworthiness of a vessel, a lawyer from Abraham Watkins can assist in unraveling the intricacies of this claim, making sure injured maritime workers are rightfully compensated.

Key Provisions of the Jones Act

The Jones Act encompasses provisions for seamen injured as a result of employer negligence or the unseaworthiness of the vessel, enabling them to pursue legal action for compensation and guaranteeing a secure work environment. Standards provided by OSHA, the U.S. Coast Guard, and maritime safety authorities are generally considered when determining if an employer was negligent in providing a safe workplace under the Jones Act. These standards may also apply to other maritime laws, such as the Harbor Workers Compensation Act.

To receive compensation for a Jones Act case, it must be demonstrated that the vessel owner, operator, or crew was negligent and responsible for the injuries in question. A lawyer practicing in Houston and focused on the Jones Act can assist in compiling necessary evidence and constructing a compelling case. Fortunately, the legal burden for proving negligence in a Jones Act case is lower than a typical negligence case. 

It is worth noting, in addition to the Jones Act, injured maritime workers may also be eligible for compensation under general maritime law. A maritime attorney from Abraham Watkins can assess the case, identify the suitable legal options to follow, and offer counsel during the entire process.

Who Is Covered by the Jones Act?

The Jones Act applies to maritime workers, including sailors and crew members, on American vessels. It does not, however, cover harbor or longshoremen workers. The term “vessel” is broadly defined and encompasses a wide range of vessels, ranging from large cargo ships and jack-ups to small tugboats. Injured maritime workers on any of these vessels may be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act.

To qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, an individual must be assigned to a vessel or fleet vessels and their responsibilities must contribute to the vessel’s purpose. They must also have spent at least 30% of their working service on the vessel. Jobs that don’t fit the classic definition of a seaman career may still qualify as a Jones Act seaman. Examples include cruise ship bartenders and chefs, dive instructors and masters on charter diving vessels, commercial divers, and welders on jack-up vessels. A personal injury lawyer with extensive experience can assist in identifying eligibility under the Jones Act.

The Role of a Houston Maritime Attorney in Jones Act Cases

In Jones Act cases, a Houston maritime attorney plays a crucial role, ranging from case evaluation to traversing the intricate claims process, with a commitment to ensuring injured workers attain the compensation they are entitled to. Engaging experienced legal counsel from Abraham Watkins can greatly enhance the prospects of achieving successful outcomes in a Jones Act proceeding. The timeline of a Jones Act lawsuit may depend on various factors, including the investigation of the case, the collection of evidence, the engagement of professional witnesses, and the readiness of the other party to reach a settlement.

By engaging an experienced Jones Act attorney from Abraham Watkins, injured maritime workers can safeguard their rights and ensure they receive proper compensation. A Houston Jones Act attorney can provide guidance and representation throughout the process, from the initial evaluation to the final settlement or litigation. Consulting a Jones Act lawyer can be a valuable step in protecting your rights as a maritime worker.

Evaluating Your Case

After sustaining an injury, it is recommended that the worker consult with a Houston Jones Act attorney to explore their recovery options. A Houston Jones act lawyer from Abraham Watkins considers crucial components such as:

  • Duties of care;
  • Vessel ownership and operation;
  • Maintenance and cure;
  • Seaman classification;
  • Unseaworthiness;
  • Acts of Negligence.

To evaluate a Jones Act case, a maritime attorney may require information or documentation such as case facts and details of the incident, documentation of the injuries sustained, photographs or videos of the accident scene and vessel conditions, and information about the vessel, such as its navigation status, crew, and purpose. The evaluation process typically involves reporting the injury to the captain, employer, or senior officer; filing an accident report; seeking medical attention for the injury; ensuring that the captain reports the incident; collecting evidence and conducting an investigation; analyzing the facts of the case and the applicable laws; evaluating whether there was negligence that resulted in the injuries; and determining the settlement value of the case.

At Abraham Watkins, our seasoned Houston maritime attorneys, who are also experienced personal injury lawyers, can aid injured maritime workers in comprehending their rights and selecting the optimal course of action, taking into account their case’s unique circumstances.

Navigating the Claims Process

A maritime attorney plays a pivotal role in the Jones Act claims process, focusing on maritime law and possessing an in-depth understanding of the Jones Act and its application. Abraham Watkins will:

  • Guide clients through the claims process;
  • Ensure the accurate and timely completion of all required paperwork;
  • Fervently advocate for their rights to secure the compensation due for their suffering and losses.

Negotiation and settlement in Jones Act claims involve settlement negotiations between the injured employee, their attorney, and the insurance company. This process typically involves:

  • Research;
  • Investigation;
  • Correspondence;
  • Collecting evidence.

