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The Value of a Jones Act Case

How much is a Jones Act claim worth? Unlike car accident claims, Jones Act claims are complicated to calculate. In this webinar, we discuss what the Jones Act is and how the case value is determined.

Unlike car accident cases or other kinds of personal injury cases, calculating the value of a Jones Act case is a bit more involved. Many of our clients want to know exactly how much a back injury or head injury would be worth, but unfortunately, until you actually start gathering evidence, it’s difficult to put a number on the case value.

There are two main reasons why the value of Jones Act cases is so complicated to calculate:

  • The Jones Act lets you collect compensation in a variety of different ways, each of which requires proof of not only the value but also whether you’re entitled to it. To put it another way, imagine you’re trying to get an estimate for building a custom house. There’s not a set cost for building a house from the ground up. You have to hire electricians, contractors, and other experts to provide estimates on each aspect of the house-building process. Each of those elements has its associated cost value. 

Building a Jones Act case is similar in that it requires different experts to estimate different aspects of the case. Constructing a custom house requires architects, electrical engineers, and plumbers. The Jones Act claims process requires specialized doctors, job experts, and safety experts.

  • The Jones Act is also a fault-based statute which means the settlement is calculated based on how much each party was at fault for the accident. So, evidence and expert reports are needed to prove this as well.

The following webinar goes into detail on how a Jones Act lawsuit is valued, what kind of compensation you can collect, and what you would need to determine the value of your injury.

Understanding the Value of Your Jones Act Case

[0:01]: Hello, today we’re going to talk about The Value of Your Jones Act case: How Much it Could be Worth and Why.

About Tim Young and The Young Firm

[0:08]: My name is Tim Young. I’m an attorney with The Young Firm in New Orleans. We are a law firm focused on maritime law. I am going to give you a little bit of background on myself again. My name is Tim Young. I’m a maritime attorney in New Orleans. We handle cases throughout the Gulf South up and down the coastline, Louisiana, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama. We also have cases across the country in other cities and states. I have been handling maritime and Jones Act cases for more than 23 years. This is the only type of work that myself and my law firm does, and we have successfully helped clients with very major injuries including brain injuries, burn victims, and clients who have had multiple surgeries. We’ve really been fortunate to help people through some very, very tough times in their life, and we feel honored to have played such a role in their lives.

Overview of Webinar Topics

Understanding the Jones Act

[1:05]: Today we are going to talk about the value of your potential maritime case. Here is what we’re going to cover. First thing is how does the Jones Act work?

[1:17]: A lot of our clients and potential clients will ask us, what is this Jones Act that I hear about? Today, I’m going to explain it to you in a little bit of detail during this presentation.

Types of Damages You Can Recover

[1:26]: You’re also going to learn about the type of damages that you can recover as an injured maritime worker under the Jones Act. We will cover the type of damages that you may be entitled to if you were injured while working on a vessel or if you qualify for Jones Act status.

Determining the Fault of the Company

[1:47]: Next thing we’re going to cover today is determining the fault of your company and the value of your Jones Act claim. I’m going to speak to you for a couple of minutes about why these two points are related, the fault of your company as well as the value of your claim. How do they relate to each other and why are they important in your case?

What is the Jones Act?

[2:06]: How does the Jones Act work? Let’s jump right into the first topic here. The Jones Act itself is a federal statute. It was passed by Congress back in the 1930s originally. It’s been amended a few times but what it is is essentially a law that’s written on the federal law books and it applies to individuals who qualify as what are known as seamen. And those are individuals basically who spend the majority of their time working on vessels.

The Jones Act is Fault-Based

[2:37]: The Jones Act is a fault-based statute. If you see the slide now, we are going into the nature of the statute itself. It is fault-based. What that means is a company has to be at fault in order for you to recover against that company under the Jones Act. And in a Jones Act situation, you will be filing a claim against your employer, your actual company that hires you and employs you at the time of your injury.

[3:04]: Your company has to have done something wrong in order for you to recover under the Jones Act.

You Have Other Rights Under Maritime Law

[3:10]: It’s very important to understand there are other rights you have under maritime law, which is separate from the Jones Act statute, and your company does not necessarily have to have done anything wrong in order to recover under maritime law. But for purposes of this presentation, we’re focusing just on the Jones Act statute itself, and it is a fault-based statute, meaning under the specific Jones Act statute, your company has to have known something wrong for you to recover.

[3:40]: I will go into a little bit of detail in a few minutes about what that means as far as a company doing something wrong or how it could have prevented your injury or accident.

