The Jones Act – Explained

The Jones Act is a federal law that governs all the liabilities and responsibilities of maritime vessel operators and employers and provides legal remedies for injured worker. The Jones Act also regulates all maritime shipping, commerce, ship traffic, tariffs and laws of all shipping in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. The Jones Act further outlines the duties of the maritime employer, standard of care, basis for finding of negligence, doctrine of unseaworthiness and the recovery of damages (money) for injuries, losses and deaths for the injured ship, barge or vessel worker. When a maritime worker is injured, the Jones Act provides the legal structure for the daily wage (maintenance) and medical benefits (cure). The Jones Act provides a legal basis for the courts to govern injuries, fault, damages and other remedies under the law. Under the Jones Act, there are filing deadline or statute of limitations in which actions and lawsuits must be brought. A Jones act statute of limitation for filing a lawsuit or claim is three years from the date of the accident. In some cases however, another entity or third party may also be at fault and the filing deadline may be as short as one year.

Jones Act Lawsuit or Claim for Damages

A Jones Act claim or lawsuit is available to compensate the injured offshore and maritime workers when injured in the course and scope of their employment. The worker’s employment or duties must be related to navigation, operation or played a part of the ship’s mission or voyage. In a Jones Act injury case, the lawyer must look at the facts of the accident, duties of the maritime or offshore employer, condition of vessel or unseaworthiness of the vessel, condition of the equipment on the boat, barge or vessel. In order to prevail, the maritime attorney must prove that the vessel owner, co-employee operator or the injured workers employer’s fault or negligence was the cause or contributed to the accident and the resulting injuries. In cases involving a negligent third party, the injured worker may also have a 3rd party lawsuit along with a Jones Act lawsuit against the negligent third party, company, or corporation.

Due to the nature of being out at sea and the dangers that can occur so far away from a doctor or hospital or rescue, the Jones Act places a higher duty of care upon the employer (maritime employer) to provide a safe place to work. In fact with this higher standard of care, finding negligence on the maritime employer comes at a lower burden of proof and therefore an easier case to prove in court. Additionally, even if the injured worker is partially at fault, a maritime action or Jones Act claim can still be available to the injured seaman and not discounted for their contributory negligence.

To be a Jones act seaman, the worker must be classified as a member of the crew of the vessel, whether that vessel is a jackup rig, casino boat, barge, tugboat, cargo ship, tanker, fishing boats, trawler, seafood processing boat, towboat, semi-submersible, jack-up oil rig, supply or a crew boat. The injured seaman may even be classified as a Jones Act seaman, if he or she is not permanently assigned to one particular vessel, but rather to a many different vessels by his maritime employer. An offshore rig worker working on a offshore rig or stationary platform may not technically be a Jones Act seaman, but may still have a maritime injury claim or lawsuit under General Maritime laws available for their injuries whether on the platform, or crew boat or even during transportation by helicopter to and from the rig.

Jones Act Liability – Employer’s Duty to the Worker

Jones Act liability for an injured seaman may include cases where:

  • Employer failed to adequately train workers to do their job
  • Employer failed to supervise co-employers
  • Employer failed to provide safe or working equipment to safely do the job
  • Employer failed to provide a safe work place or environment
  • Employer failure to have properly avoid or navigate in rough waters
  • Failure to keep stairs and walkways free of tripping hazards and oily substances
  • Failing to provide a competent, well trained crew
  • Failure to provide safety masks, safety suits and supplemental air when working with toxic chemical & fumes
  • Failure to remove / dismiss dangerous or violent co-workers
  • Failure to do adequate background checks of co-workers
  • Requiring seamen to work on a dangerous and unseaworthy vessel with defective or broken machinery
  • Failure of ship owner or employer to have needed safety guards on winches and other equipment
  • Failure to employ those employees known to be careless or unsafe or a threat to others
  • Failure to adequately train winch and crane operators on the safe operation of winches, riggings and overhead cranes

Jones Act Lawyer – Free Case Review

If you have been injured on a boat, vessel, barge, ship, oil rig or offshore platform, then call a get a Free Confidential Case Review. Get a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Lawyer on your side. As stated above, an injury under the Jones Act must normally be brought within in 3 years, there are exceptions and certain notice requirements that require a lawsuit to be filed within 1 year. It is for these reasons, an injured worker should not wait to talk to an experienced Jones Act Attorney about their injury claim or lawsuit.

No Fees or Expenses Charged to Injured Worker, unless you Recover. Talk to a Maritime Injury Lawyer now. Call Toll Free 1-800-883-9858 or email us on our online injury form

Want to Know How You Can Wreck Your Jones Act Case?

Injuries come in all different forms, from bone breaks to head trauma. These serious injuries can take a toll on you physically, as well as mentally. In the past, doctors did not place a lot of emphasis on the emotional aspect of coping with a traumatic injury, but things have changed. Physicians and juries now take into account the mental anguish caused by a maritime injury. The good news for injured maritime workers is that they can now recover monetary damages for mental anguish.

