What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a federal maritime law that provides benefits to workers who are injured on sea going vessels on navigable waters and offshore oil rigs which can be towed and are not permanently affixed to the ocean floor. Whether you are a seaman, an officer, a harbor pilot, an oil worker, a technician, a helicopter pilot, work on a tugboat, barge, ship, supply boat, semi-submersible drilling rig, jack-up drilling rig or if you become injured on or near the water, you should talk to a lawyer before making a claim or as soon as possible thereafter. Benefits include maintenance and cure. Maintenance is daily pay to workers who are unable to work pursuant to doctor's orders. Cure includes medical care, doctors, hospitals and prescriptions drugs.
What is the difference between Jones Act Claims, Longshore Claims and Workers Compensation Claims?
Don't make the mistake of thinking that a Maritime Law case is a workers' compensation case. Workers' Compensation laws are passed by the various States with relatively small cash settlements. The Jones Act is a federal law involving very high cash settlements if the slightest negligence is involved or unseaworthiness of the vessel. There is no State or federal agency involved in the administration of claims unlike workers' compensation and Longshore-Harbor Worker Act. Injured workers covered under the this law should be careful about making claims under workers' compensation or the Longshore-Harbor Workers' Act. It is possible to lose rights if the worker elects benefits under other laws. If you have mistakenly made a claim under the wrong law, call us immediately to see if we can put things right. Settlements in maritime law cases can be significant and the law complex. Injured workers should consult with a lawyer early in the case and be aware of the employer's desire to minimize their losses.
What is Maintenance?
Maintenance under the Jones Act means a daily compensation to cover the cost of basic food and shelter that the seaman would have received aboard the vessel while on duty. Maintenance rates are low and typically range from $15 to $50 per day.
What is cure?
Cure, as provided under the Jones Act, includes medical treatment, prescription medications, therapy, doctor visits, nursing services, hospital expenses and other necessary treatment in the course of recovery until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement.
What is maximum medical improvement?
Once an injured worker reaches a point in his recovery after which he will not improve any further, or if he is permanently disabled and treatment will no longer improve his condition, then he has reached maximum medical improvement. At this time, maintenance and cure payments end. Even if an injured still needs medication or treatment to control pain, once his physical condition has reached its maximum medical improvement these benefits will cease.
Can I qualify for benefits as both a Longshore-Harbor Worker and a Jones Act seaman?
No, you are either a seaman under the Jones Act or you are a Longshore or Harbor Worker covered under the LHWCA or Longshore-Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. The law in these two areas is very complicated. You should consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable in the field of maritime claims with experience handling Jones Act cases to determine your proper status under the law. You may only recover under one of these legal remedies and cannot afford to waste time pursuing the wrong cause of action.
How long do I have to file my claim?
The statute of limitations for filing a Jones Act claim is three years from the date of injury. The same limits exist for filing claims against a vessel owner for the unseaworthiness of the vessel. It is worth noting that a Fifth Circuit decision rendered that the statute of limitations for filing a Jones Act claim is not equitably tolled during the time a LHWCA claim is pending. Therefore, it is imperative that you speak to an experienced Jones Act attorney to determine if you qualify under the act and to ensure that suit is properly filed prior to the statute of limitations running out.
What happens if I filed a state workers' compensation or Longshore-Harbor Workers Compensation Act claim first?
If you first file a claim under a different legal remedy, such as the LHWCA and find that you are not entitled to recovery under that theory of law, you may run out of time to file a Jones Act claim. Furthermore, because dual recovery is not allowed, filing a claim under a state's workers' compensation statutes may bar your recovery under the Jones Act. If you have mistakenly filed a claim under another theory of law, call us immediately so that we may correct things.
What if I received voluntary payments of LHWCA benefits from my employer?
If your employer has voluntarily paid benefits to you under the LHWCA guidelines without an administrative hearing or formal settlement requiring such payment, you may still pursue a Jones Act cause of action. However, the LHWCA specifically provides for any monies recovered under the Jones Act and paid to an injured worker who has been compensated under its provisions for an injury, disability or death to be credited against any liability imposed by the LHWCA.
Why hire a Maritime Lawyer?
Some employers will attempt to discourage workers from obtaining information about their legal rights and will try to get workers to file claims under workers' compensation laws or longshore Harborworker laws instead of the Jones Act. If an employer is unwilling to fairly compensate workers, a lawsuit can be filed in federal district court seeking damages, however most cases are settled prior to trial. The Ogletree Abbott Law Firm has knowledgeable maritime lawyers and attorneys who will help you during this difficult time. Competent maritime lawyers can:
- Communicate with the employer and insurance company on your behalf
- Make sure that your future medical bills are taken care of
- Make sure that you are adequately retrained if you can't do your old job
- Make sure that you don't lose your house, your car and other property
- Get you the cash settlement that you deserve.
How much are Attorney's Fees?
Attorney's fees for Maritime and Jones Act claims are 33 1/3% for claims settled without filing a lawsuit and 40% for claims settled after a lawsuit is filed. You owe nothing if there is no settlement or award.
Let Us Help You
No matter where you live, the lawyers and attorneys at the Ogletree Abbott Law Firm can help you get the help you need. If you would like, a lawyer or an attorney can contact you to answer your questions. There is no obligation and the initial phone call is always free of charge. Call toll free 1-800-JonesAct (800-779-4950 ), or send us an email. Call today and let us help you with any questions regarding Jones Act, Maritime, or Offshore Injury claims.