Can I File a Jones Act Claim if I Fell Down the Stairs?

Jones Act Jan 31, 2023

When you work on a boat or ship, you accept that you face certain risks on the job. But, while you may worry about risks like getting caught in a line or falling overboard, you probably don’t give nearly as much thought to the risk of falling down the stairs.

Yet, these types of accidents are among the most common causes of injuries on barges, tugboats, push boats, cargo ships, containerships and other vessels.

Like all accidents that happen onboard vessels on the water, falls down the stairs are covered under the Jones Act. If you fell down the stairs, you can hire a lawyer to help you collect maintenance and cure benefits, and your lawyer can examine the facts of your case to determine if you are entitled to additional compensation for an unseaworthy condition or Jones Act negligence.

When Can I File a Jones Act Claim for a Fall Onboard a Vessel?

The Jones Act covers falls onboard vessels in nearly all cases. It covers falls that occur while vessels are in navigation (i.e., moving on the water), and it even covers falls that occur while barges, cargo ships and other vessels are moored.

A common misconception among seamen is that they can’t file a Jones Act claim if they are responsible for their own injuries. Unfortunately, many employers perpetuate this myth. But, this is not the case. Even if you simply missed a step and fell down the stairs, you are still covered under the “no-fault” provisions of the Jones Act.

The Jones Act’s “no-fault” provisions entitle injured seamen to maintenance and cure benefits regardless of how they get injured onboard a vessel. In other words, you do not need to be able to prove that the vessel was unseaworthy or that your employer forced you to work in hazardous conditions. If you were onboard when you got injured, you can—and should—file a claim for maintenance and cure benefits.

How Do I Prove that I Qualify for Maintenance and Cure?

Even though maintenance and cure are “no-fault” benefits under the Jones Act, you still need to be able to prove that you qualify for these benefits. Basically, this involves proving that you got injured onboard. To prove that you qualify for maintenance and cure benefits after falling down the stairs onboard a vessel, you can:

  • Report your accident to your employer or the ship’s captain right away
  • Seek medical treatment for your injuries promptly (and tell your doctor how you got injured so this is reflected in your medical records)
  • Take photos of your injuries to document where and when they occurred

While this should be enough to collect the benefits you deserve, many companies will fight their employees’ claims for maintenance and cure. As a result, rather than trying to handle your claim on your own, it is best to hire an experienced lawyer who can prove your claim and deal with any issues on your behalf.

How Do I File a Claim for an Unseaworthy Vessel Condition or Jones Act Negligence?

As we mentioned above, seamen who fall down the stairs will be entitled to additional compensation for unseaworthy vessel conditions or Jones Act negligence in some cases. If you have one of these claims, you may be entitled to significant financial compensation on top of your maintenance and cure benefits.

To file one of these claims, you will need evidence of the unseaworthy condition or your employer’s (or a captain’s or coworker’s) negligence. If you can, you should take photos and videos of the stairs where you fell. You should also write down the names of any coworkers who saw what happened, and you should write down any details that you think may be relevant. For example:

  • Were the stairs slippery?
  • Was the staircase in need of repair?
  • Were you concerned about the stairs’ safety for any reason?
  • Had anyone mentioned that the vessel was in need of maintenance or repairs?
  • Did your employer force you to work in bad weather or sea conditions?

You will want to share as many details with your lawyer as possible. Based on the information you provide, your lawyer will determine whether an investigation is warranted, and if so, your lawyer will work quickly to gather the additional evidence needed to prove your claim for unseaworthiness or Jones Act negligence.

What if I was Off Duty When I Fell Down the Stairs?

Under the Jones Act, you do not necessarily need to be doing your job when you get injured in order to file a claim. So, if you slipped and fell while you were off duty, you should still talk to a lawyer about your legal rights. The Jones Act also covers accidents that happen while walking to the head, walking to the galley and doing other things that are not necessarily job-related.

How Much Can I Recover Under the Jones Act if I Fell Down the Stairs?

When you file a claim under the Jones Act, the amount you can recover depends on a few key factors. For example, to assess your legal rights, your lawyer will need to know:

  • Do you have a claim for unseaworthiness or Jones Act negligence?
  • How severe are your injuries?
  • What are your treatment needs?
  • How long will you be out of work?
  • Along with medical bills and lost wages, what other losses will you suffer as a result of your injuries?

After assessing these factors, your lawyer will be able to provide a reasonable estimate of the value of your claim, and then you can use this information to make an informed decision about how to move forward.

Discuss Your Jones Act Claim with a Lawyer for Free

Would you like to know how much you are entitled to recover for your slip-and-fall accident under the Jones Act? If so, we invite you to get in touch. To schedule a free and confidential consultation as soon as possible, call 800-468-4878 or tell us what happened online now.

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