Jones Act Lawyers Alleviate Financial Worries

Jones Act lawyers have one goal in mind – to get you the settlement that you are entitled to because of your maritime accident.  When you suffer a maritime accident, your focus should be on healing, not on financial worries.  However, when your employer refuses to pay your claim, those worries can become very real.  Hiring the services of Jones Act lawyers will help to put your mind at ease.  Your lawyers will go to battle for you, making sure you get what you deserve, and are able to put your financial worries aside.

Jones Act Lawyers Aid Seaman with Crushed Leg

J. Lowes was working as a fisherman on a fishing vessel in Alaska when he needed the services of Jones Act lawyers.  Having worked on the same vessel for the last 12 years, Mr. Lowes knew his job very well and always followed standard operating procedure to ensure that he did not get hurt.  Mr. Lowes was working on the primary vessel when he was required to switch from one boat to another.  The captains of the two vessels were not properly communicating and they ended up crashing into one another just as Mr. Lowes was trying to go from one to the other.  Mr. Lowes’ leg was crushed between the two fishing vessels, resulting in numerous injuries in his leg.

Mr. Lowes’ accident was a rare incident that could have been prevented if his employer had supplied him with the proper avenue to get from one vessel to the other.  Mr. Lowes’ employer was obviously at fault, but the employer refused any liability.  He contacted a team of Jones Act lawyers right away to help him with his claim.  The Jones Act lawyers performed in-depth investigations into the accident and found Mr. Lowes’ employer liable for the accident.  Because his employer refused to cooperate, the case went to trial and the jury awarded Mr. Lowes with $3.5 million.

Jones Act Lawyers Make Employers Cooperate

If you, or a loved one, have been injured in a maritime accident and your employer is not cooperating, contact Jones Act lawyers today.  There is no reason to let your employer get away with not giving you what you deserve as a result of your accident.  Jones Act lawyers will work with you and your employer to make sure you are being treated fairly.  Do not try to take your Jones Act case in your own hands – contact Jones Act lawyers today.

Jones Act Attorney Defended Seaman From Unfair Seafarer’s Agreement, After $700 Severance Payment For Burns And Injuries From Fall

A recent study showed that for every single open cruise ship job, there are 130 applicants. The popularity of cruise ship jobs (and some of the unfairness this may create for the workers) is well known by Jones Act attorneys. Jones Act attorneys are also great sources for protecting the rights of injured cruise ship employees. In the following case, an injured seaman was given $700 after career ending injuries. The seaman, however, got the help of an experienced Jones Act attorney to protect his rights under the Jones Act. Danny Garfield worked as a head waiter on a cruise ship, the CELEBRITY, which sailed under a Panamanian flag. In November, 2004, Garfield slipped and fell on some wet substance in the dining room, causing him to also drop a coffeepot. He injured his spine, right shoulder, and badly burned his leg. He contacted a Jones Act attorney to discuss his legal rights. Some time afterwards, his Jones Act attorney filed suit for negligence against the cruise line, under the Jones Act.

Jones Act Attorney Explained Unfairness Of “Skimpy” Medical Care For Seaman

Garfield had received what the Jones Act attorney was to describe as “substandard medical care” from the onboard physician. For no known reason, that doctor only treated the leg burn, proved the Jones Act attorney. Due to all of his injuries, Garfield was medically “signed off” the vessel soon afterwards, but on regular vacation time instead of medical leave. During this time, he wasn’t given any maintenance or cure payments, nor was he treated for his neck and shoulder injuries. In January, 2005,Garfield again signed onto the CELEBRITY. Over the course of the next several months,Garfield repeatedly visited the ship’s physician. The medical treatments were later detailed by the Jones Act attorney in this way: (1) at first, he was told that he didn’t even have any injuries; (2) was treated only with analgesic balm and pain killers; and (3) eventually was signed off the vessel, now due to injuries, but again on regular vacation leave.

Before being signed off from the ship the second time, there were many days Garfield couldn’t do his job, because of his shoulder and neck pain, and he lost a lot of pay. Garfield eventually returned to the CELEBRITY a third time, but had to sign a new Seafarer’s Agreement, with an arbitration clause (the “New Agreement”), the Jones Act attorney emphasized. This “New Agreement” specified that any disputes would be arbitrated in the Philippines and resolved under Panamanian law, noted the Jones Act attorney. Just over two months later, in December, 2005, the ship’s physician decided that Garfield’s injuries (from 2004) made him “unfit” for continuing with his head waiter duties, and he was officially, permanently fired. Garfield was given a medical sign-off with a meager $700 payment, the Jones Act attorney showed, and according to court records.

Requiring Arbitration In Philippines Was Prevented By Jones Act Attorney

The employer, relying on the arbitration clause of the Seafarer’s New Agreement with Garfield, filed to have the district court force Garfield to arbitrate the case in the Philippines. The district court granted the motion, saying the arbitration language of the New Agreement was enforceable. The Jones Act attorney, however, continued to point out that the (old) Seafarer’s Agreement (in effect when Garfield was first hurt) did not contain any such arbitration requirement. On that basis, the Jones Act attorney appealed the forced arbitration.

