If you are a seaman who has been injured in an accident or a family member of a seaman who has been killed while working on a navigable vessel in Florida, then you are probably wondering what an average Jones Act settlement amount looks like.
As a maritime worker, you have a specialized trade that few others do. To lose that livelihood or have it significantly limited can be nerve-racking. Where to begin evaluating how your injury impacts your future is nearly impossible without expert help.
Contact a Jones Act lawyer at Grossman Attorneys at Law. Our experienced attorney will help you hold your employer’s insurance company accountable for your maritime injury and get you the fair compensation you deserve!
How Much Is the Average Jones Act Lawsuit Settlement?
Average Jones Act settlement amounts fluctuate widely based on the nature and severity of the injury and the specific circumstances surrounding each case. Although many settlements contain confidentiality agreements, available data indicates that payouts can range from $100,000 for minor injuries like arm damage to over $10 million for severe head traumas or debilitating injuries. It’s vital to consult with legal professionals for a precise evaluation of an individual case.
Damage Calculations Under the Jones Act
Traditional workers’ compensation insurance is not available for maritime occupations, given that it is a land-based law. Accordingly, the Jones Act fills the gap and, in many ways, provides more in settlement than workers’ compensation.
Successful Jones Act Settlements will award:
- Lost wages,
- Lost fringe benefits,
- Medical expenses, and
- Pain and suffering.
As a side note, punitive damages can also be awarded. However, the circumstances for such an award are very limited and rare.
Wages and Fringe Benefits
A Jones Act case will include an award for past and future wages. The analysis of past wages is straightforward. A calculation is made between what you were earning and your lost income while you were out of work. The difference between the two will be the value of a past wages claim.
The complexity begins when evaluating your loss of earning capacity (i.e., future wages). An award for loss of future earnings or benefits will be available if your injury will either prevent you from working or impact your ability to work in the same job or for the same hours. You will need an expert to help calculate future wages.
But to give you a general idea, the calculation will take into account:
- The lost potential for a promotion,
- The lost potential for a raise, and
- Your working life expectancy.
Finally, a “present value” is calculated for future wages and benefits. At its simplest, “present value” is the amount you need to have today to pay future wages and fringe benefits over your working life expectancy. The present value should be the value of the future wage and benefit portion of the claim award.
All non-wage perks that come with your job are usually considered fringe benefits. If they are limited or lost as a result of your injury, the difference is a part of the award calculation.
Fringe benefits include:
- Health insurance,
- Disability insurance,
- Retirement benefits like contributions to a 401(k), and
Medical expenses (past, ongoing, and future) related to your injury will be part of any Jones Act claim. The calculation includes medical bills related to treating your injury, including anticipated treatment that will occur in the future.
Medical costs do not have to be known at the time the other expenses are calculated, but they do have to be reasonably anticipated, especially for something like a permanent injury. Some common medical expenses considered in this calculation are:
- Emergency services,
- Diagnostics and testing,
- Physical therapy,
- Occupational therapy,
- Follow-up surgeries
- Full-time nursing, and
Pain and Suffering
The evaluation of pain and suffering includes both physical and emotional pain. While it may be the most difficult calculation, it can be the most important in determining a fair and just claim award. As with other calculations, an expert is almost always needed to accurately quantify damages for pain and suffering.
That said, calculations for physical suffering take into account:
- The actual injury,
- Disfigurement, and
- Permanency of the injury.
While the above list is not exhaustive, it covers most of the common considerations in physical pain and suffering. For instance, not on the list but still very real is suffering physical pain from phantom limb syndrome due to amputation. However, you should be aware that the amount you are requesting must have a legal basis.
Calculations for mental pain and suffering include:
- Emotional distress,
- mental Anguish,
- Loss of enjoyment of life,
- Sexual dysfunction,
- Sleep problems, and
- Mood swings.
What You Can Do
Damage calculations require support if at all possible. Gathering together as much written evidence of your costs as possible can go a long way to supporting your claim. The best place to start is to gather all your bills, receipts, and invoices for all your past and current medical treatment.
In addition, collect any receipts for related costs such as taxis, Uber, specialized rehab equipment, prescription medications, over-the-counter medications, medical supplies, dietary needs, etc.
Can You Afford a Jones Act Settlement Lawyer?
Often injured employees are concerned that they will not be able to afford a lawyer for their case and obtain the settlement they deserve and need. Rest assured, most firms specializing in Jones Act claims work on a contingency fee basis.
What is a Contingency Fee?
A contingency fee is a payment structure commonly used in personal injury cases, including Jones Act lawsuits, where the lawyer’s fee is contingent upon winning the case. In other words, the law firm is only paid if they successfully recover compensation for the client.
The fee is typically a predetermined percentage of the settlement or award amount. This percentage can vary depending on various factors, such as the case’s complexity, the lawyer’s experience, and whether the case goes to trial.
Contingency fees are advantageous for injury victims, including injured seamen and maritime workers, because they allow access to legal representation without the need to pay upfront or out-of-pocket expenses.
What is The Timeline for a Jones Act Claim?
The specific timeline for a Jones Act claim can vary depending on the circumstances of the case, jurisdiction, and other factors. However, a general timeline might look like this:
- Injury Occurs: When a seaman is injured on the job, they should immediately report the injury to their employer and get the necessary treatment.
- Documentation: It’s crucial to document the details of the accident, witness information, and the nature of the injuries. Taking photos or keeping a diary can be beneficial.
- Seek Medical Treatment: It’s essential to get treatment immediately and follow all medical advice. This ensures your health and serves as evidence in the case.
- Notify Employer: The injured worker should immediately notify the employer of the injury.
- Consult an Attorney: Before making any formal claims, it’s often wise to consult with an attorney experienced in Jones Act cases.
- File a Claim: If no settlement is reached informally, the injured seaman or their lawyer will file a formal lawsuit.
- Statute of Limitations: Generally, under the Jones Act, an injured seaman has three years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit.
- Discovery: Once a lawsuit is filed, both sides gather evidence, which includes depositions, interrogatories, and requests for documents.
- Settlement Talks/Mediation: Often, before the case goes to trial, both sides will calculate damages and may engage in settlement talks or mediation to try and resolve the case without a trial.
- Trial: If no reasonable amount is reached, the case proceeds to trial. The trial can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the complexity of the case.
Florida Grossman Attorneys at Law Can Maximize Your Claim
With our personal attention to each case, you can count on our top-rated personal injury claims attorneys in Florida to dig into the details and properly and justly value your Jones Act settlement. Since we are highly experienced in Jones Act settlements, we can help you understand the process and what to expect.