How Do You Prove a Jones Act Claim?

Jones Act Feb 21, 2023

If you work on a commercial vessel or a jack-up rig offshore, the Jones Act protects you when you get injured on the job. But, even if there is no question that you are entitled to financial compensation, it is still up to you to prove your legal rights.

Unfortunately, collecting benefits under the Jones Act is not as easy as it should be. While companies should help seamen file their claims and pay the compensation their employees deserve, many companies will fight to avoid paying by all means available. As a result, injured seamen need to be prepared to fight too—and this starts with hiring an experienced lawyer to prove that their employer is liable.  

3 Types of Proof in Jones Act Cases

Injured seamen can potentially file a few different types of claims under the Jones Act. Each type of claim requires different forms of proof, and this is one of the many reasons why it is important to have an experienced lawyer on your side.

  • Maintenance and Cure Maintenance and cure are “no-fault” benefits that all seamen can claim following an accident at work. Filing a successful maintenance and cure claim requires proof that you got injured on the job.
  • Jones Act Negligence – Along with maintenance and cure benefits, injured seamen can also seek compensation for Jones Act negligence in many cases. Filing a successful Jones Act negligence claim requires proof that your employer is responsible for what happened.
  • Unseaworthiness – Another option for recovering full compensation after a maritime or offshore accident is filing a claim for unseaworthiness. To file a successful unseaworthiness claim, you must be able to prove that an issue with your vessel or platform led to your injury.

1. Proving that You Got Injured on the Job

Even when seeking “no-fault” maintenance and cure benefits, you still need to be able to prove that you got injured on the job. Your employer isn’t going to pay voluntarily, and, if you don’t submit proof that your injury is work-related, you won’t receive the benefits you deserve.

How do you prove that you got injured on the job? To maximize your chances of securing maintenance and cure benefits, you should:

  • Take photos and videos of the location where you got injured (and do so as soon after your accident as possible)
  • If you are still on your vessel or rig, take photos of your injuries that also show your location
  • Take detailed notes, including information about where and how you got injured
  • Write down the names of any coworkers who witnessed the accident
  • File an accident report with your employer as soon as possible

In most cases, these steps will be enough to establish your right to maintenance and cure benefits. But, if it has been days since your accident, or if you are no longer on the vessel or rig, then proving your right to benefits could be much more challenging. In any case, to ensure that you are doing everything that is necessary to protect your rights, you should discuss your claim with an experienced lawyer promptly.

2. Proof of Jones Act Negligence

Proving Jones Act negligence allows you to obtain financial compensation above and beyond maintenance and cure benefits. To prove your claim, you must have evidence not only that you got injured at work, but also that your employer is responsible for your injury. As a result, in addition to the types of evidence discussed above, you may also need evidence such as:

  • Evidence that your employer failed to follow appropriate safety practices and protocols
  • Evidence that your employer provided you with unsafe tools or equipment
  • Evidence that one of your coworkers made a mistake that led to your injury
  • Evidence that your employer failed to provide adequate training or supervision
  • Evidence that your employer ignored safety risks such as spills or hazardous electricity

Generally, these are not forms of evidence that you will be able to collect on your own. To prove your claim for Jones Act negligence (and obtain full compensation for your injury), you will need to hire a lawyer to conduct an investigation and obtain relevant documentation from your employer. Here, too, it is important to act promptly, and we strongly recommend that you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.

3. Proof of an Unseaworthy Condition

Similar to a claim for Jones Act negligence, filing a claim for unseaworthiness requires evidence of more than where and when you got injured. You must also be able to prove that an issue with your vessel or jack-up rig was to blame. As a result, filing a successful claim for unseaworthiness typically requires evidence such as:

  • The vessel’s or jack-up rig’s maintenance records
  • Documentation of recent work orders or repairs
  • Records of previous accidents on the vessel or rig
  • Evidence of dangerous conditions on the vessel or rig (i.e., puddles or unsafe equipment)
  • Evidence of a lack of adequate safety equipment (i.e., insufficient PFDs or an inoperable life raft)

As with each of the lists above, these are just examples. There are many other ways to prove a Jones Act claim, and different types of evidence will be available in different cases. The key is to focus on the evidence that is available in your case, and you will want to give your lawyer as much information as possible so that he or she can seek out the evidence that is needed.

Get the Help You Need to Prove Your Jones Act Claim

Were you injured while working on a commercial vessel or jack-up rig? If so, it is important that you speak with a lawyer who can help you recover the financial compensation you deserve. At the Willis Law Firm, we have decades of experience successfully representing injured seamen under the Jones Act. To get started with a free and confidential consultation, give us a call at 800-468-4878 or tell us how we can reach you online now.

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Houston, Texas 77056

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