What Are Your Legal Rights After a Tugboat Accident?

Jones Act Jul 31, 2023

From collisions with other vessels to accidents on high seas, tugboat captains and crew members face several risks on a day-to-day basis. In many cases, these risks lead to serious injuries. If you have been injured on a tugboat, you have clear legal rights, and you will want to hire an experienced lawyer to help you fight for the financial compensation you deserve.

What are your legal rights after a tugboat accident? The answer to this question is surprisingly complicated. Generally, maritime workers—including tugboat captains and crew members—are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. This is because state workers’ compensation laws generally don’t apply to the United States’ navigable waters. Instead, tugboat captains and crew members must file their claims under the Jones Act, which is a federal law that applies specifically to “seamen” who spend their work days on the water.

Understanding Your Legal Rights After a Tugboat Accident

While the Jones Act entitles tugboat captains and crew members to benefits for on-the-job injuries, maximizing your Jones Act benefits isn’t easy. With this in mind, here is what you need to know about your legal rights after a tugboat accident:

1. You Have the Right to File for Maintenance and Cure Under the Jones Act

All seamen who get injured on the job are entitled to maintenance and cure under the Jones Act. These are “no-fault” benefits, which means employers and their insurance companies must pay regardless of how or why an accident happened. “Maintenance” benefits cover a portion of your lost wages, while “cure” benefits cover the costs of treatment for on-the-job injuries.

2. You Have the Right to Know What Happened

When you get injured in a tugboat accident, you have the right to know what happened. You can—and should—hire a lawyer to investigate and determine exactly what went wrong.

3. You Have the Right to File a Fault-Based Claim if the Evidence Supports It

Knowing what went wrong is important because the Jones Act also allows injured tugboat captains and crew members to file fault-based claims in many cases. If your employer was negligent or an issue with the tugboat rendered it unseaworthy, you may be entitled to full compensation for your tugboat accident. This includes full compensation for your lost wages as well as compensation for your pain, suffering and other losses.

4. You Have the Right to Choose Your Doctor

Unlike many state workers’ compensation laws, the Jones Act allows injured workers to choose their own doctors. If you have been injured in a tugboat accident, you should seek treatment promptly from a doctor of your own choosing.

5. You Have the Right to Hire a Lawyer to Help You

In addition to choosing your own doctor, you also have the right to hire a lawyer to help you. As we said, filing a successful Jones Act claim can be challenging. But, it is also extremely important if you have been seriously injured on the job. Hiring a lawyer who has experience representing injured tugboat captains and crew members will give you the best chance of recovering the financial compensation you deserve.

Important Facts About Filing a Tugboat Accident Claim

In addition to knowing your legal rights, there are some important facts you need to know as well. When you have a claim after a tugboat accident, you need to be very careful. You need to know who you can trust, and you need to know what types of mistakes can jeopardize your financial recovery. For example:

  • You Won’t Receive Any Compensation Unless You File a Claim – After a tugboat accident, you won’t receive any financial compensation unless you file a claim. It is up to you to assert your legal rights. If you do nothing, your employer isn’t going to cover your medical bills and lost wages voluntarily, and if you wait too long, you will lose your right to financial compensation.
  • Your Employer Won’t Calculate Your Benefits for You – When you file a Jones Act claim, it is also up to you to make sure you receive the full compensation you deserve. Your employer won’t calculate your benefits for you—or at least not with your best interests in mind. This is especially true when it comes to any compensation you are entitled to receive for negligence or unseaworthiness.
  • It Is Important to Investigate As Soon As Possible – Seeking additional compensation beyond maintenance and cure requires proof of negligence or unseaworthiness. You will need to hire a lawyer to collect this evidence for you—and you will need to do so before the evidence disappears. Once the issue has been fixed or evidence has floated away, filing a successful fault-based claim can become much more challenging.
  • There Are Lots of Mistakes You Need to Avoid – After being injured in a tugboat accident, there are lots of mistakes you need to avoid. Your employer won’t explain these mistakes to you—and your employer may even encourage you to do things that prevent you from successfully asserting your legal rights. Your lawyer can explain the mistakes you need to avoid, and your lawyer will handle your claim with your best interests in mind.
  • Your Losses Could Be Much Greater Than You Think – Finally, the financial and non-financial costs of traumatic injuries can be substantial, and this means that your losses could be much greater than you think. Many injured tugboat captains and crew members are surprised to learn how much they are entitled to recover. Your lawyer can calculate the full long-term costs of your injuries, and then your lawyer can help you make informed decisions about your next steps.

Hire a Lawyer for Your Tugboat Accident Case at No Out-of-Pocket Cost

Were you injured in a tugboat accident? If so, we strongly encourage you to contact us to learn more. We provide free initial consultations, and we represent injured tugboat captains and crew members at no out-of-pocket cost. To discuss your situation with an experienced lawyer in confidence, call 800-468-4878 or tell us how we can reach you online now.

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