Have you been injured in an accident while working as a seaman near the Port of Baltimore? At WGK Personal Injury Lawyers, our Baltimore maritime injury lawyers have a century of combined experience representing seamen in complicated maritime injury claims.
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How a Baltimore Maritime Accident Lawyer Can Help in a Jones Act Claim
Jones Act cases are notoriously complex as they involve complicated maritime law with overlapping federal regulations and accidents that occur on a vessel which means preserving evidence can be difficult.
For this reason, maritime law is a specialty area of law; not all personal injury lawyers in Baltimore have the knowledge, training, and experience to handle maritime claims.
WGK Personal Injury Lawyers is a family-run law firm that has represented injured seamen and other workers in the maritime industry since 1977. We have a combined century of experience going up against large multinational corporations and insurance companies to win substantial settlements and awards for our clients.
If you have been injured on a vessel as a seamen, you can count on the maritime lawyers at WGK Personal Injury Lawyers to:
- Investigate your accident
- Ensure your claim is filed under the correct law and jurisdiction to provide the most benefit to you
- Build evidence to support your claim and create a persuasive legal argument
- Negotiate on your behalf to seek a fair settlement offer
- Represent you in court to fight for your legal rights
You do not need to pursue a Jones Act injury claim on your own. Contact WGK Personal Injury Lawyers to fight for you.
Baltimore, Maryland Maritime Accidents and Recourse For Injured Seamen
Thanks to its strategic location on the eastern seaboard, Baltimore has a thriving maritime industry. The Port of Baltimore is one of the busiest ports in America and set another record with 11 million tons of general cargo handled in 2019. While the Port and Baltimore’s maritime activities provide a strong economic benefit to the region, it also means Baltimore is the site of many maritime injury claims.
Maritime law covers nautical issues including injuries that occur on vessels. The federal Jones Act is one of the most important pieces of maritime law as it gives injured seamen recourse when their employers are negligent and contribute to an accident.
What Is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is an important federal act that regulates aspects of the maritime industry. Specifically, this act addresses personal injury and wrongful death of seamen. The Jones Act, 46 U.S. Code Section 30104 states that seamen who are injured in the course of their work have the right to bring a lawsuit against their employer.
Seamen are not entitled to workers’ compensation under federal or state law. Because they cannot file for benefits through workers’ compensation, the only compensation seamen are legally entitled to is through the Jones Act and maritime law in Baltimore.
While the Jones Act is a federal law, injury cases may also be heard at the state level.
All ships and water-going vessels can fall under the Jones Act, which requires that the vessel always be in seaworthy condition. The vessel owner, captain, and other ship workers may be held liable under the Jones Act if their negligence causes a worker’s injury.
Who Qualifies for Compensation Under the Jones Act?
Only seamen qualify to file an injury claim under the Jones Act. As a general rule, a seaman is someone who performs a significant amount of their work on a vessel. This includes captains, crewmembers, and other ship workers. A part-time seaman must spend at least 30% of their time working on a vessel to qualify for compensation.
To determine if someone qualifies as a seaman, a court may assess whether the person’s work contributes to a function of the vessel or accomplishing the vessel’s mission or objectives. The nature and duration of the person’s connection with the vessel can also be considered.
Note that a seaman does not need to be someone who operates or navigates a vessel. Occupations that qualify include traditional maritime occupations like able-bodied seaman, sea captain, commercial fisherman, ordinary seaman, and ship chandler.
It can also include non-traditional maritime jobs such as bartenders and chefs on cruise ships, welders on jack-up vessels, dive masters and instructors on charter dive vessels, and commercial divers.
As a general rule, longshoremen, harbor workers, and contract workers are not eligible to file an injury claim under the Jones Act.
An experienced Baltimore maritime injury lawyer at WGK Personal Injury Lawyers can help you determine if you qualify to file a claim under the Jones Act. Depending on your location and status, you may be entitled to file a claim under different maritime legislation that may offer better benefits.