The Jones Act attorney actually agreed that a Court should reasonably order the parties to arbitrate. A Jones Act attorney often uses that process for a fair settlement. But, the Jones Act attorney argued this was not reasonable (or legal). After all, the Jones Act attorney emphasized that the employer was negligent both in causing the accident resulting in his injuries and its medical response. The district court had ordered arbitration, by noting…

“Plaintiff’s claims all arise out of his employment on the CELEBRITY, and interpreting the New Agreement to require arbitration of “all disputes arising out of Plaintiff’s services on the vessel.”

The Jones Act attorney said this language had nothing to do with proving negligence. The Appeals Court agreed with the Jones Act attorney and decided the trial court was wrong in its legal analysis. There was obviously, the Jones Act attorney noted, “no doubt” that Garfield’s claims arose out of his employment on the CELEBRITY. Yet it wasn’t enough for the trial court to say the dispute “arose” from work on the CELEBRITY, emphasized the Jones Act attorney. The dispute about Garfield’s injuries, observed the Jones Act attorney, must have had some actual relationship to the New Agreement. In other words, the New Agreement had nothing to do with the old injury, the Jones Act attorney was to successfully argue.

To prove it, the Jones Act attorney detailed a timeline. Garfield’s claim of negligence under the Jones Act was made up of allegations that involved only events from the slip-and-fall in 2004…before the existence of (and with no connection to) the New Agreement, the Jones Act attorney proved. The seaman could have brought the exact same Jones Act suit, even if he had never had the New Agreement or signed back onto the CELEBRITY. The Appeals court backed the Jones Act attorney and reversed the Philippine arbitration. This allowed Garfield’s Jones Act attorney to go ahead with the claims in US court.

A Jones Act attorney who is experienced with the cruise industry is very familiar with many of that industry’s practices. Immediately after an injury, any seaman will benefit from meeting and talking with a Jones Act attorney. The ways a cruise ship is owned may also be intended to benefit the vessel owner, but the Jones Act itself (as this case showed) also creates protections for when an injured seaman consults with that experienced Jones Act attorney.

Jones Act Attorney: Vessel Owner Could Not Exclude Important Photographic Evidence of Seaman’s Skin Reaction To Carcinogen

Jerry Burton began working for ABC, Inc., a vessel owner, in October 2005. Burton’s Jones Act attorney would later prove Burton, at that time, had no history of skin trouble. Burton was assigned to the M/V Tread as a new deckhand. According to the Jones Act attorney, as part of his deckhand duties,Burton was instructed to enter a large potable water tank to clean it out. Burton later testified to his Jones Act attorney that he was at first given “no protective equipment” to do the job. When he emerged from the tank, he was covered with dust and noticed that he had immediately developed “a sunburn type rash” on his skin, he told his Jones Act attorney.

Over the next several months, Burton told the Jones Act attorney how the rash “would get better when I got off the ship,” and worse when he returned to duty. As time passed, the rash spread. Burton requested medical attention for the rash, which had advanced up his right arm. Doctor Quincy twice treated Burton and diagnosed him with contact dermatitis. This beginning, of what became a long history, of medical treatment was detailed by the Jones Act attorney.

ABC eventually ordered Burton to return to work in the water tank, according to work records obtained by the Jones Act attorney. Burton told his Jones Act attorney that “I…me and three other crew [members]…were told to go into the tank and remove all the stuff coating the tank.” Burton answered his Jones Act attorney, saying also that they were given “only a small face mask, safety glasses, and a (Tyvek) paper suit.” When Burton got out from the tank, the Jones Act attorney was to show Burton was again covered in black dust, including dust over his exposed skin; Burton, the Jones Act attorney proved, quickly developed another “sunburn-type” reaction.

Potentially Dangerous Substances On Vessel Revealed By Consulting With Jones Act Attorney

Burton was not the only seaman to react to the substance, the Jones Act attorney demonstrated. Two other deckhands cleaning the tank also suffered chemical burns, noted the Jones Act attorney. ABC, Inc.’s own safety manager told the Jones Act attorney that he “suspected” the tank was coated with a substance called Bitumastic. Bitumastic, the Jones Act attorney noted, is a sealant, made with coal tar, and coal tar is a known carcinogen that can sensitize skin, proved the Jones Act attorney.

After visiting numerous other doctors, in February 2009, Burton began to see Dr. James Carlisle. A test by Dr. Carlisle (submitted to the jury by the Jones Act attorney) revealed that Burton had developed an allergy to coal tar. Dr. Carlisle answered the Jones Act attorney in his deposition: “So, yes, I think he was allergic to the Bitumastic 300 and that caused him to break out in an itchy rash.” The Jones Act attorney also showed Burton received at least thirty-five phototherapy treatments, which reportedly helped to reduce his rash.Burton’s Jones Act attorney sued ABC under the Jones Act. The complaint by the Jones Act attorney set out to prove that ABC was negligent in exposing the seaman to Bitumastic.

Jones Act Attorney Defeated Employer’s Repeated Efforts To Block Important Evidence

ABC, observed the Jones Act attorney, tried unsuccessfully to exclude the Jones Act attorney from using any Material Data Safety Sheets (“MSDS”) regarding Bitumastic. ABC claimed that the data sheets applied only to the application of Bitumastic, not its removal, so the MSDS were “irrelevant” to Burton’s case. The court, however, sided with the Jones Act attorney and denied ABC’s request. The judge even emphasized that the “Jones Act attorney correctly noted, how the Material Safety Data Sheets are relevant to the safe removal of Bitumastic.”

