Seamen in the maritime industry have high-risk occupations. Large equipment, heavy loads, seaworthiness, and unfavorable conditions all factor in to create an increased risk of injury when working offshore. The remoteness of many offshore work sites further adds to a scenario where offshore injuries can be more traumatic that similar injuries that occur onshore, as help and proper medical treatment may be hours away. Considering all these factors, a maritime injury can be much more traumatic than a similar incident occurring onshore. A seasoned Mississippi offshore injury lawyer can help an injured seaman and/or his family seek to recover full and fair compensation and benefits for a seaman’s injury, or death.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act was enacted to make it easier for seamen to get back on their feet after a work injury, and encourage vessel owners and operators to keep the work environment safe. Companies are much more likely to keep workers safe if injuries resulting from the company’s negligence and/or unsafe work environment could result in a substantial payout to their employees. However, even with this law in place, an injured seaman or his family should still have a knowledgeable advocate on their side. It is important to have a Biloxi, Mississippi offshore injury attorney who has experience representing injured offshore workers to properly handle claims under the Jones Act.
Under the Jones Act, injured seamen are entitled to several types of compensation and benefits, including:
- Compensation for physical pain, suffering, and disfigurement
- Compensation for mental anguish
- Expenses for past and future medical care
- Expenses for cost of living during recovery
Injured offshore workers are also entitled to compensation for lost wages in the past, as well as lost wages in the future and/or loss of earning capacity. If an injured seaman qualifies for benefits under the Jones Act, it is important to understand how past and future lost wages are calculated.
Calculating Lost Wage Compensation Under the Jones Act
Lost wages and loss of earning capacity cover the money an injured seaman would have made, but did not make – and will not be able to make in the future, due to an offshore injury. Benefits for lost earnings and lost earning capacity also apply to employment benefits, such as health and dental insurance, vacation hours, pension, and 401(k) contributions that the injured seaman might have lost or is reasonably likely to lose in the future due to their injury. With convincing and compelling evidence, the seaman might also be able to claim damages for future promotions that will potentially be lost because of the injury.
Calculating Previously Lost Earnings
Calculating past lost wages is relatively easy. To calculate previously lost earnings, simply add up the earnings and employment benefits that were lost over the time it took to recover from the injury and return to work. For instance, if the injured seaman earned $80,000 per year, including benefits, and was out of work for one year, he is entitled to recovery $80,000 in past lost wages.
Calculating Future Lost Wages and Lost Earnings Capacity
Calculating future lost wages and/or loss of earning capacity is more difficult, and often requires the injured seaman’s maritime accidents attorney to hire an economist to give expert testimony. When determining future lost wages and lost earning capacity due to an offshore injury, it is crucial to have an experienced Mississippi maritime accidents lawyer. Injured workers will need someone on their side to fight for full and fair compensation. An experienced offshore injury attorney can help identify and hire the proper experts, such as economists, to give the necessary calculations of future loss of earnings to ensure the injured worker and/or his family receives the full and fair amount of compensation and benefits that is rightfully due.
Loss of earning capacity occurs when, as a result of some physical or mental limitation caused by a severe injury, an injured worker is unable to return to his prior job. As an example, let’s assume the injured worker from the above scenario can’t return to his $80,000 a year job due to continuing physical limitations after medical care has made all the improvements it can make. Instead, let’s assume the seaman can now only qualify for and perform a job that pays $40,000 a year with benefits. The worker thus has a “loss of earning capacity” valued at $40,000 a year.
The next step is to determine the duration of the injured seaman’s “work-life expectancy.” This is a statistical measure of how many more years that particular worker is reasonably expected to continue working had no injury occurred. Work-life expectancy is determined by federal government statistics that consider a number of variables including age, gender, and race. Once the number of years of work life expectancy is determined, that number is multiplied by the loss of earning capacity outlined above. But that is not the end of the calculation.
Determining Present Value
Determining proper compensation for loss of earning capacity requires calculating losses that can cover many years into the future, but for compensation to be paid right away those future earnings must be reduced to “present value.” The question essentially becomes, how much does one need to have in a bank account today to be able to pay the future salary over the duration of the injured worker’s work life expectancy.
Determining the answer to this question involves complex financial calculations that are difficult, if not impossible, for laypeople to perform. That is why it is often necessary to retain the services of an economist or similar expert with experience in making such calculations. An experienced Mississippi offshore injury attorney will take care of hiring an appropriate economist or actuarial accountant with the necessary experience to maximize recovery for the injured worker and/or his family today.
Jones Act injury claims are different than ordinary negligence claims for injuries that occur onshore.
Jones Act claims:
- May be filed directly against the injured worker’s employer, instead of through worker’s compensation carriers
- Have a lower standard of proof to entitle the injured worker to compensation
- Involve maritime insurance companies
- Typically have a higher average value
- Often require offshore injury attorneys who are experienced with maritime law
- Many times involve more life-changing injuries
Did You or a Loved One Suffer an Offshore Injury? Call Our Skilled Biloxi, Mississippi Offshore Injury Lawyer Today
If you or a loved one were recently injured, or tragically killed, while working offshore, it is critical to have a skilled offshore injury attorney on your side who is well versed in the Jones Act, other maritime statutes, and personal injury claims. At Van Cleave Law, we are prepared to do whatever needs to be done in order to help our injured offshore clients and their families obtain the best outcome possible. You can count on us to fight for the outcome that you and your family deserve.
Call Van Cleave Law today to schedule your no-obligation, free consultation with Christopher Van Cleave, a reputable Biloxi, Mississippi offshore injury attorney. You can reach us at (228) 432-7826.