Jones Act Damages
When you or your spouse have been injured offshore, it may be difficult to figure out how all the bills are going to get paid. If your company isn’t covering all of your medical expenses and cost of living as they should, then you may have no choice but to use the laws in place to provide for you and your family. If you decide to go this route, you will eventually need to hire an attorney and file a claim in order to get the compensation you’re entitled to. Under the Jones Act you are entitled to collect any damages which are directly related to your accident.
What are Damages?
Damages are just a legal term for money that is awarded through a court process to an injured worker who has been hurt through the negligent or wrongful actions of someone else.
Typically these damages will include
- pain and suffering (physical or emotional stress caused by your injury)
- medical expenses (doctors’ visits, surgeries, rehab, etc)
- loss of wages (the income you would have earned if you were not injured)
- loss of fringe benefits (meals provided to the employee while working, retirement benefits, health insurance, disability insurance, etc.)
Depending on the nature of the case, compensatory damages may cover these or other expenses resulting from your personal injury:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages, including overtime
- Physical disability
- Mental anguish
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of companionship
- Mental disability
- Property damage
- Transportation charges
Maintenance: Maintenance is defined by the law as the amount it costs for you to maintain yourself on land as your employer did at sea while you are recovering from your injury. Maintenance covers the costs for your lodging, food and monthly bills while you are injured and is generally paid at a fixed rate. Most companies pay $15 to $30 per day.
Cure: Cure refers to any medical expenses that are reasonable and related to your injury. You are allowed to choose your own physician.
Both maintenance and cure are paid until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement, Maximum medical improvement is defined as the point in recovery from an illness or injury where a seaman’s condition will no longer improve with medical treatment.
After any offshore injury, you have to look out for yourself and your family. As an injured seaman you may be entitled to compensation that goes beyond maintenance and cure (which is required under law). Most deckhands are considered seamen and are therefore protected under a federal law known as the Jones Act.
If your injury was caused by the negligence of the vessel owner, captain or a crew member or because the vessel was unseaworthy, you may be able to file a Jones Act lawsuit for additional damages. Jones Act damages include:
Medical expenses: Medical expenses include past and current medical bills and anticipated future medical costs including surgery, hospital and doctor bills, therapy costs and medical supplies.
Damages for medical bills may include:
- emergency services;
- diagnostic tests;
- surgery; and
- physical/occupational therapy.
It’s important to note that medical expenses may also include future care and treatment. For instance, if several surgeries are necessary or long-term rehabilitation is required, compensation may be sought in addition to current bills.
Lost wages: You may be able to recover any lost income and be compensated for the anticipated loss of income in the future.
Lost earning capacity: If your injury affects your ability to work and your earning potential, your employer may be held liable for the decrease in your earning capacity.
Loss of benefits: Maritime jobs typically pay very high benefits. You may seek compensation for past and future loss of benefits.
Pain and suffering: These damages are designed to compensate you for the amount of pain you suffered from your injury.
Mental anguish: Serious injuries and disabilities can affect a person’s mental well-being. If you suffered from depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress after your injury, you may be able to obtain compensation for your mental anguish.
Loss of consortium: After a serious injury, a person may not be able to engage in the activities they once enjoyed. Family and spouse relationships may suffer. These benefits provide compensation for these losses.
Each of these damages can be collected for both past and future pain or expenses you incur. This means that if you paid $5000 for a surgery two months ago and also have to pay $10,000 for a surgery two years from now, you could collect money for both the past and future surgery. The same applies to pain and suffering and the wages that you lost out on due to your injury.
Pain and Suffering Damages
Under the Jones Act, you’re entitled to receive pain and suffering damages if you suffer an accident that was caused by your employer or any of its employees.
What does this mean to you? Well, pain and suffering damages are not based on any type of a formula. Unfortunately, there’s no law book that you can go to that says if you have an injured knee that’s had a scope done to it you receive this much or if you have a lower back injury you receive this much. Pain and suffering damages are sometimes called general damages because there is no scale or rule of law that says how much you should receive. Your age also factors in how much you can potentially receive for your injuries. Younger people sometimes will have a longer period to suffer physical pain and suffering so generally their awards are higher. For settlement purposes there are generally ranges for different types of physical injuries.
