Getting hurt on the job can be devastating under any circumstances. A workplace injury for a maritime worker or seaman can severely limit that worker’s ability to earn wages and pay medical bills.
Injuries sustained in maritime jobs can be particularly debilitating. Many maritime workers sustain fatal injuries at work. If you or someone you love recently got hurt at work in a maritime job, it is essential to learn more about options for compensation. A Kentucky maritime personal injury lawyer can help with your case.
At Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, we are committed to maritime workers and their families with a wide variety of maritime injuries, from injuries occurring on barges or riverboat casinos to injuries happening on tug boats, crew boats, and other watercraft.
We have years of experience representing clients with Jones Act claims and claims arising under the Longshore Act. An advocate at our firm can discuss your options for seeking financial compensation when you contact us for a free consultation.
Jones Act Claims
If you are a maritime worker or recently lost a loved one in a maritime injury, you might have heard about the Jones Act (46 U.S.C. § 30104). Yet you may be wondering, “What is the Jones Act and what does it do for injured maritime workers?”
It is extremely important to maritime workers because the Jones Act concerns “the maritime industry’s responsibilities regarding safety and well-being of crew,” according to a PBS Newshour report.
The Jones Act extends the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) to certain marine workers. For certain types of marine workers, suffering an injury in the course of employment can result in the injured worker being eligible to bring an injury claim against the employer. The Jones Act allows an injured worker to bring a claim and to have a right to a jury trial.
The Jones Act specifically states the following:
“A seaman injured in the course of employment or, if the seaman dies from the injury, the personal representative of the seaman may elect to bring a civil action at law, with the right of trial by jury, against the employer. Laws of the United States regulating recovery for personal injury to, or death of, a railway employee apply to an action under this section.”
Compensation in Jones Act Claims
Under the Jones Act, an eligible injured marine worker may be able to obtain multiple forms of compensation. Unlike a workers’ compensation claim, a claim brought under the Jones Act is, in effect, a personal injury claim brought against the employer.
Generally speaking, the damages that an injured seaman may be eligible to receive include the following:
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Past, present, and future medical expenses
- Pain, suffering, and mental anguish in the past, present, and future
These damages can compensate an injured seaman for both economic and non-economic losses. In suing for lost wages and lost earning capacity, the injured seaman can be eligible to receive jones act workers compensation for lost benefits like health insurance, pension or other retirement contributions, and even lost vacation time.
In some cases, depending on the specific evidence in the case, the injured seaman also may be able to seek compensation for future wage raises or promotions that she or he would have received if it were not for the injury.
How will a court calculate lost wages and lost earning capacity under the Jones Act? Lost wages (those that already have been lost due to the injury and inability to work) are relatively easy to calculate. The court can simply look at the worker’s wage rate at the point prior to the injury, and then can calculate the total amount of compensation including fringe benefits that the worker may have lost (such as health insurance benefits or contributions to a retirement account).
However, calculating future lost wages or lost earning capacity can be more complicated. Your lawyer can work with experts to determine your work life expectancy and to gather evidence concerning the wages you would have been likely to earn had you continued working and received promotions on the job.
What about medical expenses? Past and present medical expenses should be relatively simple to calculate given that these are precise economic losses with clear dollar figures. Assuming that the injured maritime worker also has information from health care providers about likely future treatment needs and costs, the court should also be able to calculate a compensation amount for future medical expenses.
Compensation for pain, suffering, and mental anguish can be much more complicated to calculate. Since this is a type of non-economic loss — or one that does not have an objective dollar figure attached to it — the court will take into account a variety of factors that are specific to the plaintiff’s case.
Each case varies when it comes to compensation for pain, suffering, and mental anguish. The court will determine what a dollar figure might look like to make the plaintiff whole again by examining the severity of the injury, whether it produced scarring or disfigurement, whether it has produced other disabilities that result in the loss of enjoyment of life and emotional distress, and whether it has resulted in other losses.
Who Qualifies Under the Jones Act?
In order to qualify under the Jones Act and to file a claim against your employer, you need to be able to show that you are a “seaman” as it is defined under federal law. A seaman is typically defined as someone who performs a substantial amount of his or her work on a ship, boat, or other vessel, but the definition is a complicated one.
