The Jones Act – Houston Personal Injury Lawyers
Maritime Accidents, The Jones Act, and the Merchant Marine Act of 1920
Men and women who work aboard water-going vessels are subject to dangerous working conditions. The law provides special rights for these brave men and women. If you are injured while working on the water as a member of a vessel’s crew, you could have the right to financial compensation under a law known as the Jones Act.
The Jones Act is a technical and complex area of the law similar to and in many ways more powerful than workers’ compensation laws. Fully enforcing your rights under the Jones Act requires the assistance of lawyers with a proven track record in injury cases, like the Houston lawyers at Our Law Office.
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a federal law that provides rights to injured sailors. It is the common name for Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, now codified in a federal statute known as 46 U.S.C. 30104. The Jones Act refers to sailors as “seamen,” which can be either men or women.
If you are a seaman who was injured while employed on a vessel on navigable waters, even if you were not on the vessel at the time of the injury, Our Law Office can pursue a Jones Act claim against your employer.
What Must We Prove to Win a Jones Act Claim?
To successfully bring a claim for full compensation under the Jones Act, the lawyers at Our Law Office must prove the following on your behalf.
You were injured while employed as a seaman on a vessel in a navigable waterway;
You were injured while working within the scope of your employment;
Your employer or the vessel’s owner, captain or crew member was careless in even the slightest way, or the vessel was “unseaworthy”; and
That carelessness or unseaworthiness caused your injuries.
Types of Compensation Available in Jones Act Claims
The Jones Act allows for different types of compensation to injured seamen and their families.
Maintenance – As the name implies, maintenance payments are intended to maintain seaman’s lifestyles on land while they recover from their injuries. The payments typically include expenses like room and board similar to the room and board the injured seamen had while working aboard the vessel. All seamen injured while employed on vessels in navigable waters can seek maintenance payments, even without a showing of carelessness or unseaworthiness.
Cure – Cure payments are intended to compensate seamen for financial losses due to their injuries. Payments for past medical expenses are the most common type. All seamen injured while employed on vessels in navigable waters can seek cure payments, even without a showing of carelessness or unseaworthiness.
Other types of compensation – Other types of compensation may be available to injured seamen and their families, including compensation for future lost income, future medical expenses, disfigurement, physical pain, emotional suffering, loss of marital services and more. Obtaining these types of compensation normally requires a showing of carelessness or unseaworthiness (see above).
Right to a Jury Trial
Importantly, the Jones Act provides for the option of a trial by jury, which is normally unavailable in other maritime claims. The right to a trial by jury is a fundamental part of the American legal system. Lawmakers built jury trials into the Jones Act in order to try to ensure injured seamen achieve maximum justice.
While most Jones Act claims do not got to trial, the potential for large jury verdicts is a powerful tool for Jones Act claimants seeking fair treatment from those who caused their injuries. Jury verdicts motivate vessel owners to provide safe conditions for their crews. They also promote fair out-of-court settlements for injured seamen in later cases. Injured seamen, their employers and vessel owners all appreciate the speed and certainty out-of-court settlements allow. The lawyers of Our Law Office are experienced trial lawyers with a proven track record of obtaining substantial jury verdicts and out-of-court settlements for injured claimants in the Houston area.
Issues of venue relate to where and in what court your case is filed. Venue is a crucial issue. For a variety of reasons, including achieving maximum financial recovery, the lawyers at Our Law Offices generally file Jones Act cases in United States federal court.
Some courts and some localities in Southern Texas are more fair to injured workers than others. A full measure of justice normally requires claims to be heard in courts in which injured workers are treated fairly by judges and juries alike.
For example, imagine a small Gulf Coast county in which half of the adult residents are employed by a certain shipping company. Fair treatment in that county might be difficult for an injured seaman to achieve, given the residents’ loyalty to the company. Other counties would likely provide a more fair venue for the injured seaman’s case. The lawyers at Our Law Office have substantial experience with crucial issues like venue; experience gained by successfully representing numerous injured men and women in the Houston area.