ABC next tried to stop the Jones Act attorney from using photographs of Burton’s skin condition (taken in March 2011). ABC argued the Jones Act attorney’s disclosure of these photographs, a week before trial, made them inadmissible. The district court again backed the Jones Act attorney and allowed the photos to be used: “(W) hile the photographs may be harmful to ABC, Inc., the photographs still provide an accurate description of Burton’s skin condition at that time, and therefore, were not overly prejudicial.” The Jones Act attorney stressed ABC could have questioned its own expert about the photographs; but ABC “chose not to do so,” proved the Jones Act attorney.

As the Jones Act attorney successfully argued, the court also decided the photographs were relevant and Burton deserved the opportunity to present an accurate depiction of his condition. Besides, the challenged photographs weren’t the only images successfully used as evidence by the Jones Act attorney. The Jones Act attorney had pictures from September 2008, introduced with no objections. The jury also agreed with the Jones Act attorney, saying ABC was negligent, and awarded Burton one million dollars.

OSHA studies, noted the Jones Act attorney, report increased toxic chemical risks to seamen. A Jones Act attorney, experienced in the particular hazards of onboard work, will help a seaman discover these many invisible risks. Under the Jones Act, the high duty owed to semen by an employer is best protected by consulting with an experienced Jones Act attorney as soon as possible.

Use Of “Visual Aid” Was Not Crucial, Jones Act Lawyer Proved In Jury Decision Favoring Seaman

A Jones Act lawyer will help a seaman successfully explain a case to a jury. In the following case, a vessel owner argued (unsuccessfully) that a trial judge had made a mistake in “relying” on a Jones Act lawyer’s visual aid to help explain something to a jury. Following closing arguments, the trial judge came down from his bench, approached the jury box, and stood next to the Jones Act lawyer’s visual aid, which was a blow-up of the jury instructions (especially, noted the Jones Act lawyer) questions the jury had to answer to reach its decision. The trial judge then explained the jury interrogatories, and made reference to the ‘blow-up’ copy of the Jones Act lawyer’s visual aid…but only to clarify the whole process.

The vessel owner (Chaparral Offshore Drill Company) complained at that time, the Jones Act lawyer observed, by saying the visual aid also displayed cash amounts, inserted by the Jones Act lawyer into the blanks on the chart. The trial judge quickly told the jury it was not to consider the amounts in the blanks on the visual aid. After the jury retired, Chaparral objected to the use of the visual aid, saying its use was prejudicial (or unfair) to it. But after talking with the judge, the Jones Act lawyer proved, Chaparral did not repeat the objection. Only after the jury ruled against the vessel owner, and the vessel owner appealed, was the visual aid issue strongly raised. On appeal, the Jones Act lawyer quoted the judge’s own answer to the vessel owner’s complaint about the visual aid going into the jury room:

I appreciate that, but had the objection been timely made, I could have considered it. Unfortunately, the objection wasn’t made…I did go to great pains to tell them to forget about the blanks that had been filled in by the Jones Act lawyer…I don’t feel that another admonition to the jury is warranted, even at this late date, because I feel that I adequately admonished them not to place any weight on the fact that I was using the [Jones Act lawyer] blow-up of my Jury Questions to demonstrate to them how to answer, and I took pains to cover the damage portion and explain to the jurors more than once that they were not expected to award damages at all. And if they did, they were to award damages that they felt were reasonable. I think overall the instructions were fair to all sides, and the Court will over-rule the objection.

Jones Act Lawyer Proved Jury Had Not Used Visual Aid To Reach Its Decision

The Jones Act lawyer set out to prove Chaparral suffered no prejudice (or harm) by the way the trial court used the visual aid. First, the Jones Act lawyer mentioned how the trial court had correctly told the jury “it was not to place any weight on the use of the visual aid” or even the amounts located in the blank spaces. Second, as the Jones Act lawyer pointed out, the jury’s award didn’t exactly match any of the amounts listed on the visual aid.

Chaparral complained that the visual aid, which wasn’t introduced into evidence, was only accidentally taken back to the jury room when deliberations began. Shortly after the jury retired, the trial judge himself personally retrieved the visual aid. Chaparral objected to the mere presence of the visual aid, emphasized the Jones Act lawyer. And, the trial judge had even asked Chaparral if it “were sure it wanted to object,” because the visual aid had been “laying up against the hall, hidden behind all of the other posters.” Chaparral, the Jones Act lawyer proved, actually withdrew its objection when it was assured by the trial judge that it “wasn’t seen by the jury.”

Working With An Experienced Jones Act Lawyer Helps Jury Get Important Facts

The Jones Act lawyer had proven there was no basis to Chaparral’s saying that its case was harmed by the visual aid being briefly taken to the jury room. Finally, the Jones Act lawyer also observed that the vessel owner’s decision to withdraw its objection should have consequences. In short, the Appeals Court also agreed the employer had lost the right to raise the issue on appeal. As a result, the Jones Act lawyer also asked that the vessel owner be required to pay the seaman’s legal costs of appeal. That request, in addition to upholding the seaman’s award already won by the Jones Act lawyer, was also granted.

Quickly working with a Jones Act lawyer in this case protected the injured seaman from the start. The experienced Jones Act lawyer in this case also fought to make the vessel owner responsible for added legal expenses. Though not every case involves a vessel owner challenging the actions of a judge, making a strong case so very often does begin by meeting, early on, with a Jones Act lawyer.