Generally, these claims are settled without going to trial, and it is beneficial to have an experienced attorney to assist with the negotiation process.

While many Jones Act claims do not proceed to litigation, the determination to proceed depends on the individual facts of each case. Engaging a Houston Jones Act attorney allows injured maritime workers to safeguard their rights and ensure they receive just compensation, be it through negotiation, settlement, or litigation.

Types of Compensation Available Under the Jones Act

Injured maritime workers can seek various types of compensation under the Jones Act, including:

  • Maintenance and cure benefits: compensation for day-to-day living expenses (maintenance) and medical costs (cure) from their employer. These benefits are considered ‘no-fault’ compensation and are distinct from negligence or unseaworthiness claims;
  • Compensation for unseaworthiness claims;
  • Compensation for negligence claims.

Maintenance and Cure Benefits

Maintenance and cure benefits provide financial and medical support for injured seamen until they reach maximum medical improvement or return to work. Maintenance benefits include wages, room, and board for injured seamen from the time they are discharged from the ship until they reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) or return to their job. The weekly rate for maintenance benefits encompasses housing, utilities, food, transportation, and other essential living expenses.

Cure payments cover a wide range of medical expenses, including:

  • Surgery;
  • Emergency treatment;
  • Doctor visits;
  • Medication;
  • Medical devices;
  • Occupational therapy.

These are necessary costs for obtaining appropriate medical care. These benefits enable injured maritime workers to concentrate on their recovery, relieving them of the financial stress associated with medical bills and daily living expenses.

It should be highlighted that maintenance and cure benefits are accessible to injured seamen, independent of fault. In other words, even if the injured worker was partially responsible for their injury, they are still entitled to receive maintenance and cure benefits under the Jones Act and general maritime law.

Unseaworthiness and Negligence Claims

Boats in the ocean.

A claim of unseaworthiness under the Jones Act can be filed when a ship owner has not met their legal responsibility of providing a seaworthy vessel. The vessel must have:

  • Structural soundness;
  • Proper equipment;
  • A competent crew;
  • A safe working environment.

Unseaworthiness claims allow injured maritime workers to seek compensation for injuries caused by unseaworthiness.

In addition to unseaworthiness claims, injured maritime workers can also pursue negligence claims under the Jones Act if their employer fails to exercise reasonable care in providing a safe workplace. Employers are held liable for the negligence of their employees, including the captain and crew, and may be required to compensate injured workers for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the accident.

Injured maritime workers seeking to file unseaworthiness and negligence claims should consult a seasoned maritime attorney from Abraham Watkins. Our professionals can assist them in navigating the intricacies of the claims process and ensure they get the deserved compensation.

How Abraham Watkins Can Help

The Jones Act serves as a crucial lifeline for injured maritime workers, offering protection and compensation in case of on-the-job injuries. With the help of a Houston maritime attorney, injured workers can navigate the complexities of Jones Act claims, ensuring they receive the compensation they deserve. From maintenance and cure benefits to unseaworthiness and negligence claims, the Jones Act provides a comprehensive framework for injured maritime workers to seek justice.

Abraham Watkins, a Houston-based law firm with a track record of success in personal injury cases, offers the following services for injured maritime workers:

  • Free consultations and case reviews;
  • Experienced guidance and representation in Jones Act claims;
  • Attorneys who are board-certified and possess the relevant qualifications to handle complex maritime injury cases.

Our commitment lies in helping our clients secure the deserved compensation. We believe everyone deserves access to high-quality legal representation without an upfront cost.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a maritime accident, contact us today at 713-535-9319 for a complimentary consultation and case review.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the Jones Act work?

The Jones Act provides injured seamen coverage for present and anticipated future medical expenses, such as medication, physical therapy, and surgery. It also allows them to bring a personal injury action against their employers. 

What is the Jones Act for maritime claims?

The Jones Act is a federal law providing qualified maritime workers the right to sue their employers and seek compensation for injuries suffered on the job. It entitles seamen to “maintenance and cure” reimbursements and requires workers be provided with a safe working environment and a seaworthy vessel.

Are all maritime workers covered by the Jones Act?

This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. Consult with an experienced maritime attorney at Abraham Watkins to determine your rights if you have been injured working on a vessel. 

What types of compensation are available under the Jones Act?

Under the Jones Act, injured maritime workers can seek maintenance and cure benefits, as well as compensation for unseaworthiness and negligence claims. 

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We offer a free consultation to prospective clients. If you have been injured and wish to speak to one of our attorneys in a no-cost consultation, please call us at (713) 222-7211. or toll free at 713-222-7211

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