Jones Act Info Center – How are Jones Act Settlements Calculated?
Maritime workers contemplating filing a Jones Act case against their employers often ask what their potential settlement amount might be. It’s a reasonable question, given the time, energy, and expense that go into litigating a case. Some people may tell you that there is a specific formula to calculate a settlement, others will tell you to look to other settlements and jury awards for cases similar to yours. The truth is, there is no set way to calculate a potential settlement, especially in the early phases of your injury. To attempt to do so would be unfair to you as a Jones Act plaintiff.
Let’s talk about why that is.
As a qualified seaman under the Act, you are entitled to a number of benefits when you are injured. You are entitled to maintenance and cure damages, which pay for reasonable living expenses and medical expenses while you are recovering. If you prove negligence or unseaworthiness, you may also be entitled to compensation for things like:
- pain and suffering
- mental anguish
- dismemberment or disfigurement
- loss of enjoyment of life
- loss of past and future wages
- past and future medical bills
When determining what your actual damages are, several experts are needed, including medical experts, accountants, retaining experts, future income experts, and future medical cost experts. Only after a thorough investigation into the facts of your case can accurate damages be calculated.
Every aspect of potential lost income and expenses needs to be included, including future maintenance and cure payments.
The Problem With “Formulas”
Taking a simplistic approach to choosing a settlement range robs you of compensation you might otherwise be granted if your case went to a jury trial. So, for those people who tell you to multiply your medical bills by two and by three to come up with a settlement range, your settlement may be woefully inadequate for your recovery needs.
Likewise, looking haphazardly at how other cases have settled may result in you leaving money on the table. Every case is different and every attorney’s approach to settlement may differ. What one attorney may think is a great settlement may be considered very low to another.
Approaching a Settlement Range
The key to determining what a good settlement amount should be in your case takes time and skill. Every insurance company has a database with jury awards and verdicts for these types of cases. Your attorney should have access as well. Only by seeing what judges and juries are awarding in the jurisdiction in which your lawsuit is tried can you determine what a fair settlement amount should be. A good and experienced Jones Act lawyer will be able to predict with reasonable certainty how you and your case will look to a judge and how a jury may respond.
If you are injured while working in a maritime environment, you have the right to receive the best possible compensation for your injuries. An experienced Jones Act attorney will be able to thoroughly investigate your case using the best experts available to determine what your case is worth.