Jones Act Attorney Showed Seaman Had Become Employee At Time Of Accident

This case happened because of a tragic accident, after ABC Dredge, Inc. was hired by Big Oil Exploring, Inc., to lay pipeline in canals in the Gulf of Mexico. The job was performed by using the lugger Islip. The Jones Act attorney who was hired by the seaman went on to describe how the Islip, as a specialized canal vessel, would position and move a pipe-laying barge forward. The lugger would push the barge forward, the Jones Act attorney showed, at intervals the length of a 30 foot section of laid pipe. In order to stop the barge, after it was pushed forward, ABC Dredge employees would drop the barge’s 9,000 pound spuds into the canal. Once the barge was secured, ABC employees built the pipeline, screwing each new pipe joint into the laid pipe. The joints were then sealed by using a propane torch to heat a plastic sleeve over the joints.

On the day of the accident, Raymond Ives, an ABC Dredge employee, ordered the lugger to push the barge forward as usual, showed the Jones Act attorney. At a crucial second, observed the Jones Act attorney, Ives gave a hand signal to tell the other crew members to drop the barge’s spuds. Unfortunately, the dropped spuds ruptured an underwater gas line, and the propane torch on the barge ignited the escaping gas. In the resulting fire, the Jones Act attorney described vividly how one crew member drowned, and Ives, along with several other crew members, was badly injured. The Jones Act attorney filed suit under the Jones Act.

After the accident ABC Dredge, Inc. tried to be excused from full liability, since it was not the full owner of the vessel involved in the accident, explained the Jones Act attorney. The district court, siding with the Jones Act attorney, denied ABC Dredge had any right to “limitation,” because the Jones Act attorney opposing the limit had showed that the risks of negligence by ABC Dredge was “something known by its management.” Ives’s Jones Act attorney also beat back ABC Dredge’s request to make Ives himself partially liable. The seaman’s Jones Act attorney proved to the court there’d been a bareboat, or charter, agreement between ABC Dredge and Ives.

Jones Act Attorney Evidence Of Vessel Lease Protected Seaman’s Rights

The Islip was the only asset of Ives & Company, observed the Jones Act attorney. The Jones Act attorney also proved how the vessel was being leased to ABC Dredge at the time of the accident by Ives. ABC Dredge and Ives had agreed, noted the Jones Act attorney, that ABC Dredge (and not Ives) would: (1) pay $200 to Ives for every day the vessel was used; (2) provide a crew and the necessary supplies to work; (3) keep insurance on the vessel; and (4) pay repairs and maintenance. Although the agreement was put in writing, it apparently was never signed by ABC Dredge. Talking with a Jones Act attorney (before any accident) to make sure the contract is enforced can be crucial, as this case showed. Regardless, the acts of the parties were consistent with the unsigned agreement, the Jones Act attorney successfully argued. Finally, the Jones Act attorney also emphasized that a charter doesn’t absolutely need to be in writing to exist.

A “bareboat” or charter, the Jones Act attorney observed, requires an owner (Ives) to give complete and exclusive possession, and command to the charterer (ABC). Along with the exclusive control of the vessel (emphasized the Jones Act attorney) the ABC assumed many of the rights and obligations of Ives, showed the Jones Act attorney. Deciding whether a bareboat charter existed in the case was complicated, noted the Jones Act attorney, by the fact that in addition to being an ABC Dredge employee, Raymond Ives was also the president and stockholder of Ives & Company, which actually owned the Islip. As part of his job as an ABC Dredge employee, Ives occasionally served as captain. Having its president serve as an employee/ seaman complicated answering whether Ives “surrendered” control of the vessel, the Jones Act attorney commented. But, it was also clear from the evidence from the Jones Act attorney that when Ives served as captain, Ives was working as a ABC Dredge employee, the Jones Act attorney went on to prove.

Jones Act Attorney: Seaman’s Occasional Charter Rental Did Not Change Charter Use At Time Of Accident

The employer disagreed (unsuccessfully) with the Jones Act attorney, because ABC Dredge paid for the vessel only on the days it was actually used. The Jones Act attorney successfully pointed out the law, saying “a bareboat charter is the complete surrender of possession and control by the vessel owner to the charterer at the time of use.” The Jones Act attorney properly proved taking possession in this case by ABC included paying for use of the vessel. It didn’t matter, the appeals court agreed with the Jones Act attorney, “whether the charterer used the vessel gainfully or not.”

The Jones Act attorney also added other details of ABC’s control. In this case, ABC Dredge stored the vessel, provided the crew, and paid all necessary repairs and maintenance. ABC even listed the vessel as an available asset when bidding for contracts, and paid insurance for the vessel, proved the Jones Act attorney. The Jones Act attorney had made it clear that Ives completely gave up possession and navigation of the Islip to ABC Dredge. The trial judgment won by the Jones Act attorney, holding ABC solely liable, was upheld.

There are many situations when a seaman should talk to a Jones Act attorney. Sometimes, this need will exist, even before an accident. If a seaman owns a vessel or has a substantial ownership in leasing it for charter, for example, it’s very wise to have an early conversation with a knowledgeable Jones Act attorney.