The Jones Act has Comparative Fault

[3:48]: The other thing to know is that the Jones Act is a comparative fault law. It’s a comparative fault statute. What that means is essentially your company can be some at fault and you may be some at fault also. It really depends on your situation, depends upon how you got hurt, what role you may or may not have played in it.

You’ll Be Blamed for Your Accident

[4:10]: Each case is different but the nature of the Jones Act itself is that you and your company can potentially share fault for the way that you got injured in the cause of your accident. In almost every case that we handle, we see the company wanting to blame our clients, and obviously, from our standpoint, our clients are the victims in the case.

They Will Take a Statement from You to Try and Prove It’s Your Fault

[4:34]: They’re not the ones to be blamed, but just the nature of the statute is that the company will try to blame you. That is why, and this is the last point here on this slide, this is why the insurance claims man or the company itself will usually take a statement from you.

[4:48]: And anybody who’s given a statement will know at some point in that statement, they will ask you,

  • How did this happen?
  • Do you think anything was done wrong?
  • Was this JUST an accident?

[4:58]: That’s the type of language that you typically hear in a recorded statement. All of that is meant to basically absolve the company from any type of fault, and potentially, at the same time, blame you a little bit for what happened. So understand that the nature of the Jones Act is it is fault-based and the company can try to blame you.

The Company Doesn’t Have to Be 100% at Fault

[5:19]: And importantly, though, you do not have to prove the company is 100% at fault to recover some of your compensation. I’m going to talk about that in a minute, but the company may be 80% at fault and you may share 20% of the blame. Company could be 50-50 with you. It could be where the company did 20% wrong and you did 80%. In any one of those situations, you’re entitled to recover from the company. You simply have your damages adjusted accordingly to the company’s fault, which we’re going to talk about.

[5:53]: Fault = recovery. No fault = no recovery. Keep those two points in mind under the Jones Act.

What Damages Can You Collect?

[6:00]: Our next issue here is, what damages can you recover under the Jones Act? This is a big question we get from all the potential clients who call in and our clients who hire us. What are the damages I can recover? People hear about workers compensation. They hear this two-thirds their salary and their medicals. That has nothing to do with the Jones Act.

[6:21]:  The Jones Act is simple. You are allowed to recover any and all damages you suffered. Let me repeat that: any and all damages you as an injured seaman suffered you can seek to recover those under the Jones Act.

Pain and Suffering

[6:39]: This means pain and suffering is included (very different from state workers comp individuals who may be friends or family members who have had a land-based injury, they collect a little check and they may get a final check at the end).

[6:51]: The Jones Act is very different. You are entitled to pain and suffering damages. You’re entitled to seek those under your Jones Act case.

Loss of Wage Benefits

[6:58]: You’re also entitled to seek loss of wages, benefits or any other financial losses. This can be an enormous part of a Jones Act claim.

[7:07]: A lot of our clients make 50,000 a year. A lot of them 100,000 to 200,000 a year as captains or drillers or OIMS or tool-pushers. A lot of captains and pilots, frankly, on the tugs, tanker men they typically make six figures a year. These individuals can seek any loss of wages or benefits or any other financial losses that you’re going to have because of your injury. If you’re 30, 35, 40 years old, you may have 25, 30, 40 years of future wages that you’re going to be losing and that can add up very quickly.

Past and Future Medical Costs

[7:45]: You’re also entitled to seek medical costs under the Jones Act. This is past amounts that you may have incurred and future amounts which can become very high amounts if an individual needs a future surgery or they have to pay for prescriptions over time. All that can add up very quickly especially with the increasing cost of medical expenses.

Putting a Value on Your Jones Act Case

[8:08]: Let’s put a value on a Jones Act case for you. What we’re going to do here is walk through kind of the formula, putting a value on your Jones Act case for you.

Calculate the Total Value of Your Damage

[8:16]: Essentially, you want to calculate the total value of your damages that you suffered. And when I talk to individuals on the phone, they will ask me and we’re happy to talk to anyone who’s been hurt offshore on a vessel, any type of maritime worker. We speak to plenty of them every week. The first thing I do is explain this simple formula to them.

[8:38]: The first item that’s important is the total what I call sort of the ball of damage. What’s the total amount of damage that you may have suffered?

  • This is your pain and suffering.
  • This is your medical expenses in the future.
  • This is your prescription cost.
  • This is your wage loss which can be very significant.

You want to put a value on that total big ball of damage and kind of picture in your head like a big big big large amount of damage that you have there. And to do this, we go through the things that I just mentioned.

