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Houston Jones Act Lawyer

Are you a seaman who has been injured on the job? If so, you may be buried under a pile of medical bills and facing a long period of disability, or in the worst case, you may never be able to return to work, making it essential to contact a Houston maritime lawyer. Offshore occupations on fishing boats, tankers, cargo ships, and oil rigs are among the most dangerous of all types of employment. Potential hazards to those working at sea are:

  • wet, slippery decks causing falls,
  • ship going aground,
  • capsizing or sinking vessel,
  • explosions and fires,
  • collisions with other vessels or structures,
  • shifting cargo,
  • falling overboard.

Types of Maritime Injuries

Maritime work is hard physical work that exposes you to many types of injuries: neck and back injuries, head injuries, amputations, drowning, hypothermia, crush injuries, fractures, lacerations, and contusions, and death. Being injured at sea is especially problematic because accidents so often occur at a great distance from the nearest medical facility.

An owner or master of a seagoing vessel is therefore held to a high standard of care for the safety of employees. If your accident was even partially caused by the owner or master of the vessel where you were working at the time of your accident, you are entitled to sue to recover compensation for your damages under the Jones Act. You can sue for compensation even if your injury was not incurred while you were actually working but say, for example, when you were off duty but living on the vessel, or if you were injured while entering or leaving the vessel.

What Constitutes Negligence Aboard a Seagoing Vessel?

Maritime injuries in the Gulf of Mexico are often the result of some negligent act or failure to maintain reasonable safety standards by the employer or some other party. Some acts or omissions that can be considered negligence on a ship include

  • failing to maintain vessel and equipment in a safe condition,
  • failing to employ competent workers,
  • issuing improper orders,
  • operating the vessel in dangerous weather,
  • failing to supervise workers properly,
  • failing to maintain order leading to assaults at work,
  • requiring excessive hours of work,
  • Failing to rescue,
  • Failing to provide medical treatment.

Federal Law to Protect Seamen

The Jones Act is legislation passed in 1920 that extended the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA), originally aimed at railroad workers, to provide seamen some protection in the event they are injured on the job. It gives the right of “maintenance and cure,” which is the value of the seaman’s room and board at sea, plus medical treatment. It also gives a seaman the right to recover other damages in a law suit.

Unlike Worker’s Compensation, which requires a worker to forgo the right to sue an employer in exchange for the right to no-fault benefits, the Jones Act allows you, as a seaman, to sue your employer using a pure comparative fault approach, which allows you to recover compensation if the employer is even slightly at fault.

Another beneficial feature of the Jones Act is referred to as “joint and several liability,” which essentially allows you to hold your employer liable for all of your damages attributable to all parties other than yourself.

And finally, you can select the forum in which your case will be heard. You have the option of choosing either a federal or state court. The employer has no say in the venue and must accept your decision.

Proving a Jones Act Case

You should always work with an experienced Jones Act lawyer if you’ve been injured working at sea, because these cases are very different from regular personal injury or Workers’ Compensation cases and can become complicated.

First, you have to show that you are eligible to make a Jones Act claim. You are entitled to the protection under the Jones Act if you can show that you spent substantial time—which usually means at least 30 percent of your work time— on board a vessel or fleet in navigable waters, and you must show that you contributed to the mission of the vessel and that your connection to the vessel was substantial. You’ll need to prove that the defendant was negligent, that you were injured, and the negligence was a cause of your injury. You’ll have to provide medical records, earnings records, and documentation of all of your damages.

Damages Allowed Under the Jones Act

The Jones Act allows you to claim current and future medical and rehabilitation expenses related to your injury, loss of wages, pain and suffering, and mental anguish, and diminished quality of life.

In wrongful death cases, a widow and/or dependents can claim loss of nurture and support, loss of fringe benefits, and loss of value of household services. The employer can also be held liable for a deceased seaman’s pain and suffering occurring prior to death from the accident, as well as medical expenses, and funeral expenses.

Free Jones Act Consultation

The maritime attorneys at the Houston accident law firm of Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP, have decades of experience assisting clients who have suffered injuries covered by the Jones Act and are committed to protecting your rights and recovering the compensation you and your family deserve.

Call today to schedule a free Jones Act consultation.

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