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Pre-Existing Injuries Under the Jones Act

Articles Dec 4, 2015

While most workers in the maritime industry have probably heard of the Jones Act they may not know what types of injuries and conditions are covered under this federal statute. The Jones Act covers both new injuries and the aggravation of pre-existing injuries and conditions, meaning that even if you had an old injury, iand you are hurt in a new accident on a ship or a vessel that worsens or aggravates your previous injury, you may still be entitled to recover damages under the Jones Act.

If You Have An Old Injury, Employers May Try to Reject Your Jones Act Claim

Employers in the offshore and maritime industry are well known for trying to limit their legal exposure and financial liability when a seaman is injured on the job. These companies and their insurance carriers will generally deny their responsibility and do everything they can to place the blame for an accident on the employee or another third party’s (3rd party) negligence.  In particular, when a seaman has a previous or old injury that has been aggravated in a new maritime accident, employers and their insurance adjusters will often claim the injury is not covered and refuse to provide the seaman with the medical care and treatment he needs to properly recover.  In some cases, the employer may even try to claim that the pre-existing condition or injury somehow caused or contributed to the accident, rather than the employer’s own negligence.

Maintenance and Cure Benefits

If you are a seaman who has been injured or contracted a serious illness while working on a ship or vessel, your case should be handled by an attorney who has extensive experience representing Jones Act seaman and other maritime employees. The Jones Act is a complex federal law that provides important legal protections to seamen who are injured on the job. Similar to state workers’ compensation programs, this law requires employers to provide seamen with medical benefits and financial compensation when they are injured or become ill in the course or scope of their employment. These payments, known as “maintenance and cure” benefits, must be paid to the maritime employee regardless of who may be to blame for the maritime accident. When a pre-existing condition such as an earlier neck or back injury is aggravated in a new maritime accident, the employer will still be required to provide the employee with a daily allowance to cover living expenses (maintenance) along with the medical care (cure) necessary to treat both the old, aggravated injury and any new injuries that are attributable to the accident.

Negligence Claims Under the Jones Act

In addition to maintenance and cure benefits, the Jones Act allows an injured seaman to file a negligence lawsuit against his employer when the seaman is injured as a result of the careless actions or inactions of the employer or fellow co-workers. In a Jones Act negligence suit, the injured seamen will be able to recover damages for both new injuries and the aggravation of old injuries. It is important to understand that when employers are at fault or negligent, injured seamen have the right to file Jones Act negligence claims for any type of injury or condition, such as:

  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Closed Head Injury & Brain damage
  • Stroke or Heart attack
  • Paralysis
  • Herniated Discs
  • Broken bones
  • Burns & Scarring
  • Amputations
  • Toxic Exposures to Benzene & Asbestos
  • Blindness

Should the maritime worker prevail in the case, he may be awarded several types of damages, including past and future medical expenses and lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, mental anguish and disability and disfigurement.

When you are injured while working on a ship or vessel, it is always best to consult with an experienced maritime attorney before you take any actions. Your attorney can review your situation and take the appropriate steps to ensure you are receiving the full financial compensation and benefits you are owed under the law.

For more information, contact David Willis, a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Lawyer by calling toll-free, 1-800-GOT HURT.

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