Cases in Which a Seaman is Killed
Nothing is more serious than the death of a loved one. Nothing can undo the harm done. The lawyers at Our Law Office represent surviving family members of loved ones killed due to the carelessness of others. They treat surviving family members and their cases with all the seriousness and respect they deserve.
Cases in which injured people lose their lives are known as wrongful death cases. When seamen lose their lives on vessels, the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, and general maritime laws are all involved.
Jones Act claims are subject to limitations. Some of those limitations are imposed by contract; others are imposed by timing.
Limitations Imposed by Contract – Seamen often sign employment contracts with their employers. Those contracts often impose limitations on where and how injured seamen can seek compensation. For example, an injured seaman’s employment contract may require that the seaman file an arbitration claim rather than a lawsuit, or that the seaman file suit in a certain state. Importantly, employment contracts can limit how injured seamen seek compensation but not how much compensation injured seamen can receive.
Limitations Imposed by Timing – The general rule is that a seaman’s claim for injury under the Jones Act must be filed within three years of the date of the injury or the date the seaman discovers the injury, whichever is later. In other words, the Jones Act claims are generally governed by a three-year statute of limitations. However, in some circumstances the time period you have to file your claim can be even shorter. For that reason and many others, it is vital that you have your case reviewed by our lawyers as soon as possible after your injury in order to preserve your rights.
Filing a Jones Act Claim
While every case is different, a typical Jones Act claim follows the following pattern:
You are injured while working as a seaman on a vessel’s crew in navigable waters.
You hire a lawyer experienced with Jones Act cases, like the team at Our Law Offices.
Your lawyers file a lawsuit in court or a claim in arbitration on your behalf.
The parties engage in the discovery process, in which both sides share evidence with the other side. The discovery process’s goal is to encourage an out-of-court settlement between the parties.
After discovery, the parties then engage in settlement negotiations.
Courts often send cases to mediation, in which a disinterested third-party known as a mediator tries to craft a solution both sides find acceptable. Again, the goal of mediation is to encourage an out-of-court settlement between the parties.
If negotiation and mediation are unsuccessful at settling the case, the case often goes to a jury trial or to an arbitration hearing, which is a like a short private trial.
The jury or arbitrator decides how much compensation, if any, your employer should pay you.
Examples of Jones Act Claims
A man works and lives on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. During the course of his work, he slips and falls while walking down a wet staircase. The fall’s impact causes him serious injuries: injured vertebrae in his back and broken bones in his arm.
At the time of his injury, the man is earning over $80,000 per year. Due to his injuries, he is unable to work for two years as he undergoes hospital stays and extensive physical therapy. His medical expenses total $130,000.
The Jones Act establishes a system in which the injured man can seek compensation from his employer. He can seek both maintenance and cure payments. If the injured man’s attorneys successfully bring a Jones Act claim, the seaman’s employer will be responsible for maintenance payments to the injured man while the he is unable to work, for the medical expenses and lost wages incurred due to the man’s injury, and potentially for the man’s pain and suffering.
Did You Know?
We have been fighting for Maritime Accident victims` rights for over 20 years. Call us to discuss your case.
The injured man’s attorneys can seek maintenance payments from his employer for his living expenses. These living expense payments would provide the man with a lifestyle comparable to what he enjoyed while living on the oil platform. His attorneys can also seek to have the employer pay his $130,000 medical expenses plus the more than $160,000 he would have earned during his two years of lost work. And his attorneys can seek the other types of compensation listed above.
Same facts as the first example, but this time the man is on shore buying provisions for the ship’s crew when he is injured in an auto accident. Because the Jones Act broadly defines “seaman”, the injured man would have the same rights to recovery as the man from the first example. And just as in that example, the injured man would need the services of an experienced legal team in order to enforce his rights.
An accountant for a shipping company is injured in an auto accident with a co-worker in parking lot of the company’s office building. The accountant would not be a seaman under the Jones Act and therefore would not qualify for its protections.
However, if the accountant spends significant time aboard a company vessel or vessels on navigable waters, they may qualify as a seaman. In that case, the lawyers at Our Law Office would potentially be able to seek compensation for their injuries under the Jones Act.