Court Agreed With Jones Act Lawyer To Uphold Award Even If “Slightly” On “High Side”

A Jones Act lawyer gets to the bottom of proving what an injury costs, in terms of lost wages and other damages. In the following case, a vessel owner tried to overturn a Jones Act lawyer’s winning an award for lost wages…even after a court noted the award was “on the high side.” Specifically, a vessel owner argued over the amount of past lost wages and lost future earning capacity, awarded to an injured seaman, after a judge agreed with the wage calculations of the seaman’s Jones Act lawyer. The Jones Act lawyer had introduced what the judge called “solid and strong” evidence from a recognized PhD economist.

The Jones Act lawyer argued successfully for a large award, while agreeing the seaman “bears the burden of proving” lost earnings, as well as showing the time missed from work. But the jury also has a lot of discretion, the Jones Act lawyer accurately stated, in calculating awards for lost wages, observed the Jones Act lawyer….so long as, the Jones Act lawyer noted, there “was a factual basis for the award.”

Jones Act Lawyer Showed Loss Of Overtime, Health Benefits And Future Wages

The Jones Act lawyer showed that at the time of his accident, Harry Donaldson had been working as a deckhand. He had just satisfied his probationary period, and had even received a large pay raise, as well as becoming eligible for employee benefits, the Jones Act lawyer established. The seaman’s work schedule was 12 days on and 6 days off, and that gave him “lots of overtime pay,” he told his Jones Act lawyer. The Jones Act lawyer also showed that Donaldson had not been able to work a full day since the accident.

The orthopedic surgeon’s records were introduced by the Jones Act lawyer to prove a 10-15% permanent impairment to Donaldson’s lumbar and cervical spine. There were also, emphasized the Jones Act lawyer, work restrictions, including minimal stooping and bending, minimal prolonged standing or sitting and no repetitive lifting, with any work above shoulder level. According to a vocational rehab evaluation used by the Jones Act lawyer, Donaldson had an eighth-grade education, but was at a lower level on academic skills. The Jones Act lawyer showed Donaldson was “totally medically and vocationally disabled from returning to any previous occupation.” The Jones Act lawyer suggested Donaldson’s future earning capacity ranged from a total loss of earning to (perhaps) part time work at minimum wage.

The Jones Act lawyer used an economist (with a Ph.D.) to figure Donaldson’s pre-accident income, i.e., $29,200 per year. The Jones Act lawyer proved that lost past wages would have been $44,378. From that date, the economist’s evidence (established by the Jones Act lawyer) carried the annual income figure forward for each year of Donaldson’s expected work-life, and after applying what the Jones Act lawyer showed was a “conservative discount rate,” concluded a total value of future losses at $220,000.

Jury Actually Added Slightly More To Requested Award Of Jones Act Lawyer

The jury had strong evidence from the Jones Act lawyer, for a range of awards, and chose to award the higher figures, noted the Jones Act lawyer: $44,700 for past loss of income and $125,000 for loss of future earning capacity. The jury awarded Donaldson $200,000 for past physical and mental pain and suffering and $25,000 for loss of enjoyment. After the accident, emphasized the Jones Act lawyer, the seaman began complaining of neck pain and severe lower back pain. At that point, he told his Jones Act lawyer, “I could not even bend over.” Next, the Jones Act lawyer showed the jury that the seaman began taking pain medications and trying stretching exercises. But after reviewing X-rays, the Jones Act lawyer also showed the jury that Donaldson had a herniated disc and needed surgery.

Emphasizing the jury’s discretion in awarding damages, the Jones Act lawyer succeeded in defending the total award. Although the total award ($227,000) in general damages was (as the appeals court put it) “on the high side” of estimates by the Jones Act lawyer, it was not an abuse of discretion for such a disabling back injury, the Jones Act lawyer had shown. The Jones Act lawyer had wisely proven how Donaldson was in pain for at least 18 months after his accident, and much of that time, the pain was severe and he was (as proven by the Jones Act lawyer) understandably, extremely depressed. After over a year of ineffective treatment, he had a surgical procedure to correct his back condition. While this greatly relieved his pain, he was still permanently disabled and will always have to restrict his daily activities, emphasized the Jones Act lawyer.

When an accident occurs, a seaman sometimes waits before getting legal advice from a Jones Act lawyer. But as this case showed, there’s an immediate need for the best in medical care, as well as getting the help of an experienced Jones Act lawyer. Because seeking medical care affects eventual legal claims, such as lost wages, a seaman befits from an early, confidential meeting with a Jones Act lawyer.

Jones Act Attorney Showed Having Share Of Profit From Catch Did Not Change “Employee” Status

What makes a seaman an “employee”? A Jones Act attorney successfully defended against a vessel owner’s argument, about who is or is not an “employer” or “employee” when it comes to the rights of an injured seaman. To recover under the Jones Act, the seaman’s Jones Act attorney showed the seaman was an “employee” at the time of his injury. The dispute in the following case boiled down to whether the district court was right, in agreeing with the Jones Act attorney, to instruct the jury that Welk was “an employee of Crow Fishing Co.”

The Jones Act attorney had brought a successful lawsuit, under the Jones Act, for injuries to Henry Welk when he was a crew member on board the F/V DAWN. The vessel was owned by Crow Fishing Co., and mastered by Captain Kyle Scooter. The district court determined (based on evidence from the Jones Act attorney) that Crow Fishing Co. was Welk’s “employer.” The jury returned a verdict against Crow Fishing Co., in favor of the Jones Act attorney and his arguments showing the owner’s negligence.

