Working at sea, in a harbor or on the waterfront can be very dangerous for a variety of reasons. When an injury occurs, workers may not know how to seek compensation because they may have heard they are excluded from workers’ compensation laws.
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Fortunately, they may be able to seek compensation for damages under The Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Our Traverse City marine injury lawyers have extensive knowledge of these laws and how to determine whether an injured worker may have an eligible case. We are prepared to manage the legal process on your behalf.
Our firm, Jay Trucks and Associates, has recovered more than $500,000,000 in compensation on behalf of Michigan injury victims, and we have more than 250 five-star reviews from satisfied clients. Your initial consultation comes at no charge. We also work on contingency so there are no upfront fees for our legal services or while we represent you. We only get paid after obtaining compensation for you.
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The Jones Act
You can think of this law as a replacement of sorts for workers’ compensation laws. Injured seamen who qualify to file claims may be able to take legal action against their employer, or a coworker, if they can prove their injury was the result of willful misconduct, negligence, neglect or refusal to follow laws governing safe navigation of vessels.
Jones Act claims are more complicated than workers’ compensation claims because, unlike a workers’ compensation claim, you are required to establish negligence.
Do I Qualify to File a Jones Act Claim?
This is a question you can ask one of our licensed Traverse City marine injury lawyers in a free consultation. There are various factors to consider, particularly how and where your injury occurred.
Who Does the Jones Act Cover?
Captains or crewmembers who spend a minimum of 30 percent of their total employment time on a vessel that is in navigation may qualify to file a Jones Act claim. Crewmembers may include masters, mates, engineers, pilots and various other employees. They must be contributing to the mission of the vessel, which is why administrative staff who do not spend much time on the vessel are likely not covered by The Jones Act.
The phrase, “in navigation” means the boat or vessel is afloat, in operation and capable of moving on waters where vessels can travel (waters that can be used for interstate or foreign commerce – such as Lake Michigan or Lake Erie). A vessel that is not moving may qualify if it has a motor or sail that could be used. Even vessels that are tied up at a dock may be considered as navigable. Vessels that are outside of the water, such as ships being built, do not qualify as in navigation.
There are various examples of vessels that may fall under The Jones Act, such as:
- Fishing boats
- Cargo ships
- Cruise ships
- Charter boats
- Diving support craft
- Oil tankers
- Jack-up rigs
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How to Prove Negligence in a Jones Act Claim
Negligence in a Jones Act claim means your employer, or a co-worker, failed to use ordinary care to help prevent an injury from an unsafe condition, such as:
- Slippery or wet floors
- Failure to do an effective safety inspection
- Failing to require members of the crew to follow safety regulations
- Failing to install handrails or grip strips on ladders
- Failure to safely maintain equipment
- Failing to have fire extinguishers on the vessel
- Poor training of crewmembers
A Jones Act claim only requires that you prove negligence contributed to your accident in some small way as opposed to a personal injury claim, where you must establish negligence was the main cause of your injuries.
Even though Jones Act claims require a lower burden of proof, you should still consider hiring a lawyer, as those with legal representation often recover more compensation than those who do not.
Call a Traverse City marine injury attorney today: (800) 762-8623.
Can Ship Owners be Held Liable for Injuries?
It may be possible to hold a ship owner liable for your injuries. However, you or your attorney would need to prove the vessel, because of the hazardous condition that caused your injury, was unseaworthy and an unsafe place to work.
Your attorney would also need to provide evidence of the unsafe condition that caused your injury and made the vessel unseaworthy, such as a slippery surface or poorly maintained equipment. Failing to provide warnings about the dangers of using a piece of equipment could also be a condition that made the vessel unseaworthy.
What Benefits Does the Jones Act Provide?
You can pursue compensation for the economic effects of your injury, such as medical bills for past and future treatment (surgeries, stays in the hospital, physical therapy, prescription medications, etc.), lost wages, and loss of earning capacity if you cannot work in the same job as before the injury. You may also be able to pursue compensation for certain non-economic effects of your injury, which may include:
Pain and Suffering
This refers to the physical pain from your injuries and the psychological damage an injury may cause, such as depression, permanent disfigurement and mental anguish.
Lost Enjoyment of Life
Sometimes injuries prevent you from being able to engage in the same activities you enjoyed before your injury, such as hobbies or activities with family members, like playing sports with your children.
The Jones Act also provides for maintenance payments, which means compensation to pay your living expenses while you are trying to recover. Living expenses could include mortgage or rent payments, utilities, property taxes, food, home insurance and more. Court decisions have clarified that employers are supposed to cover the full cost of covered living expenses. In the past, employers only provided a small amount of compensation that often did not fully cover an employee’s expenses.
Our firm is available to answer your questions about the potential value of your claim.
Who is Not Covered by the Jones Act?
Those who work on the harbor are not covered by the Jones Act because they do not spend at least 30 percent of their total employment time in a vessel on the water. However, there is another law that covers these employees in the event of an injury.
What is the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
The LHWCA is a federal law providing workers’ compensation benefits for covered workers. The law covers many types of employees who work on wharves, docks, piers, terminals and other locations where vessels may be loaded or unloaded. Examples of employees who may be covered by the law include:
- Harbor construction workers
- Ship breakers
- Ship repairment
- Those who transport goods between ships, including those who drive trucks that transport goods
Many workers are specifically excluded from the law, such as:
- Restaurant employees
- Museum, camp or club workers
- Clerical workers
- Security personnel
- Employees covered by The Jones Act
- Employees covered by workers’ compensation laws
- Employees who were injured because of their intoxication
- Workers involved in unloading vessels that do not weigh 18 tons or more
- Workers involved in building ships that are not at least 65 feet long
- Aquaculture workers
Many accidental injuries or deaths that occur in the course of eligible workers’ employment. You may be able to obtain compensation for a disease that arises during the course of your employment or the willful actions of a third party.
Compensation That May be Available
The LHWCA is similar to workers’ compensation laws in that it provides partial and total disability benefits, coverage for your reasonable medical bills and vocational rehabilitation. Your disability/injury must last for a minimum of three days. When injuries last for 14 days or more you may also be eligible for compensation for the first three days of your disability.
The LHWCA says total disability benefits equal two-thirds of your average weekly wage and partial disability benefits equal two-thirds of the difference between your current earnings and your pre-injury earnings.
The LHWCA has a benefit schedule for those who suffer the loss of:
- One or both arms
- One or both legs
Meanwhile, total disability benefits cannot be more than 50 percent of the national average weekly wage. Death benefits cannot be more than 200 percent of the national average weekly wage.
Call a Traverse City Marine Injury Lawyer Today
You must prove your injury resulted from negligence to obtain compensation in a Jones Act claim. That is just one reason why injured seamen and harbor workers should strongly consider seeking legal representation from an experienced attorney with extensive knowledge of relevant laws.
At Jay Trucks and Associates, we have more than 150 years of combined experience. Our firm has been advocating for Michigan injury victims for decades and we work on contingency, which means no upfront fees for our services. We do not get paid until you do.
We know compensation cannot change what happened to you, but it may help as you and your family look to move forward and manage the damages your injury has caused.
In a free consultation, you can learn more about how we may be able to assist you and the benefits of working with a licensed attorney.
Contact us anytime. Ph: (800) 762-8623.