Navigating the Jones Act Claims Process

by | Jun 23, 2023 | Maritime Injury, Maritime Law, Offshore Accident, The Jones Act

The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, provides crucial protections for maritime workers who are injured while performing their duties. If you work in the maritime industry and have suffered an injury or illness while on the job, understanding the Jones Act claims process is essential.

At Kherkher Garcia, LLP, we have represented maritime workers for more than 30 years. Our maritime injury attorneys have in-depth knowledge of maritime law and know what it takes to be successful with a Jones Act claim.

Below, we offer a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the intricacies of filing a Jones Act claim and seeking rightful compensation.

Understanding the Jones Act

The Jones Act is a federal law that grants certain rights and protections to seamen who are injured due to negligence or unseaworthiness while working on a vessel. To qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, you must be employed on a vessel in navigable waters and contribute to the vessel’s mission or function. The Act enables eligible seamen to seek compensation for injuries and damages through a legal process known as a Jones Act claim. You can learn more about the Jones Act here:

How the Jones Act Claims Process Works

Every lawsuit is unique, but there are some legal processes that will be similar for all Jones Act claims. These include:

Reporting the Incident

If you sustain an injury while working on a vessel, promptly report the incident to your supervisor or employer. Ensure that a detailed incident report is created, documenting the date, time, location, and circumstances surrounding your injury. Reporting the incident in a timely manner is crucial for initiating the Jones Act claims process.

Seeking Medical Treatment

After a maritime injury, your health and well-being should be the top priority. Seek immediate medical attention from an authorized healthcare provider. The medical records generated during your treatment will serve as essential evidence for your Jones Act claim. Ensure that all injuries and symptoms are accurately documented, and follow the prescribed treatment plan diligently.

Documenting Evidence

Gathering and preserving evidence is crucial when filing a Jones Act claim. Collect and preserve any evidence related to your injury, such as photographs of the accident scene, equipment failure, or hazardous conditions. Secure witness statements from co-workers who can provide accounts of the incident. Additionally, maintain detailed records of all medical expenses, treatments, lost wages, and any other damages resulting from the injury.

Hiring a Jones Act Attorney

Given the complexities of the Jones Act and the legal process involved, it is highly recommended to seek the assistance of an experienced Jones Act attorney. They specialize in maritime law and have extensive knowledge of the Jones Act and its provisions. An attorney will guide you through the claims process, protect your rights, and advocate for fair compensation on your behalf.

Filing the Jones Act Claim

With the help of your attorney, prepare and file a Jones Act claim. This involves submitting a written claim to your employer or their insurance company, outlining the details of your injury, the negligence or unseaworthiness that caused it, and the damages you have suffered as a result. Your attorney will ensure that the claim is comprehensive, accurately reflects the extent of your injuries, and is filed within the statute of limitations.

Investigation and Discovery

Once your Jones Act claim is filed, an investigation and discovery process will commence. This involves collecting evidence, interviewing witnesses, and exchanging information between parties involved. Your attorney will work diligently to gather evidence supporting your claim and may engage experts or investigators if necessary.

Negotiations and Settlement

After the investigation, negotiations with your employer or their insurance company will begin. Your attorney will represent your best interests during these negotiations, seeking fair compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. If a fair settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will be prepared to proceed to litigation.

Litigation and Trial

In the event that a fair settlement cannot be achieved through negotiations, your attorney will guide you through the litigation process. This involves filing a lawsuit and presenting your case in court. Here is a more detailed overview of the steps involved in a Jones Act claim trial:

  • Pre-Trial Motions: Before the trial begins, the parties may file motions with the court. These motions can ask the court to dismiss the case, exclude certain evidence, or rule on other procedural matters.
  • Opening Statements: The trial will begin with opening statements from the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys. The plaintiff’s attorney will give an overview of the case, explaining the injuries, the circumstances surrounding the accident, and the employer’s negligence. The defendant’s attorney will then give their opening statement, arguing that the employer was not negligent and that the seaman’s injuries were not caused by the accident.
  • Witness Testimony: The next phase of the trial will involve the presentation of witness testimony. The plaintiff’s attorney will call witnesses to testify about the seaman’s injuries, the accident, and the employer’s negligence. The defendant’s attorney will then have the opportunity to cross-examine these witnesses.
  • Exhibits: The parties may also introduce exhibits into evidence. These exhibits can include photographs, medical records, documents, and other items that are relevant to the case.
  • Closing Arguments: After all of the evidence has been presented, the attorneys will give closing arguments. The plaintiff’s attorney will summarize their case and urge the jury to find in favor of the seaman. The defendant’s attorney will then give their closing argument, arguing that the employer should be found not liable.
  • Jury Deliberation and Verdict: The jury will then deliberate and reach a verdict. If the jury finds that the employer was negligent, they will award damages to the seaman. The amount of damages will vary depending on the severity of the seaman’s injuries and other factors. Once deliberation has concluded, the Judge will enter a verdict.

A Jones Act claim trial can be a complex and lengthy process. That is why it is so important to work with an attorney who is skilled in handling these cases.

Find Out if You Qualify for a Jones Act Claim

If you work in the maritime industry and have suffered an injury, you may qualify to file a Jones Act claim. A successful claim could provide compensation to you and your family to cover your medical expenses, lost income, and other losses related to your injuries.

Find out if you qualify for compensation by contacting Kherkher Garcia to speak with our maritime injury attorneys. Complete our online contact form, or call us at 713-333-1030 to get help right away. Our consultations are 100% free, so you have nothing to lose.


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Kevin Haynes

Kevin Haynes

Firm Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Firm Partner Kevin Haynes. Kevin has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 15 years. He has won $150 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. Kevin is powerful and effective in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been seriously injured at work or on the road.

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