Filing a Claim for an Offshore Back Injury: What Seamen Need to Know

Jones Act Jun 30, 2023

If you’ve suffered a back injury while working offshore, you need to be careful. You need to be careful to protect your health, and you also need to be careful to protect your legal rights. Back injuries can be incredibly costly, and while you may be entitled to financial compensation, you will need to avoid mistakes in order to collect the compensation you deserve.

As a seaman, there is a lot you need to know when you get injured on the job. Here are some important facts about protecting your health and legal rights after suffering a back injury offshore:

Back Injuries Are Covered Under the Jones Act

The first thing you need to know is that back injuries are covered under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal law that protects seamen who aren’t eligible for state workers’ compensation benefits, and it covers all types of on-the-job injuries. It also covers all injuries regardless of their severity. So, whether you need treatment and rest onboard or you need emergency surgery back on land, if you are eligible under the Jones Act, the costs of your treatment should be covered.

Examples of common offshore back injuries covered under the Jones Act include:

  • Back sprains
  • Back strains
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Herniated discs
  • Lower back pain
  • Paralysis
  • Nerve damage
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Vertebrae fractures

But, again, these are just examples. If you have suffered any type of back injury while working offshore in any capacity, you will want to speak with a lawyer about filing a Jones Act claim.

The Jones Act Covers All Types of Offshore Accidents

In addition to covering all types of back injuries, the Jones Act also covers all types of offshore accidents. In other words, regardless of how your back got injured, if you qualify as a Jones Act “seaman,” your accident should be covered. Some examples of common causes of offshore back injuries include:

  • Bending or twisting while doing your job
  • Collisions with objects onboard
  • Equipment and machinery accidents
  • Falls from height
  • Heavy weather and rough seas
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Moving equipment onboard
  • Sliding containers
  • Slip-and-fall accidents
  • Trip-and-fall accidents

Here, too, these are just examples. There are many other ways that offshore crew members can suffer back injuries on the job. No matter what happened, if you hurt your back working offshore, you should talk to a lawyer to make sure you are seeking the full financial compensation to which you are legally entitled.

Maintenance and Cure are “No Fault” Benefits for Back Injuries

Under the Jones Act, eligible seamen can potentially file three different types of claims. The first and most common is a claim for maintenance and cure benefits.

Maintenance and cure benefits are available to eligible seamen on a “no-fault” basis. What this means is that you can file a claim regardless of why you suffered a back injury. This is true even if your back injury was your own fault (with only very limited exceptions).

However, while seamen who suffer back injuries can claim maintenance and cure in almost all cases, these benefits are limited. Under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure only cover: (i) treatment expenses and (ii) a small stipend for basic expenses if you are unable to work. So, while making sure you are able to collect maintenance and cure benefits is important, it isn’t the only option you need to consider after suffering a back injury on the job.

Negligence and Unseaworthiness Can Entitle Seamen to Additional Compensation

The second type of claim under the Jones Act is a claim for Jones Act negligence. If your employer was negligent—and if your employer’s negligence led to your back injury—you can seek full compensation for all of your injury-related losses. This includes not only your medical expenses and lost wages but also any scarring or disfigurement, pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.

The third type of claim is a claim for unseaworthiness. Under the Jones Act, vessel owners have a legal duty to maintain their vessels in a seaworthy condition. If you suffered a back injury because the vessel on which you work is unseaworthy, this entitles you to full compensation as well.

Back Injuries Can Be Incredibly Costly

As we said in the introduction, back injuries can be incredibly costly. Serious back injuries can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars—if not much more. As a result, if you have suffered a back injury on the job, it is extremely important that you assert your legal rights under the Jones Act to the fullest extent possible. Sadly, many workers who don’t assert their legal rights not only end up in debt but in many cases, they are forced to make the difficult decision to forgo necessary treatment simply because they can’t afford it.

You Can Hire a Lawyer to Help with Your Back Injury at No Out-of-Pocket Cost

If you have a Jones Act claim for a back injury, you can hire a lawyer to handle your claim at no out-of-pocket cost. You can get a free initial consultation, and you can hire a lawyer on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay nothing unless you win, and if your lawyer helps you successfully assert your legal rights under the Jones Act, your legal fees will simply be deducted from the amount your lawyer helps you recover.

Contact Us for a Free Consultation About Your Back Injury Claim Under the Jones Act

Suffering a back injury on the job can impact all aspects of your life. If you’ve been injured offshore, you owe it to yourself (and your family) to speak with a lawyer about your legal rights. Depending on how you got injured, you are most likely entitled to maintenance and cure benefits, and you may be entitled to full compensation for your financial and non-financial costs under the Jones Act. To learn more in a free and confidential consultation, call 800-468-4878 or request an appointment online today.

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