The Jones Act, which is also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is the primary compensation platform for injured seamen. Essentially, the Jones Act combines the low burden of proof in workers’ compensation matters with the substantial compensation available in a personal injury claim. So, while a shipboard injury is certainly not a good thing, the Jones Act enables victims to make the best of a bad situation.
In a nutshell, injured victims must establish that the ship owner’s negligence contributed to their injuries. That’s much different from but-for causation or foreseeability. Additionally, victims must only prove points by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That’s the lowest standard of evidence in Texas law. The compensation available includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Because there are so many offshore workers in Southeast Texas, a number of law firms can assist Jones Act victims with their claims. But the best Jones Act injury lawyers near Houston at Williams Hart are uniquely well-positioned to obtain maximum compensation. We treat clients like partners and not like customers. Additionally, we have the resources to take on big shipping companies. So, you are never in the dark about your claim, and you never have to settle for less.
Some Jones Act Basics
The Jones Act’s ship owner duty of care protects injured seamen. Let’s examine these elements individually.
Most shipowners have a duty of reasonable care. Pragmatically, that means ensuring the vessel is reasonably safe before it leaves port and frequently inspecting it once it casts off to ensure this standard is maintained.
A few words about what constitutes a ship. Basically, anything that floats is a ship. The vessel could be powered or unpowered. This definition includes many offshore oil exploration vessels, such as semi-submersible rigs, drilling ships, jack-up rigs, and tension leg platforms. Oil platforms which are attached to the seabed are usually not ships for Jones Act purposes. Workers who are injured on such vessels are usually eligible for compensation under a related law, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
Seamen are any individuals, regardless of rank, who spend at least 30 percent of their time aboard a ship. This seemingly straightforward definition puts dock workers and other such individuals in a grey area. Sometimes these workers spend considerable time aboard ships, and sometimes they do not.
What to Expect in a Claim
Most injury claims, including most Jones Act claims, settle out of court. Howe’ver, such settlements might not happen quickly.
If most issues are reasonably clear, the insurance company has a duty to settle the claim almost immediately. Howe’ver, there is usually some issue. For example, there may be a dispute as to whether the injured victim was a seaman according to the Jones Act. More frequently, the insurance company disputes the nature and extent of the victim’s injury.
These issues are often difficult to resolve. So, mediation settles many Jones Act claims. A neutral third-party tries to facilitate a settlement between the victim and insurance company.
How to Find the Best Jones Act Injury Lawyer Near Houston
At first blush, most injury lawyers look alike. But upon closer inspection, they are not all created equally.
As the old saying goes, there really is no substitute for experience. Your valuable Jones Act claim is no time for on-the-job-training, and as mentioned above, these claims are quite complex. In addition to the technical intricacies, the ship owner is usually an out-of-state corporation.
At Williams Hart, we have almost four decades of experience. Our seasoned attorneys have handled everything from individual Jones Act claims to some of the largest class-action cases in American history. So, whatever facts your claim involves, we have seen it before.
A serious personal injury often affects mobility. Unless the lawyer is close by or conveniently located, simply getting to and from the office is a chore, especially on a bad day. At Williams Hart, we chose our Gulf Freeway location because it is accessible from almost anywhere in Greater Houston. Additionally, if necessary, we offer home and hospital visits.
Years of experience only tells part of the story. Many personal injury lawyers spend their entire careers representing injury victims, yet they have almost no trial experience. They prefer to take the easy way out. Other law firms handle a wide variety of litigation matters, such as personal injury, family law, and criminal defense. These areas of law have some things in common, but such assortments often indicate a lack of dedication to victims’ rights.
The professionals at Williams Hart are dedicated to fighting for people who have been injured by the negligence of another party. If you do not share that dedication, you have no place on our team. We are here to obtain fair compensation for accident victims, and we do not rest until we get it.
The best Jones Act injury lawyer near Houston makes a big difference in the lives of victims. For a free consultation with an experienced offshore accident attorney in Houston, contact Williams Hart. We routinely handle matters in Harris County and nearby jurisdictions.