Physical injuries from maritime work can be debilitating, but so can the mental and emotional effects of an accident at sea. A fire aboard ship, a collision or capsizing, or other traumatic event can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) even if a seaman suffers only minor physical effects.

Under maritime law, workers who suffer from flashbacks, depression, and other recurrent effects of PTSD may collect Jones Act benefits—and may be entitled to damages if their condition was caused by negligence or carelessness.

Qualifications for PTSD in Jones Act Workers

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder WritingMillions of people across the United States suffer from mild to severe PTSD each year. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), people with PTSD experience the fear and stress fear of a traumatic situation long after the danger has passed.

A Jones Act seaman may be suffering from PTSD if they exhibit one or more debilitating symptoms, such as:

  • Sudden and recurring thoughts of a traumatic event
  • Chronically dreaming of the event or suffering night sweats
  • Anxiety
  • Recurrent panic attacks
  • Disruption of home life or daily living activities
  • Any one of the above that has lasted longer than three months

Treatment for PTSD includes a combination of mental health services and medication to help victims cope with the trauma in healthy ways. Even with treatment, the effects of PTSD be disruptive to your everyday life, making it impossible for you to continue working in your previous job. A Jones Act lawsuit could provide the compensation you need to put the incident behind you once and for all.

Jones Act Seamen Could Have Undiagnosed PTSD

PTSD is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well the Jones Act, and seamen may sue for damages if an employer or shipowner’s negligence contributed to the conditions that caused PTSD. Unfortunately, seamen may struggle privately with the effects of the condition for years without being formally diagnosed.

You may want to speak to your doctor about PTSD if you:

  • Witnessed a traumatic event. Any firsthand experience of sudden or intense violence can result in PTSD. For example, a seaman may have lasting trauma after falling equipment crushes his arm and results in amputation. Another may witness a fall overboard or see other crew members drowning in a storm where they were powerless to help.
  • Experience flashbacks. PTSD may force sudden flashbacks to the event without warning, causing sweating, elevated heart rate, and other physical symptoms.
  • Refuse to talk about the event. Seamen with PTSD often replay the event in their minds repeatedly, and the thought of talking about the event may seem terrifying.
  • Have difficulty sleeping. Without treatment, negative thoughts and emotions of the trauma may cause insomnia or nightmares, robbing the seaman of restful sleep.
  • Avoid social situations or public places. Hypervigilance or irrational fear of crowds is common with PTSD, and seamen may be easily startled or hyperactive in social situations.
  • Are easily angered. A state of constant stress elevates a person’s fight-or-flight response, causing PTSD victims to become irritable, violent, or even engage in self-harm.
  • Feel guilt related to the accident. Seamen may feel guilty or unable to stop blaming themselves for surviving an event that claimed the lives of others.
  • Are pulling away from friends and loved ones. Constant stress can cause a seaman to feel numb or detached from the things they used to enjoy. The feeling that “no one understands” causes isolation, while an inability to work can make depression symptoms even worse.
  • Avoid certain triggers. Some seamen realize that they “aren’t good with” certain noises, smells, or people because they remind them of the accident. Avoidance may seem to fix the problem, but only leads to further isolation.

If you or someone you love is showing symptoms of PTSD after an incident at sea, the maritime injury attorneys at Hofmann & Schweitzer can help you get all you are owed under the Jones Act. Call 1-800-3-MAY-DAY or fill out our online contact form today to set up your no-obligation consultation. To learn more about these types of claims, start reading your complimentary copy of our 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.