Negligence Under the Jones Act
Unlike workers’ compensation, which is a no-fault system, proving a Jones Act claim in Maryland requires proving that the owner, captain, or crew of the vessel were negligent and this caused the seaman’s injuries.
The Jones Act requires that the employer of a seaman:
- Provide a reasonably safe place to work
- Use ordinary care to maintain and keep the vessel in a reasonably safe condition
This federal law puts a large burden on employers to maintain a safe work condition. An employer may be found liable for a seaman’s injuries on a vessel due to any number of unsafe conditions such as:
- Improper training
- Failure to provide crew members with necessary equipment
- Improper maintenance of equipment
- Oil or grease on the ship deck
- Negligence of coworkers or other crew members
- Assault by another crew member
To determine if an employer was negligent and breached their duty to the seaman, the court will likely look at standards by the United States Coast Guard, OSHA, and other maritime safety authorities.
The Jones Act also has a lower burden of proof for injured seamen. While a standard personal injury case requires proving that another party’s negligence was a “proximate cause” of the injury, or that it played a major part in causing the injury, this is not true with the Jones Act. Under this law, an injured seaman must only show that their employer’s negligence played any role, no matter how small, in their injury.
Note that the Jones Act works as an extension of the Federal Employers Liability Act for seamen. This means that seamen who contribute to their injury through their own negligence may still recover compensation, but it will be reduced based on their share of fault.
This does not apply to maintenance and cure benefits, however. Under general maritime law, injured seamen are entitled to medical benefits and lost wages regardless of fault.
Compensation Available Under the Jones Act in Baltimore
Injured seamen who prove their employer was negligent are entitled to many types of compensation under a Baltimore Jones Act claim. These forms of compensation include lost earnings or maintenance benefits, medical expenses or cure benefits, and non-economic damages. The Jones Act treats compensation differently than personal injury cases through civil court, however.
Wages or Maintenance Compensation
Under general maritime law and the Jones Act, injured workers are entitled to maintenance. This refers to room, board, and wages from the time the seamen leaves the ship until they return to work or reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). Employers are typically required to pay a weekly rate to injured workers that covers basic living expenses including rent, utilities, food, and transportation.
Medical or Cure Compensation
Cure refers to the payment of reasonable medical expenses an injured seaman requires for their illness or injury. Cure payments continue until the seaman reaches MMI. You are entitled to reasonable medical expenses including emergency treatment, surgery, physician visits, therapy, prescription medication, medical devices, and more.
Compensation for Unseaworthiness
The Jones Act requires vessel owners to maintain a vessel in a seaworthy or safe condition and provide a reasonably safe working environment. If the vessel, equipment, masters, or crew are unseaworthy, the injured seaman may be entitled to additional compensation above the amounts provided for maintenance and cure.
Compensation available for injuries caused by a ship’s unseaworthy condition include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and reduced or lost earning capacity.
In the case of lost earnings or lost earning capacity, many potential losses are considered. This can include employment benefits such as pension contributions, health insurance, and paid vacation.
Calculating future lost earnings or lost earning capacity can be difficult. Your Jones Act lawyer in Baltimore may work with a professional to calculate your work life expectancy and losses.
Jones Act Statute of Limitations
The Jones Act has a strict statute of limitations of three years. This means if you have been injured as a seamen, you have just 3 years from the date of the incident to file a claim with the proper court. This does not mean you should delay, however; the longer you wait, the easier it is for evidence to disappear or erode.
Contact an experienced Maryland Jones Act lawyer as soon as possible to begin building your claim.
Contact a Maritime Accident Lawyer in Baltimore, MD for Help
Have you been seriously injured on a vessel as a seaman? The federal Jones Act entitles you to several types of benefits to protect your financial future if your employer’s negligence contributed to your injuries. Jones Act and maritime claims are notoriously complicated, however.
At WGK Personal Injury Lawyers, we have a combined 80 years of experience representing injured maritime workers. We will help you navigate complex maritime law, build your case against your employer, and fight for the full compensation you deserve.
Contact our law office today to schedule a free consultation with a Baltimore Jones Act lawyer who can help you value your claim and take the next steps.
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