Handling an offshore injury suit requires a lawyer experienced in maritime cases because there are special rules that apply to these incidents. Seamen that are hurt while on the job have additional protections through the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act. Specifically, the Jones Act allows qualified seamen to file for legal action with a trial by jury if they are hurt on the job. Pursuing injury litigation through a trial by jury is not permissible under common law, so this represents a major difference from standard suits.
Because of the many differences from similar land-based cases, an offshore injury claim needs a lawyer who has previously litigated successfully on behalf of hurt seamen. This is particularly important before court proceedings begin when the legal professional must deliver accurate, sound advice to the victim. The Jones Act is a complicated document that has been amended many times since its original drafting in 1920. Originally, it was designed to create and fund the Merchant Marine, the group of privately-owned vessels responsible for facilitating most of the nation’s commerce between U.S. ports and delivering supplies and troops if needed in time of war.
Many of the amendments to the Jones Act focus on this area. For instance, Section 27 regulates maritime commerce when traveling between U.S. ports. While maritime attorneys occasionally represent cases concerning Section 27, they spend most of their time handling cases under Section 33, which is relevant to offshore injury claims. A lawyer needs to be familiar with this part of the Jones Act which concerns workplace safety and compensation in the event of an accident.
To qualify for a trial by jury, a worker must qualify for seaman status as determined in prior case law. A seaman has been defined as any worker who spends more than 30 percent of his time on a navigating vessel in the Chandris, Inc., et al. v. Latsis case in 1995. However, whether or not a worker’s duties can be calculated in this way is often disputed. This is another reason why an attorney experienced in these cases should be considered.
To receive compensation, though, a qualified seaman must be able to show that the vessel owner’s or manufacturer’s negligence contributed to the accident. If the ship was not seaworthy or was improperly staffed at the time of the incident, one or more parties may be found liable for damages. Owners are, protected, however, when severe weather causes the incident or the accident occurs while the vessel is attempting to save lives. The debate between plaintiff and defendant over these details makes the counsel of an experienced offshore injury claims lawyer invaluable. With the knowledge gained from previous cases, a reputable attorney can help a victim present their claim the best way possible.