Jones Act Attorney Defended Seaman’s Rights In Employer/Employee Relationship

Crow Fishing Co. appealed their loss to the Jones Act attorney, repeating their arguments there’d been no “employer/employee” relationship. Crow Fishing Co. insisted the jury should have decided that Welk was either a “joint venturer” or an “independent contractor,” but not an employee. Welk’s Jones Act attorney, on the other hand, had urged that “no reasonable jury could have found this seaman was a joint venturer or independent contractor.”

The Jones Act attorney pointed out other court decisions, where the issue was usually left for the jury to decide. But in this case, the Jones Act attorney noted, there was “no evidence at all of anything other than an employer/employee relationship.” In this case, the judge was right to instruct the jury not to find Welk was anything other than an employee, emphasized the Jones Act attorney. Crow Fishing Co., the Jones Act attorney noted, had only one slim argument… evidence that the crew were paid percentages out of the net profit.

Percentage Of Catch Did Not Change Employer Liability, Proved Jones Act Attorney

When Welk was hired, Scooter told him that he was captain, that the boat was owned by Crow Fishing Co., and “that we all worked for them.” Welk had agreed, according to the agreement produced by the Jones Act attorney, to accept 8.3 percent of the net profit for each trip. Additionally, the Jones Act attorney pointed out that Welk faced “immediate termination of the job” if caught with alcohol, illegal drugs, or narcotics, and that “all pay due will be confiscated by the captain.” These were consistent with any usual employee agreement, showed the Jones Act attorney.

The Jones Act attorney also successfully pointed out that “there’s no settled recipe for exactly deciding whether a Jones Act employment relationship exists.” Instead, the Jones Act attorney noted the US Supreme Court has said it’s wise to “look at the business as a whole.” Examples of what clearly made Welk an employee in this case was a series of answers to the questions asked by the Jones Act attorney. “Whose orders controlled the master and the crew? Whose money paid their wages? Who hired the crew? Whose initiative and judgment chose the route and the ports?” Considering the answers, no reasonable jury could have found that Welk was anything other than an employee, the Jones Act attorney concluded. When he signed on, the Jones Act attorney emphasized that Welk was told that he “worked for Crow Fishing Co.” The ship master decided where the vessel would go, observed the Jones Act attorney. Welk testified to his Jones Act attorney that “I had no control over when, where, or how long the fishing would” occur. The Jones Act attorney demonstrated that Welk had no say in supervising the boat or its crew.

The Jones Act attorney emphasized the employment contract as being very much the usual employer/employee agreement. The cost of his gear was not deducted from Welk’s share of the profit. He was hired on, could leave or be terminated, and was (after his accident) fired. All of these facts, developed by the Jones Act attorney, pointed to an employment relationship. Only the fact, noted the Jones Act attorney, that Welk’s compensation was a percentage of net profit could possibly support a finding of joint venture. But the Jones Act attorney had also proven that payment by shares is not inconsistent with an employer/employee relationship. Under these circumstances, the appeals court agreed with the Jones Act attorney, and said the trial judge was “right to say Welk was an ‘employee’ ” of Crow Fishing Co., as urged by the Jones Act attorney. The award won by the Jones Act attorney for Welk was upheld.

An experienced Jones Act attorney has special experience in understanding the way a seaman is hired and paid. By discussing what happened after an accident with a Jones Act attorney, a seaman improves the detailing of the accident, and in this case, the important employment relationship. Because few seamen can negotiate the terms of their employment, the time after an injury becomes even more important. The time right after an injury is also when a seaman can work to best protect his rights, through having an experienced Jones Act attorney.

Jones Act Attorney Proved Scrap Vessel Owner Should Have Known Of Dangers

Donald Frost worked for Creek Ship, Inc. as a deckhand on the tugboat, Alben. ABC Salvage had an old salvage dredge barge, SNOOPY, partially dismantled, and scheduled for scrap. Unknown to two Alben deckhands (Wesley and Frost), the SNOOPY had two large unmarked holes in its deck, one of which was hidden in shadows cast by spotlights (later demonstrated by the Jones Act attorney) from two Creek tugboats involved in the nighttime salvage. Wesley fell into one of these holes. Frost also fell after he went to try and help, proved the Jones Act attorney.

Frost’s Jones Act attorney filed Jones Act claims against Creek and general negligence claims against ABC, Inc., for injuries to his knee, neck, and lower back. A jury agreed with the Jones Act attorney, saying both defendants were liable; with 60% fault to ABC, 25% to Creek, and 15% to Frost. The jury awarded Frost $200,000 in pain and suffering, $25,000 for loss of enjoyment of life, $44,700 for past income, and $125,000 for lost future earnings.

But the Judge, over the objections of the seaman’s Jones Act attorney, allowed the jury to consider using a federal maritime law, saying ABC’s liability was limited to total value of the SNOOPY, or $160,000.

Jones Act Attorney Wins Award, Then Overturns Jury Decision To Limit Damages

The jury found ABC could limit its liability, saying ABC had no “privity or knowledge” of the risks. The Jones Act attorney appealed this limit on the damages. In this case, emphasized the Jones Act attorney, once the injured seaman proved negligence caused his injuries, the burden shifted to ABC to show their lack of knowledge of the dangers. The Jones Act attorney set out to prove the jury was wrong, because privity or knowledge doesn’t always require a showing of actual knowledge. If the shipowner had the means of obtaining knowledge, then he shouldn’t be allowed to hide from total liability, the Jones Act attorney was to prove.

