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Jones Act Injury Cases: Helping Seamen Injured Off the California Coast

Workers on cargo ships, oil tankers and other oceangoing vessels face serious risks to their health and safety when they venture out on the high seas. Workers can slip and fall on slippery decks, get knocked down by rolling objects or struck by unsecured equipment swinging loosely. Divers go deep underwater to perform welding operations, risking lasting injury or death from the bends or other dangers.

Special laws apply to maritime workers injured on the job. The average personal injury lawyer or workers’ compensation attorney will not be familiar with the applicable laws and procedures that must be followed in order to recover compensation for a maritime worker’s injuries. California Jones Act attorney James Morris knows how these laws work and has been successful in recovering significant settlements and verdicts on behalf of injured workers in specialty occupations like seamen or railroad workers. If you or a loved one has been injured while working out on the Pacific Ocean or in California navigable waters, call the Morris Law Firm for advice and representation from an experienced and successful Jones Act lawyer.

The Jones Act Is not Like California Workers’ Compensation

Almost all California employees are covered by the state’s workers’ compensation system. An employee who is injured on the job can receive workers’ comp benefits that pay for all of their medical bills plus provide wage replacement at two-thirds of their regular pay while they are disabled from working. Workers apply for and receive benefits without having to prove fault or negligence on the part of their employer or a co-worker. Even if the accident was the worker’s own fault, they still get benefits for the on-the-job injury.

Seamen are not covered by California workers’ compensation, but they aren’t bound by workers’ comp restrictions either. An employee covered under workers’ comp law cannot sue the employer for damages, even if the employer caused the accident through negligence. Employees instead are limited to workers’ comp benefits, which do not provide a full recovery from all the harm they suffer.

Seamen don’t have workers’ compensation insurance and can’t simply file a claim for benefits with their employer’s insurance carrier. Instead, they must prove their claim, which includes proving that the employer, a co-worker or some other party was at fault in causing the accident. Injured workers can also sue the owner of the vessel when the vessel’s unseaworthiness caused the accident. In this case, they don’t have to prove the owner was negligent, but the plaintiff must still prove that the ship was dangerous due to deck obstructions, design defects, understaffing, lack of supervision, unreasonably slippery decks, or some other hazard.

Although the process to recover under the Jones Act is harder for the employee, and the outcome is less certain than with a workers’ comp claim, the potential recovery is greater. In a Jones Act claim, injured workers can recover money damages for losses such as their present and anticipated future medical expenses, the full amount of past and future lost wages, and harm such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment in life. Workers may even be entitled to compensation for living expenses while they are recuperating from their injuries.

Whom Does the Jones Act Cover?

The Jones Act applies to seamen, longshoremen, and other maritime workers who work in the service of a vessel on navigable waters for at least 30% of their time on the job. The Jones Act covers workers on any kind of vessel, from barges, tugs and fishing boats to whale-watching tour boats and cruise ships.

Commercial Fishers – The fatality rate in the commercial fishing industry is 29 times greater than the worker death rate averaged across all industries in the nation. Nearly half of these deaths happened following a vessel disaster. From deckhands and processors to engineers and the captain, the Jones Act covers all workers aboard commercial fishing vessels.

Tug and Barge Workers – Tugboat and barge owners are often private companies that prefer to maximize profits at the expense of making reasonable investments in safety. The power of a tug combines with the weight of a barge to create a powerful force on the water, and workers risk catastrophic injury or death from slips, falls or being knocked unconscious or overboard during line-handling and parting. Workers can sue the ship’s owner, captain or their co-workers when they can prove negligence or fault of those parties in causing the accident.

The Jones Act for Seamen Is Similar to FELA for Railroad Workers

Railroad workers are another group of employees who are excluded from California workers’ compensation. These laborers are instead covered by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). FELA operates very similarly to the Jones Act in the way claims are handled. The Morris Law Firm has extensive experience and success handling FELA/Railroad claims for injured railroad workers, and we transfer that knowledge, skill and experience to our representation of injured seamen under the Jones Act.

Call Our California Jones Act Attorney for Help With Your Maritime Injury Claim Today

If you were injured or lost a loved one who was working on-board a vessel off the coast of California, call the Morris Law Firm at 747-283-1144 for a free consultation with a dedicated Jones Act lawyer with a long record of success helping people injured by the negligence of others.

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