Our Law Offices
All three of these examples illustrate how vital it is for you to work with lawyers experienced in cases dealing with the Jones Act. The lawyers of Our Law Office have successfully handled thousands of personal injury cases. Whether obtaining fair out-of-court settlements or trying your case to a verdict, the experienced and dedicated Houston lawyers at Our Law Office can help you win even the most serious and complex case. Call us today.
Vessels in Navigable Waters
How the Jones Act Applies in Cases of Workers Injured While Employed on Vessels in Navigable Waters
The lawyers at Our Law Office represent seriously injured men and women, such as seamen injured while working on watercraft. Due to the hazardous nature of working on the water, the law takes special care of those injured while doing so. The law allows injured seamen to seek substantial recoveries for their injuries if they suffer those injuries while employed on “vessels in navigable waters.”
What is a Vessel?
Courts have broadly interpreted the word “vessel” as used in the Jones Act and other maritime laws. As a result, a vessel can mean just about any craft capable of navigating on water.
Before modern technology, determining what was a vessel was more straightforward. Today, the lines are blurred. Below is a list of just some of the vessels that are the bases for modern claims based on injuries suffered in navigable waters.
Movable oil platforms
Riverboat casinos moored to shore
Commercial fishing boats
and many more
What are Navigable Waters?
Courts have also broadly interpreted the phrase “navigable waters.” Navigable waters are defined as “waters that provide a channel for commerce and transportation of people and goods.” Clearly oceans, gulfs, bays, rivers, harbors, ship channels, and intra-coastal waterways fall under this definition. A court even found a shallow stream navigable by only a canoe to be a navigable waterway. The general rule is that if you can navigate a vessel from a body of water to the ocean, or from one state to another state, even if only in theory, then that body of water is “navigable waters.”
Why Does It Matter?
Only a seaman employed on a vessel in navigable waters can recover compensation under the Jones Act. The issue of whether an injured worker is a seaman is normally the most important issue when seeking recovery under the Jones Act. Importantly, the injured seaman need not be on a vessel at the time of the injury.
Did You Know?
Our Houston Maritime Accident attorneys have won thousands of cases. Call us today to discuss your case.
*According to the Jones Act, “a ‘seaman’ means an individual (except scientific personnel, a sailing school instructor, or a sailing school student) engaged or employed in any capacity on a vessel.” A seaman can be male or female.
The United States Supreme Court has ruled that those employees who spend at least 30% of their working hours aboard vessels in navigable waters are seamen by definition. Those who do not spend at least 30% of their time aboard vessels in navigable waters can still be found to be seamen if they are “exposed to the perils of the sea.”
Our Law Offices
The law related to injuries suffered at sea is a complex area. If you were injured while working as a seaman on a vessel in navigable waters, or if your family member was killed while working as a seaman on a vessel in navigable waters, you may have rights to significant compensation under the Jones Act and other laws. The lawyers at Our Law Office will work hard on your behalf to enforce those rights. Please call us if you have any questions or concerns about bringing a legal claim based on your or your family member’s injury.
Houston Premises Liability Lawyer – Houston Personal Injury Lawyers
An Overview of Premises Liability (Property-Owner Liability) Law in Texas
The word “premises” is a legal term that means: piece or pieces of real property and any structures on that property. Premises liability is the liability, or responsibility, that property possessors have for injuries that happen to people on their property. If you are injured on someone else’s property, the law allows you to recover money damages for your injuries. These cases can be fairly straightforward, and at the same time if you have been hurt you need a qualified and experienced personal injury lawyer fighting for you and your rights.
Premises liability law exists to protect people from getting hurt on other people’s property due to dangers – both hidden and obvious. The typical premises liability case is when a person slips-and-falls on a banana peel at a grocery store. In a case like that, the person who was injured can recover financial compensation for their injuries from the grocery store. Modern developments in the law now give property possessors and owners some new protections that did not exist in years past. If you or a loved one has been injured on someone else’s property, call the injury lawyers at Our Law Office. The law gives you the right to legally compel the negligent party to compensate you, and we can enforce your rights under the law.