The Jones Act is a federal law that protects injured seamen. If you are considered a seaman, this law allows you to collect compensation during your recovery and provides damages for mental anguish, among other things. However, the law is complex when it comes to obtaining these damages. To be eligible for mental anguish damages, you must have been injured by negligence and one of the following took place:

  • You became extremely distressed after being exposed to a hazard that has the potential to cause a life threatening illness
  • You experienced mental pain from an injury
  • An accident put you into a dangerous situation where you were at risk of serious injury

It can be very difficult to collect damages for mental anguish. The law does not allow family members of a seaman who was killed in a maritime accident to obtain this compensation. Also, if you witnessed an accident or death of a co-worker, you are not eligible for mental anguish damages. There are some other exceptions that should be discussed with a Jones Act lawyer.

If you have been injured in a maritime accident, you need to contact an experienced Jones Act attorney. When it comes to filing a Jones Act claim, there are deadlines, so you do not want to delay in seeking legal advice.

Jones Act Cases Involving Eye Injuries

It’s a good thing that the federal government designed a law, known as the Jones Act, to protect injured seamen. Every day on the job for a seaman is dangerous. There is the unpredictable sea and weather to contend with, along with heavy machinery, equipment and tackle. Injuries are inevitable. When maritime injuries are caused by negligence, the injured seaman can pursue compensation under the Jones Act.

Eye injuries are not as common as some of the other types of maritime injuries, but they do occur and when they do, the outcome is often life changing. When a seaman sustains an eye injury from a maritime accident, it can sometimes lead to blindness.

There are two main causes of eye injuries offshore – physical and chemical. Physical eye injuries are the result of an object, such as broken metal or glass, entering the eye. Chemical eye injuries occur when the seaman is exposed to chemical fumes or when a chemical comes into direct contact with the eye. Both types of eye injuries are painful and can be serious.

If you have sustained an eye injury and you believe that negligence either on the part of the vessel owner, captain, officers or crew members caused your maritime accident, you need to contact an experienced maritime attorney. You may be entitled to financial compensation for damages incurred from your injuries, contact our law firm as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.

Negotiating a Jones Act Settlement

One of the first questions that most injured seamen have after deciding to file a Jones Act claim is – how much is my maritime injury case worth? It is crucial to have an idea of what would be considered a fair Jones Act settlement, especially when talking with your employer’s insurance company.

Keep in mind that when you are contacted by the insurer following a maritime accident, they are not looking out for your best interest. Instead, the insurance company is going to work hard to pay as little money as possible for your maritime injuries. That is why it is important to not sign anything without the assistance of an experienced Jones Act attorney.

A Jones Act settlement should include compensation for any applicable damages, including past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, disfigurement, mental anguish and any other costs associated with your maritime injuries. The insurance company may offer you a settlement that does not include all the damages in which you are entitled. As an injured Jones Act seaman, you deserve to be fully compensated.

If you try to negotiate with the insurance company on your own, you risk accepting a settlement that is far below what your claim is worth. Contact an experienced maritime injury lawyer at our law firm for legal advice regarding your Jones Act case.

Jones Act Injuries

When an injury occurs on a barge, oil rig, tugboat, towboat or other vessel, it is sometimes difficult to know what needs to be done to not only treat the injury, but gather the appropriate evidence regarding the incident. If you are a seaman you are protected under federal law by the Jones Act. However, the actions you take after an injury can make the difference of whether you win or lose your Jones Act lawsuit. The statute of limitations for a Jones Act claim is generally three years from the date of the accident, but keep in mind that the process of filing a claim is often time consuming. Consider taking action as soon as possible following an injury.

Below is a list of things to do after a Jones Act injury:

  • Seek medical attention. Before you do anything else, you need to get medical treatment for your maritime injury. If your vessel has a medical doctor onboard, then you may want to see that professional. As an injured seaman, you do have the right to reasonable medical care and you can get medical treatment from someone not associated with your employer.
  • Report the injury to your supervisor. You can request that an accident report be completed in writing, so that there is a record of the event. Most likely you will be asked to sign the report, but review it carefully before you sign to make sure everything is correct.
  • Write the contact information of the witnesses. If there were people who witnessed your maritime accident, you are going to want their testimonies. Try to get their phone numbers, home addresses and email addresses.
  • Take photographs. You should take pictures of your injuries and also the equipment or defective condition that caused the accident.
  • Do not sign a waiver or release of liability document. If your employer asks you to sign something, read it carefully to make sure it does not release the employer from any liability or waive your rights. Some legal documents are hard to understand – if you don’t know what it says, don’t sign it.
  • Do not give a recorded statement. An insurance adjuster may ask you questions and to avoid misrepresenting yourself, decline giving a recorded statement.
  • Talk to an experienced Jones Act attorney. As an injured seaman, you have legal rights, but maritime law can be complex. That is why you need to talk with a maritime attorney who can review your case and make sure you receive the compensation you deserve.

The Willis Law Firm has been representing injured seaman for over 25 years.

