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Back and Spine Injuries in Jones Act Cases

Workers on commercial fishing and shipping vessels are particularly vulnerable to back injuries. It is one of the most common injuries that seamen suffer. Back and spine injuries range in severity from a simple sprain to the muscles surrounding the spinal cord to fractures resulting in paralysis. Typical back injuries experienced by seamen include:

  • Bruising of the muscles and bones,
  • Muscle or nerve sprains or strains,
  • Muscle or tissue tears,
  • Nerve damage,
  • Compressed or pinched nerves,
  • Spondylolysis,
  • Spinal stenosis,
  • Fractured vertebrae or tailbones,
  • Herniated discs,
  • Cervical Radiculopathy,
  • Sciatica, and
  • Spinal cord injuries.

If you are suffering from back pain or weakness, you should report the injury to your employer and get qualified medical treatment. You should follow the recommendations of the medical professionals and not return to work until you are cleared. Treatment may include rest, physical therapy, or surgery.

Many different accidents, such as slipping on a slick surface, tripping over machinery, falling from a height, or being crushed by equipment or the vessel, can cause a back injury. In some cases, the back injury is not the result of a single incident but of continuous or repetitive bending, twisting, or heavy lifting. Often, employers could have been prevented these injuries with the right procedures and equipment.

Maritime workers who were injured as a result of their employer’s negligence can sue their employer under the Jones Act. An employer is negligent if they fail to provide a safe work environment. Some examples of employer negligence under the Jones Act include failing to properly train employees, failing to provide proper equipment and tools, failing to make inspections, and violating industry safety customs. Employers are also liable for the negligent acts of other crew members.

The burden of proof in Jones Act negligence claims is relatively low. Unlike traditional personal injury cases, to recover under the Jones Act, you only need to prove that your employer was a cause, no matter how small, in bringing about your injury. Even if your employer is only found to be five percent at fault, you are still entitled to compensation. Additionally, seamen are not prevented from seeking compensation if they had a pre-existing back injury or degenerative condition. You can recover under the Jones Act even if the injury is an aggravation of a previous injury.

If you are a seaman who suffered a back injury at work, you should immediately contact an experienced maritime personal injury attorney. In general, you have three years from the date of your injury to file a Jones Act claim. The claim can be filed in state or federal court.

Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC is a nationally recognized leader in maritime personal injury law. Kraft Davies has significant experience representing seamen who have suffered back and spine injuries against vessel owners, maritime employers, and maritime insurance companies. If you or a loved one were injured in a commercial fishing or shipping accident, contact the attorneys at Kraft Davies today at 206-624-8844 or through this website.