Sharing the Blame under the Jones Act

» Posted by on Oct 23, 2013 in Jones Act, Personal Injury | 0 comments

A maritime lawyer that specializes in the Jones Act can ensure that the proper compensation is awarded to seamen who suffer injuries in the performance of their duties. They are especially important when negligence is an issue, where non-economic damages (pain and suffering) can be awarded, because a Jones Act maritime lawyer will know when the damages awarded are commensurate to the extent of the injury and degree of culpability of the employer. However, according to http://www.goingslawfirm.com/, there are instances when proving the employer’s negligence is not enough to secure the whole of what the plaintiff believes he deserves.

Even when a personal injury claim is successful under the Jones Act, the court can decide that some of the responsibility lies with the plaintiff. This can have a significant effect on the awarding of damages, as in the case of Simeonoff v. M/V Saga (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2001).

The plaintiff was able to prove to the district court that his injuries were a direct result of negligence and unseaworthiness on board that M/V Saga at the time of the accident. However, the court also considered his years of experience in operating the equipment (launcher) that caused his injuries. The court concluded that he was partially responsible for the accident for failing to use his experience and knowledge to prevent it, that he should have known better in fact, and pegged his culpability at 30%. As a result, the damages awarded to him were reduced by that much.

The plaintiff appealed the decision, and it was a good thing that he did. Under the Jones Act, a seaman cannot be held partially responsible for any mishap that occurs onboard in the performance of his duties where negligence of the employer is clearly proven. The appeals court therefore affirmed the damages awarded by the district court, but denied the reduction of 30%, which represented the plaintiff’s “share” of the blame.  Clearly, the personal injury lawyer or lawyers in this case knew what could and could not be allowed under the Jones Act, and this benefited the plaintiff greatly.

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