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Neck Injuries in Jones Act Cases

Working as a commercial fisherman is consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Neck injuries, in particular, can be devastating to seamen and even lead to permanent disability. The neck includes the bones and joints of the cervical spine, the discs that separate the cervical vertebrae, and the muscles and ligaments that hold the cervical spine together. Neck pain can be caused by an injury to one or more of these areas. Common neck injuries include:

  • Torn or ruptured discs,
  • Spinal cord injuries,
  • Fractured vertebrae,
  • Muscle strains,
  • Ligament damage,
  • Whiplash,
  • Neck sprains, and
  • Pinched nerves.

Neck injuries can cause pain, stiffness, numbness, and even lead to paralysis. If the injury is severe, you may not be able to return to work for months or even years, resulting in lost wages in addition to medical expenses.

Maritime workers who have suffered neck injuries can hold their employers accountable through the Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, employers are liable for any injuries that seamen suffer while working aboard a vessel that were caused by the employer’s or coworker’s negligence. This is very different than the typical rule that employees are limited to workers’ compensation and cannot sue their employer, even if their employer caused the injury.

Every seaman has a right to a safe place to work. Any failure by your employer to provide a reasonably safe workplace or to exercise reasonable care to prevent injuries is considered negligence under the Jones Act. Negligence can take many forms, including:

  • Lack of safety equipment,
  • Inadequate training,
  • Unsafe working conditions,
  • Improperly trained workers,
  • Lack of safety procedures,
  • Failure to follow safety procedures or regulations,
  • Improper operation of the equipment or vessel,
  • Understaffing, and
  • Broken equipment.

The damages available under the Jones Act are much more comprehensive than typical workers’ compensation. You can recover past and future medical expenses, lost past and future wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical disfigurement, loss earning capacity, lost fringe benefits, retraining costs, among other types of economic and non-economic damages.

The Jones Act applies a comparative negligence approach when awarding damages. This means that if the court determines that the injured seaman’s own negligence contributed to the injury, the award will be reduced by the percentage amount that the worker was at fault. For example, if your employer proves that you contributed 60% to your injury, any damages that you are entitled to under the Jones Act will be reduced by 60%. It is crucial to contact an experienced maritime attorney because companies will try and divert blame onto the employee to reduce their liability.

Kraft Davies Olsson PLLC is a nationally recognized leader in maritime personal injury law. Kraft Davies has significant experience representing seamen who have suffered neck 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.