Questions to Help You Determine the Value of Your Claim

[9:10]: Typically, when I interview people on the phone, I will ask them about:

  • How badly hurt are you?
  • What is the nature of your injury? Obviously, if you haven’t had surgeries, that’s very fortunate for your health but it will play a role in how much you’re entitled to recover, typically, in your case.

Can You Return to Work and Make the Same Salary?

[9:28]: Next question is: Can you return to work? This is a huge item. We see some basic mistakes being made a lot of times where people aren’t really sure medically what’s wrong with them, so they think they can return to work. But one of the big questions you should have is can you return to work? That’s going to really play a big role in the value of your damages.

How Much Medical Treatment Will You Need in the Future?

[9:50]: How much medical treatment will you need? Do you know that yet? Have you been to doctors who are really aggressively treating you, running tests to try to see if there’s anything wrong with you, to make sure there is nothing wrong with you?

The Difference Between Company Doctors and Unbiased Doctors

[10:02]: And if I could talk for a second, there’s a real difference in doctors that are sort of going to say, “Well let’s wait and see. We don’t really want to want to run that test yet.” I believe entirely that the doctors should run multiple tests. Hopefully, they all come back normal, which is wonderful. It gives you peace of mind. You know that there’s no issue with that part of your body. If you’re having some pain in your knee, I recommend the doctors test anything they can in that regard to figure out what’s going on. Sometimes other medical doctors will basically just say let’s wait and see if it gets better. That can be very dangerous if you’re an injured maritime worker with a Jones Act case.

What is the Nature of Your Injury?

[10:44]: The pain and suffering amount: what is the nature of your injury? Again you’re entitled to a pain and suffering amount how much that may be if you get into court.

What is the Full Amount of Your Lost Wages and Benefits?

[10:55]: Your amount of lost wages and benefits. This, I mentioned a few times already, this can be very very high. It’s important that you really sit down and figure out not only your salary but your benefits: your 401(k), the amount of insurance, the value of that insurance they may have been paying every month for you and your family. Your disability payments. Sometimes they’ll be paying into short-term and long-term disability for you. All of that stuff you can seek in the Jones Act, and there’s a value to all of that.

What Are Your Full Medical Costs?

[11:25]: Medical cost. We mentioned this one, figuring out from good doctors who really have examined you and figured out what’s going on, how much are you going to need in the future for your medical cost.

[11:36]: So after you put all those amounts together, you have again as I kind of described the big ball of damage, the amount that’s gonna be argued about and discussed about in your case.

Determining the Fault of the Company

[11:46]: Then you have to consider the fault of your company. Typically we will sit down and ask what happened to you and why. Was this something unusual? Probably half maybe more or so of our clients truly understand what happened and what went wrong. They really have a full picture of what happened to them.

Sometimes You Don’t Know That the Company Did Something Wrong

[12:07]: A lot of times people don’t. A lot of times because of the nature of how you may have been hurt, you may not fully know what happened. You may know that something wrong happened, but you may not have a real detailed understanding of it, which is part of the role of filing the claim and figuring all that out for you.

Could the Accident Have Been Avoided?

[12:22]: One of the questions typically is could it have been avoided? It’s a real basic question but how could this have been avoided? That really gets people to sort of drill down and figure out sort of redesign the project and figure it out how it could have been avoided.

Would a Safety Expert See Safety Violations?

[12:37]: If an expert has reviewed what happened, would they see safety problems? Typically in almost all of our cases, a safety expert will be involved. These guys have real specialized knowledge. They really investigate accidents. They know what’s going on or should go on out there on boats, on barges, on rigs. And these guys come into the case and they look at it and they do a real independent investigation, separate from whatever the company may have created or cooked up after your accident to sort of point the finger maybe at you when they shouldn’t have. 

[13:14]: And the last question is: Do you really know if your company was at fault? This is kind of a funny one because we’ll have people who have been out in the industry for 10 or 20 years and they come in and, this is what I always hear them say, they will say, “Oh, we always did the job like that.”

[13:30]: And when you really drill down and we send the materials over to a safety expert, a lot of times he will say, “Well you know that’s OK the company did it like that, I understood, but it’s not the right way it should have been done.” So a lot of times people really don’t know any differently, because it’s the way that the job approached it. It may not have been the safest way or the best way to do it but that’s just the way that was always done maybe to save time or to save money.

[13:56]: So you know your company being at fault is not the same thing as “Well, it was business as usual” and “I don’t think we did it any differently than we ever did.” Those are two different things.

