Punitive Damages

Even with as complicated as the Jones Act can be, one thing has always been very clear: any injured maritime worker is entitled to financial compensation for lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain, suffering, and even medical costs. More than just income, the Jones Act provides for different financial needs that may arise after an injury. These needs are referred to as punitive damages where appropriate.

Punitive damages are defined as additional damages awarded to a plaintiff under certain circumstances during the course of an injury case. These damages can occur under maritime law as well, thanks to the Jones Act’s focus on providing recompense to injured workers, and it can be a powerful tool for injured workers to regain some of their quality of life after a debilitating injury.

Dockworker powerwashing side of ship

Punitive Damage FAQs

What are punitive damages?

Punitive damages go above and beyond standard damages, in cases where the conduct leading to the case was found to be particularly neglectful or egregious. As opposed to standard damages (the sum of money awarded to the plaintiff as compensation for the issue behind the case), which are aimed at helping to financially compensate the plaintiff, punitive damages are intended as more of a punishment placed on the defendant. These damages could range from payment for medical bills, to replacement of damaged property, or loss of earnings.

What is the purpose of punitive damages?

While standard damages just want to help the plaintiff regain some quality of life and recover financially from some kind of injury or other situation impacting their employment, punitive damages are intended to punish the defendant and deter the defendant (and others) from engaging in similar conduct in the future. By setting the precedent of punitive damages, the goal is to ensure that the defendant takes greater steps in the future to ensure these situations are never again an issue.

How do punitive damages work under maritime law? 

Under maritime law, injured workers may be entitled to compensatory damages that replace losses caused by his or her injury, whether it happened while working on the water or while working onshore for a major shipping company. Compensatory damages go far beyond just the loss of income, and may include any number of complications arising from an injury. Under maritime law, you may be entitled to punitive damages if you have been injured in the workplace and the employer intentionally, callously or recklessly fails to pay maintenance and cure.

What qualifies for punitive damages?

Punitive damages often arise during maritime injury trials when the injury was found to be the result of especially reckless negligence, and/or when the employer callously and intentionally fails to provide the maintenance and care required under the Jones Act. Examples of such damages could include:

  • Pain
  • Suffering
  • Bodily Injury
  • Mental anguish
  • Inability to engage in social and recreational pursuits previously enjoyed
  • Fear of future surgery
  • Embarrassment
  • Humiliation
  • Scarification
  • Lost future earning power

These and other damages may lead to the awarding of additional punitive damages depending on the circumstances of your case.

When are punitive damages awarded?

Punitive damages are awarded when the defendant is found to have acted fraudulently and willfully in creating the circumstances that led to the plaintiff’s injury. Under maritime law, this definition can also be extended to include circumstances where the defendant is willfully neglectful in paying maintenance and care to an injured maritime worker as required by the Jones Act. While the availability of punitive damages will vary from case to case, the circumstances under which they can be awarded are very specific in nature.

How Can I Seek Compensatory Damages If I Am Injured?

The first step is to contact a maritime injury lawyer immediately. In too many injury cases, shipowners and employers will try to undercut their injured employees by involving an “insurance investigator” or by trying to settle out of court for an insulting amount.

Don’t let the big maritime employers cut you out of the full compensation you could be entitled to after an injury. O’Bryan Law has the knowledge and skill it takes to fight for you and get the full range of compensation and damages you deserve for your hardships. Before talking to your employer, contact O’Bryan today and let us review your case and fight for your justice. Our loyalties are always to you – never to the company’s bottom line.