Two Fundamental Issues for a Plaintiff
When an offshore worker is injured, an experienced Jones Act lawyer must first address two primary issues:
Is the individual a "seaman" and qualified to obtain a legal remedy under the Jones Act?
What is the deadline for filing a claim under the Jones Act in this particular case?
The answers to these questions depend on the unique circumstances of each injury or death. Attorneys will be able to determine (a) whether you are qualified to receive compensation under the Jones Act and (b) whether the legal deadline (statute of limitations) has been reached in your case.
Types of Compensation under the Jones Act
An injured offshore worker or seaman may be entitled to two types of compensation for injuries covered under the Jones Act:
Maintenance and Cure: compensation for transportation to a medical facility, for medical care, and to cover a portion of lost wages.
Compensation for disfigurement, pain and suffering, medical expenses, mental anguish, lost wages, and lost earning capacity.
In a Jones Act case, the plaintiff must prove that the employer's negligence caused the individual’s injury or death.
The burden of proving negligence rests squarely on the plaintiff. Fortunately, in Jones Act cases, only a small amount of evidence is necessary to uphold a finding of negligence under the given facts. Additionally, in Jones Act cases, the employer may not utilize any common law defenses and for all intents and purposes the determination rests solely upon whether or not employer negligence played even the slightest role in the incident that is the basis of the suit. The burden of the seaman is considered met, and the obligation of the employer to pay damages manifests, when there is the slightest proof, even if it is entirely circumstantial, to persuade the jury that the employer was in any way negligent.
The theory of assumed risk, where the Plaintiff knowingly undertakes a dangerous duty, may not be relied upon as a defense in an action under the Jones Act. In addition, contributory negligence, the idea that the Plaintiff contributed to his own injury, does not operate as a defense to a suit under the act. Instead, it may only serve as a factor to be considered by the jury in reducing the amount of damages that will be recoverable.
However, as is illustrated by the case of Diamond Offshore Management Co. v. Guidry, 171 S.W.3d 840 (Tex. 2005), there are certain circumstances under which you would not be able to recover for your injuries. In this case, a seaman acted inappropriately while on shore leave and became intoxicated. Because of his course of conduct prior to being injured he was deemed to be outside the scope of his employment and thus precluded from collecting damages under the Act.