Can You File a Jones Act Claim for a Weather-Related Accident?

Jones Act Dec 23, 2022

If you work offshore, dealing with harsh weather conditions is a part of life. But, there comes a time when weather conditions are so harsh that it is no longer safe to be on the water—much less on the deck of a cargo ship, jack-up rig or other vessel.

Yet, even when weather conditions turn dangerous, many maritime employers still expect their employees to continue working. As a result, weather-related accidents and injuries are common. If you have been injured in a weather-related accident on inshore or offshore waters, here are seven important facts you need to know:

7 Important Facts About Being Injured in a Weather-Related Accident

1. Seamen Who Suffer Weather-Related Injuries Are Entitled to Jones Act Benefits

The first thing you need to know is that the Jones Act does cover weather-related accidents. In fact, the Jones Act covers the vast majority of all types of accidents on the water. So, if you were injured in a weather-related accident, you should be able to collect benefits—as long as you qualify as a “seaman” under the law.

If you spend your days working on a vessel or jack-up rig, then you almost certainly qualify. This means that, at a minimum, you can file for maintenance and cure benefits. But, as discussed below, you may be entitled to additional compensation as well. As a result, it will be important for you to get a thorough claim assessment from a lawyer who has experience representing seamen in weather-related maritime accident cases.

2. Maritime Employers Will Be Liable for Additional Compensation in Many Cases

The maintenance and cure benefits that are available to injured seamen under the Jones Act are “no-fault” benefits. This means that injured seamen can file claims regardless of how they get injured (with only limited exceptions). But, the Jones Act allows injured seamen to seek fault-based compensation as well—and injured seamen will have fault-based claims after weather-related accidents in many cases.

You may have a fault-based claim if your employer made a mistake that led to your injury. This is referred to as Jones Act negligence. From forcing you to work in dangerous conditions to failing to provide adequate safety equipment, there are various forms of negligence that may entitle you to additional compensation.

3. Vessel Owners Can Also Be Held Liable for Many Weather-Related Accidents

You may also have a fault-based claim if the vessel on which you were injured was unseaworthy. Just as there are various forms of Jones Act negligence, there are also various factors that can render a vessel unseaworthy. This includes not only factors that present a risk for capsizing but factors that present risks for onboard weather-related injuries as well.

For example, if any of the following played a role in your weather-related accident, you may have a claim for unseaworthiness. If you do, you can seek compensation above and beyond the benefits to which you are entitled to maintenance and cure:

  • Slippery floors or decks
  • Dangerous ladders or stairs
  • Faulty bilge pumps and other mechanical or electrical issues
  • Faulty vessel design
  • Undersized vessel
  • Unmaintained vessel
  • Inadequate safety procedures or safety equipment onboard

4. You Aren’t Responsible for Your Own Injury if You Felt Pressured to Work

Many seamen feel pressured to work during storms and other dangerous weather events. If you chose to work in bad weather because you felt pressured to do so, you are not responsible for your own injury. At a minimum, you should be able to collect maintenance and cure benefits, and if your employer was negligent or the vessel was unseaworthy, an experienced maritime lawyer may be able to help you collect additional compensation.

5. Weather-Related Accidents Don’t Just Happen On Deck

While many weather-related injuries result from slips and other accidents on deck, dangerous weather conditions can lead to accidents in the bridge, engine room, berths and other interior areas as well. For example, if you lost your balance, got knocked over or got hit by something that was knocked loose during a storm, you will want to speak with a lawyer about filing a claim under the Jones Act.

6. Bad Weather Conditions Can Make All Tasks More Dangerous

When weather conditions deteriorate, all tasks onboard a vessel or jack-up rig can become much more dangerous. Maritime employers have a duty to protect their employees from unnecessary job-related risks, yet, many fail to do so. If you were injured in a weather-related accident, the simple fact that you were working instead of prioritizing your safety could be enough to entitle you to additional compensation.

While slips and falls are among the most common weather-related accidents on the water, bad weather can play a role in various other types of accidents as well. Rain, snow and ice can make lines slippery and cause onboard equipment to stop working, and wind and waves can dislodge containers and other objects both on deck and in the interior areas of a vessel.

7. There Are Steps You Need to Take Promptly

While you have clear legal rights if you were injured in a weather-related accident on the water, there are steps you need to take promptly to make sure you are able to recover the financial compensation you deserve. For example, to protect your legal rights under the Jones Act, you should:

  • See a doctor on land (and follow your doctor’s advice)
  • Take detailed notes about the accident (including what happened and why)
  • Schedule a free consultation with a lawyer as soon as possible

Discuss Your Jones Act Claim with an Experienced Maritime Lawyer in Confidence

Were you injured in a weather-related accident on the water? If so, we encourage you to contact us for more information. We can explain your legal rights, and if you have a Jones Act claim, we can fight for the compensation you deserve. To speak with a lawyer in confidence as soon as possible, call 800-468-4878 or request a free consultation online now.

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Houston, Texas 77056

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