Generally speaking, you must be able to prove the following three conditions in order to qualify under the Jones Act:
- A substantial amount of your employment was based on the vessel where you were injured.
- You were aboard the vessel in navigation when you were injured.
- Your job involved contributing significantly to the vessel’s primary purpose.
The classification or definition of a “seaman” can be complex. In order to be classified as a “seaman” and eligible to file a claim under the Jones Act, you will need to be able to prove that a substantial amount of your employment tool place on a vessel.
What counts as a vessel under the Jones Act? Any of the following types of vessels that are often used on the Ohio River, Big Sandy River, Tennessee River, and other waterways in Kentucky may count as “vessels” for purposes of the Jones Act:
- Riverboat casinos
- Tug boats
- Crew boats
- Supply boats
- Fishing boats
Then, you will need to prove that the vessel was “in navigation” at the time of your injury. What does “in navigation” mean? In general, it means that the vessel was afloat, was being operated, was capable of moving, and was on navigable waters. Finally, you will need to show that your work contributed to the work of the vessel. This is a broad term, and your attorney can help you to prove this requirement.
Just because you are eligible to file a claim under the Jones Act does not mean that you are automatically entitled to compensation. Eligibility means that you are permitted to file a claim against your employer under the Jones Act. Once you are eligible and file a claim, then you must prove that your employer was negligent and that your employer’s negligence caused your injury.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
If you are not eligible to file a claim and seek compensation under the Jones Act, you may be eligible for compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
This is a federal law that provides compensation for medical care and vocational rehabilitation services to workers who have suffered disabling injuries on jobs that occur on navigable water of the United States or adjoining areas.
The LHWCA covers more types of maritime workers than the Jones Act, including people in a variety of traditional maritime jobs such as:
- Longshore workers
- Ship repairers
- Ship builders
- Ship breakers
- Construction workers on harbors or dock areas
To be eligible, the worker’s injuries must have occurred on navigable waters of the U.S. or adjoining areas, such as:
- Areas for loading or unloading vessels
Injured workers also may be eligible for compensation under the LHWCA even if they are not traditional maritime workers but their injuries occurred on navigable waters of the United States.
What to Do Right After a Maritime Accident
After a maritime accident, it is extremely important to do everything you can to ensure that you are eligible to seek compensation for your losses:
- Report the accident to your supervisor immediately. Do not try to continue working.
- Seek medical treatment immediately, and if possible, go to a doctor of your choice. You should know that a doctor hired by your employer may not put your needs first.
- Take pictures of the accident scene and surrounding conditions if you can. Your lawyer will be able to use this information to support your claim.
- Get contact information from witnesses. It could be hard to find those witnesses later if you are not still working on that vessel.
- Contact an injury lawyer as soon as possible. Although the Jones Act has a three-year statute of limitations, it is better to start the process of filing your claim as soon as possible.
Common Types of Maritime Injuries
Maritime injuries can vary widely in severity and type, depending on the worker’s job and the nature of the task. Some of the following are types of accidents that result in serious maritime injuries:
- Slip and fall accidents
- Falls from heights
- Falling overboard, leading to drowning or hypothermia
- Machine accidents
- Heavy equipment caught-between accidents on docks and piers
- Crane accidents
- Entrapment in an enclosed space
These accidents may result in some of the following types of injuries:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Broken bones or fractures
- Muscle strains and sprains
- Severe bruising or contusions
- Asphyxia in an enclosed space
- Toxic fumes poisoning
- Chemical burns
- Lost limbs/amputation injuries
- Overexertion or repetitive motion disorders
How a Kentucky Maritime Injury Attorney Can Help
A Kentucky maritime injury attorney can help with every aspect of your case, including the following:
- Determining your eligibility to file a claim under the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and proving that you are eligible to seek compensation under these laws
- Filing your lawsuit
- Tracking down witnesses and witness statements to support your claim
- Gathering evidence to show that your employer was negligent
- Seeking a reasonable settlement
- Taking your case to a jury verdict to seek full compensation for your losses
Contact a Kentucky Maritime Injury Lawyer
If you were injured in a maritime accident and think you may have a claim under the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, you should speak with a Kentucky maritime injury attorney as soon as possible about your case.
Contact Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer to discuss your case with an experienced advocate at our firm. Our lawyers have the Kentucky Courage you need to fight for your rights after a maritime injury in Kentucky.