When Can Deckhands File Claims for Lifting Injuries?

Jones Act Nov 30, 2022

Lifting injuries are among the most common reasons why deckhands miss time from work. From loading and unloading cargo to cleaning and maintaining the vessel, various tasks that deckhands perform daily present risks for lifting injuries on the job.

If you are a deckhand and you have suffered a lifting injury on the job, you should talk to a lawyer about your legal rights. In most cases, deckhands who suffer lifting injuries will be entitled to benefits under the Jones Act; and, in some cases, they will be entitled to full compensation for all of their injury-related losses.

What If I Injured Myself While Lifting On a Vessel?

Unfortunately, there are many common misconceptions about maritime workers’ rights under the Jones Act. One of the most common misconceptions is that maritime workers cannot file for benefits when they cause their own injuries—such as when they injure themselves lifting.

This is not the case.

Under the Jones Act, maritime workers who qualify as “seamen” (which includes virtually all deckhands) can claim “no-fault” maintenance and cure benefits when they get injured at work. This means that it doesn’t matter how they got injured—as long as they weren’t drunk or high and didn’t hurt themselves intentionally. As a result, lifting injuries are covered, and deckhands who suffer lifting injuries should work with an experienced maritime attorney to assert their legal rights.

Deckhands can seek maintenance and cure benefits for all types of maritime lifting injuries, including:

  • Arm and shoulder injuries
  • Back injuries (i.e., lower back pain, slipped discs and pinched nerves)
  • Hip and knee injuries
  • Neck strains and other neck injuries
  • Foot injuries from dropped objects
  • Wrist and hand injuries

Sprains, strains, tears and bone fractures are all common lifting injuries among deckhands—and they are all injuries that are covered under the “no-fault” provisions of the Jones Act.

How Can I Prove That My Maritime Employer is Liable for My Lifting Injury?

While deckhands can collect maintenance and cure benefits for lifting injuries no matter how they get injured (with only a few limited exceptions, they can collect additional compensation if their employers are responsible. Under the Jones Act, if maritime workers can prove that their employers’ negligence was the primary cause of their injuries, they can seek compensation above and beyond maintenance and cure. This is important because maintenance and cure benefits do not cover all of the costs of suffering a lifting injury that forces you to miss time from work.

In particular, maintenance and cure benefits do not cover:

  • Full Loss of Income and Benefits – “Maintenance” benefits provide a small stipend for deckhands who miss work due to their lifting injuries. They do not provide full coverage for injured deckhands’ lost income and benefits. By filing Jones Act negligence claims, injured deckhands can obtain compensation for their lost earnings in the present and in the future.
  • Pain and Suffering – Injured deckhands must file Jones Act negligence claims in order to recover any compensation for their pain and suffering. When deckhands can prove that their employers are responsible for their injuries, they can recover full compensation for their pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-financial losses.

Injured deckhands can recover these losses (as well as secure full coverage for their medical expenses) by filing claims for employer negligence under the Jones Act. In cases involving lifting injuries, examples of employer negligence may include:

  • Allowing, encouraging or requiring deckhands to lift dangerously heavy objects
  • Failure to provide adequate safety equipment (i.e., lifting belts or gloves)
  • Failure to provide proper equipment for lifting heavy objects (i.e., pallet jacks)
  • Failure to properly maintain safety or lifting equipment
  • Failure to adopt and enforce appropriate workplace safety standards

How Do I File a Lifting Injury Claim Under the Jones Act As a Deckhand?

For deckhands who suffer lifting injuries on the job, taking action promptly is one of the most important steps for protecting their rights under the Jones Act. This includes:

  • Reporting the Lifting Injury – Under the Jones Act, seamen must report their injuries to their employers. It is best to do this as soon as possible, as waiting too long can result in a waiver of your legal rights.
  • Seeking Medical Care – Injured deckhands can (and should) choose their own medical providers. Even if you see your vessel’s onboard doctor for treatment initially, you should see a doctor of your choice promptly after getting back to land.
  • Talking to a Lawyer – You will want to find out if you have a claim for Jones Act negligence, and if you do, you will need an experienced lawyer on your side. You can contact our firm for a free consultation 24/7.

Once you take these steps, your lawyer will pursue your Jones Act claim on your behalf. Most likely, this will involve dealing with your employer’s insurance company. Most maritime employers have insurance that covers their employees’ job-related injury claims, and most successful claims settle through negotiations with the insurance companies.

What Should I Not Do If I Have a Jones Act Claim for a Lifting Injury?

Along with taking these steps, if you have a Jones Act claim for a lifting injury, there are several mistakes you will need to avoid as well. Some of the most common mistakes we see deckhands make after getting injured include the following:

  • Waiting too long to report their injury or seek treatment
  • Ignoring their doctor’s advice and returning to work too soon
  • Accepting maintenance and cure benefits without pursuing a claim for Jones Act negligence

Discuss Your Lifting Injury Claim with an Experienced Maritime Lawyer in Confidence

To find out if you have a claim for Jones Act negligence as a result of your lifting injury, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation. Our lawyers represent deckhands nationwide. You have nothing to lose by learning about your legal rights, so call us at 800-468-4878 or tell us how we can reach you online now.

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