Liability for What?
The basic principle of premises liability law is that people and companies have an obligation to keep their properties safe for everyone. If a dangerous condition on a property injures you, the law can force the person using the property (“the possessor”) to compensate you for your medical bills, lost income from work, and other expenses.
For example, those living in homes are generally responsible for keeping the sidewalks in front of their homes free of snow and ice. If you slip and fall due to an icy sidewalk, you may be able to bring a legal claim for your injury against the property’s possessor and potentially the property’s owner, too.
Who is Liable?
The possessor and owner of the property might be the same, and they might be different, as in the case of a retail store (such as Target or Walmart) that rents its store space from a commercial landlord. Premises liability is normally assigned to the person or party who possesses the property on which the victim is injured. In other words, the person who uses the property you are injured on is liable to you for your injuries. So in the retail store example the store would be liable for your injuries and potentially not the landlord. However, many exceptions to these general rules exist, like when the landlord carelessly allows a dangerous condition to continue.
The property’s possessor and owner cannot escape their liability by assigning it to someone else. A grocery store that hires an independent cleaning crew to keep the store clean will be liable to someone who slips and falls in the store due to unclean conditions; and the cleaning company would likely be liable as well for its own portion of negligent conduct.
Status of the Plaintiff
The plaintiff’s status as an invitee, licensee, or trespasser determines the duty of care owed by the premises possessor/ property owner. What duties the property possessor owes to the injured person can vary widely depending on what the injured person is doing on the property. Other jurisdictions have disregarded these traditional distinctions altogether and instead focus on the reasonableness of the property possessor’s conduct.
Legal Help in Premises Liability Cases
Help is available to you if you have been hurt on someone else’s property or on a business’s property. Call Our Law Office today; we can help.
Houston Products Liability Lawyer – Houston Personal Injury Lawyers
Our Law Offices Has Been Winning Defective Products Liability Cases For Over 20 Years
Since the founding of Our Law Office in 1990, our attorneys have been helping those injured due to another’s negligence. This article is intended to explain products liability law, highlight some of our successes, and demonstrate how the attorneys at Our Law Office should be your first choice to represent you in your Houston-area product liability claim.
How Do Product Liability Cases Work?
Product liability laws are generally all-encompassing in order to provide potential plaintiffs with all avenues of recovery to ensure that they receive the compensation that they deserve as a result of their injury. When an individual brings a product liability suit, all parties that are part of the chain of distribution will be considered potentially liable. Parties that are considered a part of the chain of distribution are all parties that had some level of involvement with the product from the design, to the sale of the product. This would include any manufacturers, sellers, delivery agencies, and all other similar parties. The thought process behind holding all these parties liable is that it is the responsibility of all parties to ensure that a safe product is being sold.
When you are pursuing a product liability cause of action there are generally two different avenues you will pursue, either a wrongful death claim or an injury claim that arose out of the defective product. Each of these types of injuries will have different recovery options. When you are dealing with a wrongful death cause of action you will typically be seeking reparation for the lost assets the deceased individual would have provided absent the death. These types of assets include loss of income. You will also seek monetary relief for your emotional losses as well as any medical expenses that your loved one may have incurred arising from the defective product injury prior to their death. An injury claim will seek relief for lost wages you may have had to incur from any absence from work. Other payments will be for pain and suffering and medical bills as well among other recoverable damages.
Our Law Office has handled a multitude of very diverse cases in the product liability context. We have a history of success in these types of cases, whether they are defective medicine, tires, vehicles, toys, or even boats. A few highlights of our past successes: our ability to win a case where a woman suffered injuries to her back and broke several bones as a result of a defective throttle assembly in a boat. Another case where we were successful was where our client was injured while walking through a public park when a nearby bird-feeder burst into flames. We have also won cases for auto defects and many other different product liability causes of action. There isn’t a product liability case that we are not prepared to handle.
