If you are a seaman who has been injured, or a family member of a seaman who has been killed, while working on a navigable vessel, then you are probably wondering what Jones Act settlement amounts look like.
As a seaman, you have a specialized trade that few other people 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. There is no average Jones Act settlement amount. However, to ease the stress, we have provided a guide outlining the types of damages recoverable in Jones Act settlements and what goes into calculating them.
Damage Calculations Under the Jones Act
The Jones Act protects seamen who are injured on the job due to negligence while aboard a navigable vessel. 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.
Accurately and properly valuing each of these can result in a significant Jones Act settlement. 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 settlement will include an award for past and future wages. The analysis for past wages is straightforward. A calculation is made between what you were earning and what you failed to earn while you were injured. 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 probably need an expert to 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 that amount that you need to have today to pay out the 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 came 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
Maritime jobs generally have very good fringe benefits. Accordingly, calculating how much you lost in fringe benefits is an important portion of your claim award.
Medical expenses (past, ongoing, and future) related to your injury will be part of any Jones Act settlement. The calculation includes almost all reasonable expenses related to treating your injury, including anticipated treatment that will occur in the future. Medical expenses do not have to be known at the time that expenses are calculated, but they do have to be reasonably anticipated. Some common medical expenses considered in this calculation are:
- Emergency services,
- Diagnostics and testing,
- Physical therapy,
- Occupational therapy,
- Full-time nursing, and
In reviewing this list, keep in mind that possible follow-up surgeries or additional counseling or physical therapy sessions should be included.
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. 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.
Calculations for mental pain and suffering include:
- Emotional distress,
- Loss of enjoyment of life,
- Sexual dysfunction,
- Sleep problems, and
- Mood swings.
Often these calculations will also take into account post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental pain and suffering is so difficult to quantify that various ancillary factors are often needed to contribute to complete the picture. That said, emotional pain and suffering is very real and can be accurately quantified.
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.
Grossman Attorneys at Law Can Maximize Your Claim
With our personal attention to each case, you can count on our attorneys 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. Rest assured that we will fight to get you exactly what you deserve for your injuries. Contact us today.