The Jones Act attorney laid out the ways ABC should have known about the hazardous holes in the deck. ABC purchased the SNOOPY from Union, a company owned by Andy Garcia. Garcia testified he walked the deck with ABC’s president and owner. Before selling it to ABC, the Jones Act attorney showed that Garcia sent the dredge barge to another company to disassemble its crane for scrap. During that process, two holes were left in the deck. The hole was apparent, and the Jones Act attorney sketched out the crane area as 26 feet in diameter. A smaller hole at the other end of the deck, which the Jones Act attorney demonstrated as being about 16 inches wide and 36 inches long, had apparently come after “something very heavy was dropped on it” during the crane removal.

Fischer testified to the Jones Act attorney that he “did not remember” walking the deck of the SNOOPY before buying it from Union, but admitted to the Jones Act attorney that he generally did conduct an “eyeball” inspection before a purchase. The Jones Act attorney also got him to admit there was no regular inspection policy for this type of vessel.

“Not Knowing” Does Not Include Not Wanting To Know, Proved Jones Act Attorney

Fischer was the owner and president of the company, so his knowledge was ‘imputable’ to the corporation, the Jones Act attorney had proven. According to his answers to the Jones Act attorney, Fischer didn’t bother to view the SNOOPY after he purchased it for ABC. His comments, said the Jones Act attorney, suggest he just bought it, and forgot it.

Based on this evidence, the Appeals Court agreed the Jones Act attorney had shown that ABC did have privity or knowledge of the dangerous conditions on the deck. The hole was large and obvious in the daylight, and should have been discovered through a simple “eyeball” inspection. Besides, the Jones Act attorney emphasized, ABC produced no evidence of any safe inspection policy. Limitation of liability is not available to a vessel owner who takes a “hands-off” approach, the Jones Act attorney had shown. The jury decision to limit the award was reversed…the Jones Act attorney had won the full award for the injured seaman.

When a seaman is injured, getting the help of a Jones Act attorney sends a clear message. First, a serious responsibility is owed to the seaman. If negligence may be involved, the Jones Act attorney also helps find out where responsibility belongs. In this case, the proper share of responsibility was being passed between several contractors and owners…finally, fairly settled by the seaman’s work with his Jones Act attorney.

Employment Contract Could Not Defeat Seaman’s Rights In Jones Act Coverage, Jones Act Attorney Showed

Employment contracts for seamen are not uncommon, and those contracts may conflict with an injured seaman’s basic rights, noted a Jones Act attorney, at a recent workshop. A Jones Act attorney in the following case filed a lawsuit in the seaman’s home state. In many cases, a vessel owner can try to make it more difficult, expensive, and time consuming by trying to force a seaman to bring a lawsuit a long way from home. In the following case, the Jones Act attorney won an important round for keeping a Jones Act suit in “home state court.”

A seaman was injured while serving aboard the F/V Mary Belle. He worked on the fishing vessel according to an employment contract he had signed with his employer, Crows Nest, Inc. The injured seaman hired a Jones Act attorney to sue Crows Nest in his home state’s court. The Jones Act attorney showed this State was where he had signed the contract. Crows Nest asked the trial court to dismiss the complaint for what’s called improper “venue” or “forum non conveniens” (meaning a serious inconvenience, or place not being legally convenient). In other words, the Jones Act attorney explained, the employer said the seaman had “signed away” his right to sue in his home state. The part of the employment contract challenged by the Jones Act attorney said: “Any dispute which may arise under the terms of this contract shall be determined by the courts in California.”

The superior court actually granted Crows Nest’s motion to dismiss the seaman’s suit. It ruled that the forum-selection clause in the injured seaman’s contract was valid. California, the Jones Act attorney noted, was the place (or “forum’) specified in the seaman’s employment contract. But the Jones Act attorney also noted this fine legal print in the contract disagreed with the broad rights given to injured seamen in the Jones Act. The dismissal of the seaman’s lawsuit was almost immediately (and successfully) appealed by the Jones Act attorney.

Jones Act Attorney Proved Claim Did Not Come Under Employment Contract Terms

The injured seaman’s Jones Act attorney went on to prove that any acts of Crows Nest’s negligence were covered by the federal Jones Act. In passing the Jones Act, Congress “changed unfair laws, under which an injured seaman could recover no more than maintenance and cure, only for unseaworthiness and not for negligence.” This also meant a seaman had great powers to pick the right court, observed the Jones Act attorney.

Just as the injured seaman’s common-law maritime claims didn’t “arise under the terms” of his employment contract, neither did his Jones Act claim, emphasized the Jones Act attorney. Instead, the lawsuit “arose under” only the Jones Act itself, which “gives a right of action for injury or death to sailors caused by the negligence of their employers.”

Meeting With A Jones Act Attorney Clarified Rights To File Home-State Lawsuit

Finally, Crows Nest mentioned several forum non conveniens cases. The Jones Act attorney successfully pointed out these cases had nothing to do with the issue in this case. Many facts, observed the Jones Act attorney, should be weighed when a trial court makes a decision about the convenience of a lawsuit. By comparison, the Jones Act attorney noted that in this case, the question of the forum-selection clause (picking California) in the seaman’s contract was a purely legal issue, not a fact-intensive question, the Jones Act attorney succeeded in pointing out.