Typically, a jury would be allowed to give a very minimal amount for an injury for pain and suffering but at the same time a jury can give a very large amount for pain and suffering. What we explain to our clients is when a case is discussed for settlement purposes typically the company will focus on a more narrow range. They’re not going to offer you the minimum amount because they know you wouldn’t accept it but they typically are not going to offer you the most amount that a jury or a judge would be allowed to give you. That’s why they call it a settlement. That’s why it’s a compromise.
So, the value of your general damages for settlement purposes tends to be a much more narrow, much more confined area here whereas when you get into court with a jury or a judge they can typically give the lower end of the spectrum or a lot of times the higher upper end of the spectrum also.
How Are Damages Collected?
The damages allowed for pain and suffering depend greatly upon the nature of your injury. You will be allowed to collect damages for both past as well as future pain and suffering ONLY if you prove these damages at trial. We prove that you need these damages by:
- Collecting Testimonies from Friends and Family. Your, your spouse’s, and/or friend’s testimony will be important to show how the injury has affected your quality of life. This is necessary in order to prove the court that you have suffered because of your injury.
- Relying on Your Doctor’s Expertise. The medical reports from your treating doctors will be very important for your future pain and suffering damages.Your physicians can testify as to whether or not your condition will improve or worsen in the future. Judges and juries are allowed to estimate the amount and type of pain and suffering that you will most likely experience in the future, and under the Jones Act they are allowed to award money damages for this suffering even though it has not occurred.
- Working with Job Experts. Our office works with experienced economists (job experts) who will calculate the exact value of your past and future loss of wages and fringe benefits. In almost all cases, an expert economist is required to predict future loss of wages. Most courts WILL NOT allow you to collect loss of future wages and future fringe benefits unless an expert economist has made these calculations for the jury.
- Gathering Important Documents. Our office will obtain all of your pay records including the value of your fringe benefits and use this information to calculate the true value of your past and future economic losses, including loss of fringe benefits. Sometimes your loss of fringe benefits can amount to almost as much as your loss of actual wages.
When it comes to assessing the true dollar value of your Jones Act injury claim, there is one component’s worth that can vary greatly: pain and suffering. This part of any claim is unique in that there is no automatic dollar value that can be applied to it.
The amount of compensation you receive for pain and suffering is based on the opinions of a judge or jury if your case goes to trial. When you’ve been injured at sea and want to file a Jones Act case, an attorney with The Young Firm can offer guidance regarding how your pain and suffering may be calculated.
Making the Case for the Value of Your Pain and Suffering
Pain and suffering cannot be measured or quantified like a hospital bill or missed paycheck. Even though it’s something experienced internally, it has the potential to greatly impact relationships and day-to-day life.
The following are individuals who may be needed to account for your pain and suffering:
- doctors – you may need your treating physicians to relay whether your injuries are expected to worsen in the future, which in turn might impact your mental and emotional well-being;
- family members and close friends – those who are closest to you may provide the most detailed account of how your life has been changed as a result of being injured at sea; and
- yourself – pain journals, photographs, and logs from therapy and counseling can demonstrate the nature and extent of your injuries.
The testimony you, your doctors and family members provide may be helpful in relaying just how much your injuries have impacted your emotional, psychological and mental well-being. With this in mind, building a strong case with compelling testimony is crucial to safeguarding your financial well-being after a serious maritime accident in New Orleans, Louisiana. Jones Act law is stringent. An attorney devoted to these types of cases can help prepare you for what lies ahead.
What Should You Do Next?
To help protect your case, you should:
- promptly report your injuries to your employer;
- seek immediate medical treatment;
- follow your doctor’s orders; and
- meet with New Orleans, LA attorneys with maritime knowledge.
1. If you’re not ready to make a decision yet, you can request free informational materials to continue educating yourself.
2. If you want to stop worrying and let us guide you through this tough time, you can call us directly at toll free at (866) 666-5129.