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How Location Affects a Personal Injury Lawsuit

When it comes to a personal injury lawsuit, the location and circumstances of the injury often play a critical role in deciding what law applies to the case. Tennessee workers’ compensation law, for example, deals with injuries sustained by employees that occur in the scope and course of their employment. There are also special laws that deal with certain types of employees who work in interstate commerce.

Injured Deckhand May Seek Damages Under Federal Law

For example, the Jones Act is a federal law that allows a seaman injured “in the course of employment” on a ship (or the family of a seamen killed under similar circumstances) to bring a personal injury lawsuit in federal court against the employer. The Jones Act therefore overrides any similar state law, including workers’ compensation, that would normally apply in such cases.

A pending case in Nashville illustrates how the Jones act is applied by the courts. The plaintiff in this case worked as a deckhand on a barge that pushes ships along the Mississippi River. The plaintiff normally worked a 12-hour shift, during which he helped connect and disconnect boats from the barge. During a two-week period in October 2012, the plaintiff alleged he suffered a serious back injury, although he could not point to a specific accident or incident. But the day after he left the barge, he went to see a doctor, who treated him for lower back pain. Indeed, the pain was severe enough as to subsequently require the plaintiff to undergo two separate back surgeries.

In 2014, the plaintiff sued the barge owner under the Jones Act and other provisions of federal maritime law. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing the plaintiff could not establish he actually injured his back while working on its ship. Among other things, the defendant cited the plaintiff’s admission during a deposition that he had previously injured his back in a drunk driving accident several years before serving on the barge. The defendant said the plaintiff never disclosed this “preexisting medical condition” when he applied to work on its barge.

In response, the plaintiff said the defendant required him to essentially perform the work of two men, and that was the likely cause of his back injury. The plaintiff offered testimony from an expert witness who said the defendant was “negligent” by failing to provide “a safe workplace free from hazards.” Additionally, the plaintiff’s own surgeon concluded his back injury was caused by the October 2012 voyage. This was sufficient evidence to present the case to a jury, the trial judge concluded, so she denied the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Get Help from a Tennessee Personal Injury Attorney

If you are injured in any type of accident, no matter where it occurs, it is important to understand your legal rights. An experienced Knoxville personal injury lawyer can advise you on the best course of action. Contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, if you need to speak with a qualified accident attorney right away.

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