Jones Act Damages and Defenses

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What damages are recoverable under the Jones Act?

The Jones Act provides for comprehensive damages to injured seamen, including:

  • Past and future lost wages: Future lost wages will take likely promotions and upward career movement into account, therefore it is important to carefully present evidence of the likelihood of such promotions.
  • Vocational and Occupational Retraining
  • Past and Future Pain and Suffering
  • Mental Anguish and Psychological Suffering
  • Disfigurement
  • Fringe benefits, including meals, retirement, medical and disability insurance

As you can see, a Jones Act claim can be very valuable in compensating you for your injuries. However, proving each element that will be required in order to establish a claim under the Jones Act is not easy, nor is proving everything that will be required in order to recover the maximum amount of damages to which you are entitled. Contact an attorney at Kirkendall Dwyer LLP to begin evaluating your case and getting yourself on the road to recovery.

What defenses can an Employer use against a Seaman in a Jones
Act Case?

With Jones Act claims being as valuable as they are, you must expect that your employer will fight them in every way possible. Your employer might try to convince you that your claim is not valid, or he might offer to pay you a certain amount if you promise not to pursue legal action.

There are two things to remember in this situation. First, a Jones Act claim must be brought within 3 years of your accident. However, if you have been injured and your employer has been pushing you to forgo legal action, or has tried to get you to settle outside of the legal system, it is likely that the courts will extend the period of time that you have to pursue legal action. An employer that has behaved in such a way is not allowed to claim that the statute of limitations has passed.

Second, if your employer has been pressuring you in this way after your accident, it is even more important that you contact a Jones Act Attorney to protect your rights. Only an attorney will be able to handle the situation for you. It is critical that you report every communication between you and your employer to your attorney.

Besides asserting that the statute of limitations has run, an employer may also try to fight your Jones Act claim by asserting that the employee whose negligence injured you was not an employee at all, but rather an independent contractor. There are two ways to defeat this defense:

  • Even if the individual is technically an independent contractor, he will be considered an employee for Jones Act purposes if the employer retained control over the manner in which he did his work. This is called the ‘borrowed servant or employee’ doctrine.
  • If the independent contractor was performing activities that were a vital part of the employer’s operations, then he will be considered an employee for Jones Act purposes. An employer can not shirk his legal responsibility by delegating away important and vital parts of his business.

It is also important to remember that not only can an employer not try to convince you to sign away your Jones Act rights after you have been injured, but he also can not use an employment agreement or collective bargaining agreement to exclude your Jones Act rights before they arise. Any attempt to do so will be considered invalid. A contract may require you to arbitrate your Jones Act claims, and if you have signed such a contract, contact an attorney with Kirkendall Dwyer LLP to better understand your legal rights.

Other Articles You Might Find Helpful:

Back to Jones Act Homepage

What Does the Jones Act Provide

Definition of Seaman and Examples of Vessels Covered by the Jones Act

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