The Requirements for Pre-Existing Conditions Under The Jones Act

Pre-existing conditions can be one of the most complicated parts of any injury case, and that goes double for maritime injury claims.

Many insurance companies and ship owners resort to the old strategy of claiming ‘pre-existing conditions’ to get out of paying damages to a worker who falls ill or is injured. While it’s a common tactic that can play out in favor of the insurance company if precautions aren’t taken, the good news is that the Jones Act can still protect your rights even in the event of a pre-existing condition.

Better yet, the pre-existing condition in question doesn’t tend to matter in these claims. The Jones Act will work to protect injured workers with any previously diagnosed medical condition, focusing more on how the condition is presented more than what the condition is.

In order to be protected fully by the Jones Act, any pre-existing condition needs to be fully disclosed at the start of employment. Too many maintenance and cure claims have been dismissed due to the employee in question not having been completely forthright and honest when disclosing their injuries, particularly when the information would have affected the company’s decision to hire the worker in the first place.

This is typically referred to as the “McCorpen Defense”. Companies have attempted to use this defense to get out of paying maintenance and cure by claiming they were unaware of the condition before employment started. It’s a common tactic in offshore injury cases, but the law is complex – and it can still be won with the help of a maritime attorney.

The easiest way to make sure you can still qualify for maintenance and cure is to fully disclose any and all pre-existing conditions before you begin your employment, no matter what it is. The Jones Act goes so far as to accommodate pre-existing conditions that have been aggravated by an injury on the job, even if the condition didn’t cause problems before the injury occurred. This is called the “eggshell doctrine” and is a vital part of many maritime injury claims.

So, does the Jones Act cover pre-existing conditions? You bet it does, so long as you can prove your employer knew about it at the time of hiring. You just need the help of a good Jones Act attorney to help see your way through the maze of laws and requirements – and that’s where O’Bryan comes in.