Why Experience is Necessary
Experience matters in several different trains of thought. You want an attorney that has been successful in these types of cases because they will know what to do, and how to present your evidence in the best possible light for you.
Most cases will never see the inside of a court room, the settlement offers that you will receive will not only be based upon the quality of your case but mostly on the defendant’s belief in their likelihood of winning the case at trial. Defense lawyers know that any case we represent will not be an easy victory in trial, and they are more likely to avoid trial be increasing their offers.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a defective or faulty product, know that you have rights. The attorneys at Our Law Office are here to help you get the results that you are seeking. We have handled a multitude of different cases just like yours and may be able to help you recover as well. To discuss your recovery options call us; you will be glad you did.
Finding a Good Medical Malpractice Attorney – Houston Personal Injury Lawyers
What You Should Look For When Considering a Medical Malpractice Attorney
Did You Know?
Houston medical malpractice attorneys have been fighting for medical malpractice victims` rights for over 20 years. Call us to discuss your case.
If you have suffered an injury that occurred from a physician/patient relationship, you have a right to recover for any out-of-pocket expenditures you have incurred. Physicians are held to the highest standards of care because of their high intelligence and the fact that we place our lives in their hands. Furthermore, if you have suffered an injury resulting from something such as misdiagnosis or surgical error, the impact on your health can be absolutely disastrous. The reason these types of injuries can be so life shattering is because typically they require further medical care.
In the event that you need extensive medical attention, you will begin to rack up costly medical bills. Therefore, it is in your best interests to file a medical malpractice suit against the party that is responsible for this malfeasance. You may be unsure of what the first step is to take in determining what law firm or attorney you should choose to represent your claim. Obviously, your main priority should be the success of your cause of action so that you can alleviate the physical and financial burden that has been unduly placed on you because of the carelessness of a physician or hospital.
Here at Our Law Offices, we have a great deal of experience handling medical malpractice lawsuits just like the one that you should be filing in order to gain the maximum recovery possible for your losses. There are a number of ways that you can seek competent legal representation, however if you have read this far you need not look any further. The attorneys at Our Law Office have received many awards and honors for their excellence and honorable reputation in the legal community statewide. Therefore, we can say without reservation that we are fully equipped and capable of handling your medical malpractice claim to help ensure that you do not suffer for the rest of your life with excessive hospital bills and insufferable physical ailments.
What is a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
A medical malpractice lawsuit is a claim that is based on an act of professional negligence by your physician or a health care provider. Basically, these types of claims arise when the treatment that you receive deviates from what is accepted in the medical field and subsequently causes you injury or a fatality occurs. There are statistics that report that about 195,000 people die every year from medical mistakes in the United States. You, as the plaintiff will be the patient that was wronged. However, there are actions that you may take in medical malpractice that permits you to file suit on behalf of another party. This is typically a loved one that you are filing suit on behalf of and it will be in the form of what is called a wrongful death action.
What has to be Proven in a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?
In this type of a lawsuit, you have to prove several different things. This is why you need to find a good medical malpractice attorney, such as those that Our Law Office employs. Medical malpractice lawsuits are highly complex and have difficult burdens of proof that must be met in order for your lawsuit to be successful. Initially, a physician-patient relationship must be established.
This can be accomplished by showing that there was a duty on the part of the doctor. This is not a matter of the credentials and skills of your physician. It means that there must be some kind of contract. Once a physician-patient relationship has been established then the duty will come into existence. The duty will be one of ordinary care. However, if the doctor is a specialist in some particular field of medicine then the duty of care will be that of a particular specialist. Then there will have to have been a breach of that duty that proximately caused your injury, which are your damages. There has to be a causal connection between the breach of the duty and your injury.
As you can see, this is a very intricate process. Finding an attorney that can successfully litigate your medical malpractice lawsuit can be challenging. However, you can rest assured that if you contact the attorneys at Our Law Office you will have succeeded in finding trustworthy and hard working lawyers that are more than able to represent your case with expert precision. To discuss your medical malpractice claim and the particulars of your specific cause of action contact Our Law Office.