You May Be Partially Responsible for Your Accident And That’s OK

[14:09]: Last point here is and I’m just gonna be honest is, sometimes you may hold some responsibility for what happened. Certainly, the company will try to blame you. Most of our clients are really free from fault. They really protect themselves well when they’re working, but sometimes those individuals who do hold some type of small responsibility or maybe more responsibility for what happened to them.

[14:32]: Again the nature of the Jones Act is even if you do hold some responsibility, you are entitled to collect for the part that was your company’s fault.

Case Value Recap

[14:43]: The next step here: now what we’ve done is to kind of recap. We’ve obviously talked about the full amount of damages in your case. I went through a litany of all those items that are to be considered by you.

[14:54]: Then the next thing we talked about was the second item here which is the fault of your company. And we went through considerations on whether maybe a safety expert looked at things? Do you know if maybe something was done wrong? Did they change things after your accident? Maybe you do share some responsibility for what happened, some small responsibility.

Jones Act Formula

[15:14]: So you kind of have Part A there and you have Part B there, and what you do here and this is to kind of really ballpark the value of your Jones Act case and this is not exact. This is just some guidance for you so you can get a basic understanding of how this may work, is the total possible value of your case which was the first thing we talked about would be sort of your first figure in there.

[15:37]: And then the likely fault of your company, the likely company fault there may be the second figure there, B. And basically you’re just multiplying those together, and then you’re going to end up with the potential value of your claim.

[15:49]: Again this is a very rough estimate. There’s a lot of moving parts here to talk about in detail, but this is a real rough way as to how your case works.

Determining Your Case Value Requires Experts

[16:00]: Real important points here, I want to close out with before we finish. A couple of things is: determining the value of your claim can take real experts. There’s a saying I like that sometimes things are simple but not easy. Again sometimes things are simple, simple to understand but sometimes they’re not easy to calculate or easy to figure out or easy to do. In your case, it’s simple to understand that the value of your claim needs to be determined, but a lot of times that can be a complicated specific, kind of specialized thing to do.

You Need the Right Doctors

[16:34]: Have the doctors run the tests on you. Have you been to doctors to run tests on you to figure out the full extent of your injuries? Have you even been to doctors that know the right type of tests to run, the right specialties of doctors?

You Need Economists & Job Experts

[16:48]: Have economists and job experts really calculated your loss of wages and your loss of benefits? I can’t tell you how many times clients come in and say well I was making 80,000 now I’m only making 40,000, they owe me $40,000 a year. The math does not work out like that. Sometimes it can be a lot more than you think. Honestly, sometimes it can be less than that type of simple calculation. These take what are called economists and they take vocational or job experts to look at all this stuff.

[17:23]: The other point here, and this is the second part of the formula, is determining the fault of your company can take real experts also.

You Need Safety Experts

[17:30]: These are the people I mentioned earlier: the safety experts. Have you had a real safety expert review everything? A neutral not biased safety expert, someone not affiliated with your company in any way. All the key documents have to be obtained and looked at. A lot of times that can only be done with filing a claim.

You Need Documents to Prove the Company was at Fault

[17:50]: That is one of the advantages to going over through a court process with all this, but you can get the key documents that may prove 30 or 40 or 50% more fault on your company and all that adds up to you collecting twice as much money as you would have without these documents.

[18:06]: So this is something that we’ve learned over my 23 years or more of doing this, sometimes a key document can make a big difference in the percentage of fault that a company will admit during your settlement.

Final Thoughts

[18:20]: Final thoughts here: Hopefully this has been helpful to you. I’m trying to keep it short for you. Download our free worksheet. It’s got some ideas on it in terms of determining the potential value of your Jones Act case.

[18:33]: Every case is absolutely different. Please give us a call. I’m happy to speak with you on the telephone or meet with you in person if you’d like and we can go over your particular facts of your case. Call us if you have any questions at all. Hopefully, you enjoyed this brief lesson, this brief seminar on determining the potential value of your Jones Act case.

[18:52]: Again my name is Tim Young. Our law firm is The Young Firm in New Orleans. We only handle maritime law cases and we’ve represented hundreds of injured maritime workers over the years. Thank you for your time.

Learn More About the Value of Your Jones Act Case

At The Young Firm, we are 100% focused on Jones Act and maritime injury law cases, and we understand claims like yours because we have handled so many of them. We are well aware of the specific requirements that you, as a victim of a maritime accident, have, and we can help you recover your lost benefits and get you compensation for damages. 

Schedule your free consultation today! If you have questions about maritime injuries and how to receive fair compensation, contact a lawyer from The Young Firm at 504-680-4100.