Many Damages are Included in Jones Act Settlements
Under Jones Act settlements, any and all damages which you may have suffered as a result of your accident are included in the settlement. This includes pain and suffering, past and future lost wages, loss of fringe benefits, past and future medical expenses, as well as any other damages which may have been caused in the accident.
Reserving Future Medical Expenses Under Jones Act Settlements
The only way to reserve any type of future medical expenses under Jones Act settlements would be to specifically exclude your maintenance and cure claim from Jones Act settlements. Technically, your rights to maintenance and cure benefits are a part of maritime law, not the Jones Act. If you are signing a Jones Act settlement, you can limit such a settlement to only your claims under the Jones Act statute. This would then exclude for you any rights that you may have to future maintenance and cure.
Understanding How Jones Act Settlements Work
Generally, Jones Act settlements are agreed upon by the attorneys representing the injured Jones Act worker and the opposing attorney representing the company or insurance company. Once Jones Act settlements have been agreed upon by both attorneys, it then takes approximately 30 to 60 days for settlement money to be delivered by the settling party.
The Release of Jones Act Settlements
Typically, you will still have to sign a standard Jones Act settlement release which is approximately 6 to 12 pages in length. This release goes through the details of Jones Act settlements. The basic goal of the release document is to make it clear to both parties that all claims and rights under the Jones Act are being settled at that time in exchange for the settlement funds. Once the release document is signed, typically you will receive your portion of your Jones Act settlement after your attorney deducts any fees and expenses out of the Jones Act settlement. Because settlement funds must be put into a trust account, typically the check that you receive at the time of your Jones Act settlement will be dated three to five days after the date that you sign the release documents.
In summary, once Jones Act settlements are agreed upon by the attorneys in your case, typically you will receive your money within 30 to 60 days. You will first have to sign a detailed release document which will be fully explained to you by your attorney. The day that the release document is signed you typically will receive your portion of the settlement funds, but this check will be post dated several days.
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Understanding the Fine Print of Jones Act Settlements
Jones Act settlements have release documents that are typically 6 to 12 pages long. Very often it includes several conditions.
Confidentiality Clauses in Jones Act Settlements
First, many Jones Act settlements are confidential. If your settlement is confidential, there will be a paragraph in the release document specifically saying that the terms of the settlement are to remain strictly confidential. Many Jones Act employers do not want the amount that they settle claims for or the fact that they settle claims to be public knowledge. These companies also do not want attorneys publicizing the amount of money that they have been able to obtain for their clients in Jones Act settlements. For this reason, many companies these days insist that the terms of any settlement be confidential.
“Hold Harmless” in Jones Act Settlements
Most release documents also include language known as “hold harmless” language. This paragraph of the release essentially requires that you “hold harmless” or indemnify the company for several types of expenses which may exist in your case. The most typical expense is for past and future medical expenses. By agreeing to hold harmless the company in regard to any past or future medical expenses you are essentially agreeing that you are personally responsible to pay any medical bills which may be due at the time of your settlement or which you may incur in the future. The company wants to make it clear during most Jones Act settlements that they are no longer responsible for any medical expenses and that your settlement amount includes your payment of any such medical expenses which may be due at that time or which you may incur in the future. Most companies will also include “hold harmless” or indemnity language in regard to any attorney fees you may owe to your attorney or expenses you may owe to your attorney. This is a simple way for the company to make sure that it is clear that the company is not paying any attorney fees for you and that you alone remain responsible for payment of your attorney fees.
Employment and Jones Act Settlements
Finally, almost all Jones Act settlements include language specifically stating that you are not entitled to any current or future employment with your company. Almost all companies want to simply part ways with an injured employee at the time of the Jones Act settlement. Companies do not want any obligation to keep the employee hired after a Jones Act settlement. Most often the injured employee claims difficulty in returning to work so this paragraph of the settlement document typically is not a big issue. Companies also want to make sure that it is clear to you that there is no guarantee of future employment and that your Jones Act settlement does not include any agreement that you will remain an employee following the settlement.
There are several things that you should fully investigate before you seek out Jones Act settlements.
Before Jones Act Settlements, Discuss Your Injury
First, it is critical that you completely understand the nature and extent of your medical condition and injury. This is one of the most basic fundamental things that you should investigate before you even think about Jones Act settlements. We always require our clients to be comfortable with their treating physician and to trust that any and all medical tests have been performed in order to fully investigate their medical condition. You should never pursue Jones Act settlements if you have any questions regarding your medical condition.
Before Jones Act Settlements, Determine if You Can Work
Also, you should determine whether or not you are capable of returning to work before you sign a Jones Act settlement. We encourage our clients to actually try various activities to determine the type of work that they may be able to perform in the future. One large aspect Jones Act settlements may be the consideration of whether or not you can return to earning the same amount of money as you were earning at the time of your injury. Many Jones Act settlements are very large if the injured person can no longer return to making the same amount of money they earned at the time of the accident. Therefore, we always encourage an individual to determine the type of employment they can do before they enter into a Jones Act settlement.
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