So the appeals court strongly sided with the Jones Act attorney, and had no interest in expressing any opinion on deciding the ‘convenience’ issue. The appeals court had no hesitation in supporting the Jones Act attorney in granting the seaman protection from the contract clause. “Convenience is a separate issue from the [fairness] of the contractual forum-selection clause, requiring suit only in California.” The lower court’s dismissal of the injured seaman’s suit by the Jones Act attorney was reversed. The seaman’s right to sue in his home state court was protected by his Jones Act attorney.

Delays in bringing a lawsuit can unfairly benefit the seaman’s employer. An experienced Jones Act attorney will carry the burden of explaining why and how the Jones Act gives many kinds of protections to an injured seaman. For example, questions about a seaman’s employment contract should be reviewed as soon as possible, by meeting with a Jones Act attorney. In this case, the vessel owner failed to overcome rights to file a Jones Act suit, thanks to the seaman’s work with a Jones Act attorney.

Release Executed By Seaman Should Have Involved Jones Act Attorney, Court Says

Martin was employed, said his Jones Act attorney at trial, as a processor on the vessel Astor Fish. On his very first voyage, he was hurt by a fish-header. The machine worked as a guillotine, noted the Jones Act attorney: the operator pushed a fish into place, pressed the foot pedal to drop a blade, and lopped off the fish’s head. Martin was ending a shift at the fish-header when, despite signs to “Keep Hands Away From Blade,” he decided to clear some waste from the machine. As he did, he accidentally brushed the foot pedal. The blade fell, severing parts of four fingers on Martin’s left hand. Medical evidence from the Jones Act attorney documented the pain and suffering of the injury.

Giving due credit to the employer, the Jones Act attorney noted that Astor Fish paid for Martin’s medical treatment and rehab. But the Jones Act attorney also showed how the employer later assigned a claims manager, who learned of Martin’s financial difficulties and “overriding desire” to return to sea work. The claims manager, proved the Jones Act attorney, actually told Martin that he could not be reassigned until he released the company from liability. Martin, believing that he was entirely responsible for the accident and eager to get back to work, suggested that Astor Fish “pay me just enough to cover some of my” outstanding debts, showed the Jones Act attorney. The company readily agreed. The Jones Act attorney later documented how the company paid Martin $16,200, promised him work——only after signing the release, observed the Jones Act attorney—and sent him back to sea.

But once he returned to work, Martin found that he couldn’t do the job. He finally contacted a Jones Act attorney and sued the company for their negligence. Astor Fish used the release as a defense. At trial, expert testimony from the Jones Act attorney showed Martin as “trusting, unsophisticated and easily influenced.” There was also evidence from the Jones Act attorney that the company knew the accident might have been avoided, if only the machine had been equipped with wrist restraints. Martin, his Jones Act attorney later found out, knew nothing about wrist restraints.

The district court agreed with the Jones Act attorney and invalidated the release. It found Astor Fish negligent for failing to provide wrist restraints and not training the crew in the use of the fish-header. The Jones Act attorney won a damages award for $130,000. Astor Fish continued to dispute with the Jones Act attorney on appeal, still claiming (unsuccessfully) the release was valid.

Vessel Owner Had Special Duty And Heavy Burden Of Proof, Showed Jones Act Attorney

The Jones Act attorney on appeal disproved the employer’s good faith. The fact, observed the Jones Act attorney, that seamen are “wards” of admiralty has importance for signed releases of employer liability. Seamen’s releases aren’t the same as usual contracts, the Jones Act attorney reminded the vessel owners. To satisfy its duty to Martin, the vessel owner had to prove the seaman had a full understanding of his legal rights, noted the Jones Act attorney.

The money paid ($16,200) was also plainly not enough for losing four fingers, the Jones Act attorney easily showed. The Jones Act attorney emphasized the vessel owner’s burden of proof was “very heavy where the amount paid was inadequate.”

Getting Legal Advice From Jones Act Attorney Would Have Protected Seaman

The nature of the legal advice available to the seaman was a crucial factor. Martin did not decide to talk to a Jones Act attorney right away, and relied only on his employer. The employer gave him a written explanation of some legal rights, but there was evidence that Martin didn’t read or comprehend the legal explanations. He testified that he regarded the forms only as “red tape” that he had to “cut through” before being “permitted” to work, the Jones Act attorney established.

The Jones Act attorney finally emphasized Martin’s desire to get back to work. The company, the Jones Act attorney had shown, capitalized on that desire by implying that Martin had to release his legal claims before he could return. Although the Jones Act attorney didn’t exactly specify a “deception or coercion,” the trial court’s remarks on the facts suggested that it found some “element of overreaching” was apparent. The full award was upheld through the Jones Act attorney’s efforts.

A Jones Act attorney is well aware of the emotional toll of an injury. In this case, the Jones Act attorney was also concerned with regaining lost rights, because of the waiver…signed without the advice of a Jones Act attorney. Though the ideal time to talk with a Jones Act attorney is right after an injury (and before signing anything), there’s another lesson here. If a seaman feels wronged after signing an unfair agreement, they still have the right and the reason to talk with an experienced Jones Act attorney.