Maritime Worker Holding His Lower Back Maritime work places significant strain on a seaman's neck and back. An accident at work or the daily physical demands of the job could land you back on shore for months,   costing you your wages while the medical bills pile up. If you're a Jones Act seaman, you must contact an experienced Jones Act attorney as soon as possible after an injury to protect your legal right to compensation.

How Do Maritime Back Injuries Happen?

Work on fishing boats, cargo ships, tugs, oil rigs, barges, and other vessels requires hard manual labor in rough and slippery conditions. Even with safety protocols in place, Jones Act seamen can suffer debilitating back injuries when they:

  • Lift heavy objects
  • Use machinery or equipment
  • Perform repetitive tasks like twisting, reaching, or crouching
  • Fall on cluttered or slippery surfaces
  • Are involved in an unsafe personnel transfer
  • Suffer a car accident while in service to the vessel
  • Are the victim of crewmember assault

Types of Spinal Injuries That Lead to Jones Act Claims

Back injuries can be caused by sudden and severe trauma, or they may become gradually worse over time due to overuse. Common back injuries and complications include:

  • Muscle sprains and strains
  • Ligament tears
  • Compressed or pinched nerves
  • Stress fractures of the vertebrae (spondylolysis)
  • Narrowing of the space inside the backbone (spinal stenosis)
  • Dislocation of the spine
  • Broken tailbone or fractured vertebrae
  • Torn or ruptured discs
  • Sciatica
  • Nerve dysfunction in the lower back (cauda equina syndrome)
  • Partial or total paralysis from spinal cord injuries

How Much Will I Get in a Back Injury Settlement? 

If you're a Jones Act seaman injured on your vessel, the maritime benefits of “maintenance and cure” require the shipowner to pay your related medical bills and a sum of money to pay for your food and lodging until you can return to work. If your injury was caused by the company’s negligence or the unseaworthiness of the vessel, you may also file a lawsuit against your employer and the shipowner for the losses they caused.

The value of your Jones Act claim will depend on the severity of the injury and your future prognosis. The following factors play a role in how much you could receive for a back or neck injury settlement:

  • Whether you can return to work on your vessel. If your injury prevents you from doing the work you used to or making as much money as before the accident, you might collect compensation for past and future losses.
  • Whether you can work at all. Suppose your injury has left you with physical limitations that prevent you from working in any capacity. In that case, you may be able to collect a significant sum to replace the wages you would have made until retirement age.
  • The number of surgeries you had. Back and spine injuries are particularly expensive to treat and can require multiple surgeries to relieve persistent pain and improve your range of motion. Each surgery can cost tens of thousands of dollars and require weeks of physical therapy that you should not have to pay for out of pocket.
  • The amount of pain and suffering you endured. The circumstances of your accident and its aftermath directly impact the potential compensation in your case. For example, an injury that causes chronic pain, lasting nerve damage, or permanent paralysis may result in higher pain and suffering.
  • Who was at fault for your injury. Maritime accidents caused by lack of training, unsafe working conditions, or inadequate equipment may be worth considerable damages if the vessel is deemed unseaworthy.  

It Costs Nothing to Speak to a Maritime Injury Lawyer

The experienced maritime attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can protect your rights to a full and fair settlement, and we don't collect any payment unless we win your case. Call us at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or learn more about your claim in our complimentary guide, Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.