Jones Act / Maritime Injuries
Like railroad workers, injured seamen are offered extra protection by federal statute. The Jones act is a remedial, humanitarian Act designed to fairly and adequately compensate worker’s exposed to the “perils of the sea” for on the job injuries. To recover under the Jones Act, a seaman must show that their employer was at fault and negligent.
Jones Act has the same protection as the FELA, which protects the rights of railroad workers. Because the Jones Act is modeled by the FELA’s statutory language, federal courts tend to apply the same analysis of negligence issues arising under both statutes.
Under the FELA and Jones Act, an employer has a statutory duty to provide a safe place to work.
If you have spent more than 30% of your time on a vessel that is in navigation, you will be eligible as a Jones Act seaman.
An employee that doesn’t qualify as a Jones Act seaman, may be covered under the Longshore or Maritime law, that works as a contract employee who moves back and forth between multiple vessels.
All along the Gulf Coast and throughout Texas there are oil rigs, offshore platforms and large commercial shipping/boating industries. Workers are injured daily on the job due to unsafe work conditions or due to the negligence of others.
Rome, Arata & Baxley is a law firm dedicated to the representation of workers injured in the transportation industry. The firm has a combined forty (50) years of experience handling Jones Act and FELA cases. We are loyal to the individuals and families we represent and do not represent insurance companies or large corporations.
Our firm knows that we must start to work and develop your claim as soon as possible. Transportation companies start their defense as soon as an employee is injured and continues their tactics in an effort to deny or reduce their exposure for paying even the most legitimate claims. Our experience has shown that the transportation industry, its claim agents, investigators and lawyers fight hard to prove that they have no responsibility for most claims. We expect this battle and prepare to win the war in each and every case using our experienced team of lawyers, investigators and paralegals.
We engage a team approach on all cases so that someone is always available to respond to our client's needs. We also prepare each case for trial, developing each and every theory of recovery to maximize each claim. We do this because the largest claims are won when a case is fully prepared to go to trial. Only then will employers feel the most pressure to pay full and fair compensation for their employee’s injury.
Any person injured by a ship company or by another party while at work should take the following steps to protect themselves and their family:
1. Note what the ship company, vessel and/or any other parties did wrong to cause the injury. Under workman’s compensation laws, it is not necessary to prove that the employer was at fault to recover damages. But for seamen under the Jones Act and railroad workers under The Federal Employer’s Liability Act allows you can recover only if there is proof that your employer was at fault for the injury. That’s why you should note any defective equipment, procedures or other unsafe working conditions such as trip/slip hazards or lack of appropriate lighting, etc... Put these down on the accident report.
Lawyers and claim agents who work for the transportation industry typically argue that the companies had no knowledge of the dangerous condition which led to the injury. For this reason, also make note of any similar previous injuries or complaints about the dangerous condition. Prior written complaints can prove to be especially helpful for your case. Provide this information to Rome, Arata and Baxley or your Local Chairman.
2. Immediately report your accident to your supervisor; and fill out an injury report. Many times an injury can at first appear to be minor even though it is in fact very serious. If you suffer an on-the job injury while working, you should notify your supervisor immediately. Insist on filling out the appropriate forms. Failure to do this allows your employer or other defendants to argue that the injury did not occur at a time or place where they can be held accountable.
Be sure to include the phrase “etc.” wherever possible to cover any information the company might claim you should have included. If you have any questions feel free to call Rome, Arata and Baxley or your Local Chairman.
3. Do not volunteer information that is not requested on the report and do not admit any responsibility for the accident. Note the names and phone numbers of all co-workers and any other witnesses.
Witnesses are an excellent means of proving that the company is at fault for the injury. If you are too badly hurt to find this information, ask a crewmember to get it for you.
5. Get photographs of the accident scene before it is changed and/or corrected.
6. Seek immediate medical attention. Make sure you are checked out by a doctor of your own choosing as soon as possible after your injury. Tell your doctor about all parts of your body that were injured, even if some of the injuries don’t seem severe. Be aware that your employer may try to send you to a company doctor. Company doctors are not to be trusted.
7. Always be truthful and consistent. Always be truthful with your doctor concerning any past medical treatment. Past medical records are discoverable and will eventually be reviewed by the defendants or their attorneys.
8. Be wary of the claim agent. They may seem friendly, but the job of a claim agent is to save the company money by reducing the value of your claim. Do not give them a statement without first consulting your local chairman or a Jones Act/F.E.L.A. law firm such as Rome, Arata and Baxley. Beware of promises made by claims agents. Even if they intend to keep them, a claim agent’s job is not assured and they cannot guarantee how long they will be working for the company.
9. Avoid working while hurt, even so called “light duty.” Once your company or third party defendant causes your injury, they owe you for your lost time. Lately, companies have been using “light duty” to reduce the claims of the people that they injure. Be aware that the amount of lost time or wages, like medical bills, is often used to estimate the severity of an injury. Company lawyers like to argue that a worker is not due compensation because he “hardly missed any work and must not have been badly hurt.” Always listen to your doctor and do what is best for your particular injury. Any work that you do while injured, including light duty, is a gift to the people who injured you.
10. Get help. From the moment you are injured, the shipping company has a legal team already in place working AGAINST your interests. The company claim agents work hand in hand with company lawyers to reduce the value of your claim. As an injured worker, you need someone on your side with as much experience fighting FOR your rights. Rome, Arata and Baxley are experts in dealing with the liability, medical, insurance, and disability issues that are involved in these claims. If you are injured, contact your local or general chairman and a lawyer who specializes in Jones Act/ FELA cases, such as Rome, Arata and Baxley.