Back Injuries and the Jones Act

Working on an offshore rig, platform, tugboat, towboat, barge or ship can put immense strain on your back. By nature, a seaman’s job is very physical and can ultimately lead to severe back injuries. If you have hurt your back on a drilling rig or other vessel, you need to know what symptoms to look out for that could indicate a more serious problem, and it is important to know your legal rights under the Jones Act.

There are many causes of back injuries. According to Mayo Clinic, there are four work-related factors that are associated with the risk of back pain and injury, which include force, repetition, posture and stress. Maritime workers can seriously injure their backs by:

  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Repetitious tasks
  • Moving machinery or equipment
  • Falling on a slippery surface
  • An auto accident while on duty
  • An unsafe transfer in rough seas
  • Assault by a crewmember
  • A direct blow to the spine
  • Stab wounds or gunshot wounds

Back Injury Symptoms that Require Emergency Attention

Some back injuries require emergency medical treatment. It is important to know what signs to watch for following an injury to the back. Below are some symptoms that require immediate medical care:

  • Pain in the upper back with chest pain that is squeezing, crushing or feels like a weight is on the chest
  • Back pain that follows a major accident
  • Weakness in the legs
  • Numbness in the buttocks, genital area or legs
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

These symptoms indicate that a more serious medical condition exists. Prompt medical attention is vital in treating these types of injuries.

Types of Back Injuries

Back injuries are classified into two different categories – acute and overuse. The pain resulting from an acute back injury is usually sudden and severe. Overuse back injuries have symptoms that gradually surface over time. A >back injury may include:

  • Back sprain or strain caused by injured ligaments or muscles
  • Spine fracture or dislocation
  • Torn or ruptured disk
  • Nerve compression in the lower back, known as cauda equine syndrome

Jones Act Lawsuits

A seaman is protected under the Jones Act and is legally entitled to compensation for injuries that occurred on the job. This compensation is known as maintenance and cure. If the injury was caused by negligence of others or if it was the result of an unseaworthy vessel, additional compensation may be pursued. A significant settlement can be awarded for a successful Jones Act case. Contact a maritime lawyer to discuss your legal options if you have injured your back while working on a vessel.

Injuries Caused by Electric Shock from Unsafe Equipment

Defective equipment on offshore rigs, tankers, barges and other vessels can cause serious injuries to the maritime worker. Equipment that is unsafe poses a significant risk of electrocution and burns. If you or someone you know has been injured by unsafe equipment or defective equipment onboard a vessel, a Jones Act lawsuit may be pursued.

Electric shock occurs when someone comes into contact with an electrical energy source. A person is injured when the electrical energy flows through the body, which ultimately causes shock. An injury caused by electric shock can be catastrophic, even deadly.

It has been estimated that nearly 1,000 people die each year in the United States as a direct result of electric shock. Many of the deaths were caused by exposure at work. As a seaman, you most likely work with heavy equipment and machinery. When equipment malfunctions aboard a vessel, the result can be devastating.

Symptoms of Electric Shock

Symptoms of electric shock can range, depending on the extent of injuries. When someone experiences electric shock, there may be little initial evidence of the injury or there may be immediate burns. A high voltage shock can cause cardiac arrest. Some of the electric shock symptoms include the following:

  • Burns at the point of contact with the electrical source such as the hands, heels or head
  • Spinal pain or injury, if the person was thrown clear of the electrical source
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Pain in a hand or foot
  • Deformity of part of the body
  • Unconsciousness
  • Numbness or paralysis

Treatment and Recovery of Electric Shock

Emergency medical care should be given to the victim immediately following the electric shock. Even if there are no external signs of damage, there could be internal injuries. A doctor will conduct various tests and exams to determine if any significant unseen injuries exist. It is possible for the heart, muscle or brain to be damaged from the electrical force. Some of the tests may include:

  • Blood count
  • ECG of the heart
  • Urine test
  • X-ray
  • CT scan

The medical personnel will treat any burns according to the severity. Broken bones will require casting or splinting and in some cases may require surgery. If there are internal injuries, surgery may be needed. The medical staff will also closely monitor the victim to prevent infection, which is one of the most common causes of death among those hospitalized after an electrical injury.

Recovery from electric shock can be achieved, especially if the injuries were relatively minor. If the victim did not experience cardiac arrest or severe burns, the chances of survival increase dramatically.

If you have been injured by electric shock while working aboard a vessel, you may be eligible to file a Jones Act claim.

Jones Act

You have legal rights as a seaman and could be entitled to a monetary settlement if you were injured on the job. The Jones Act, which came to pass in 1970, was created by the federal government to protect injured seaman. This law regulates the maritime industry and ensures that seaman injured while on duty, receive adequate compensation. Under the Jones Act, an injured worker may be able to recover:

  • Lost wages, both past and present
  • Medical expenses
  • Damages for pain, suffering, disfigurement and mental anguish

Some of the injuries associated with Jones Act lawsuits include those caused by falls due to poor lighting or lack of appropriate equipment, weather related accidents, exposure to toxic chemicals, burns, electrocutions, falling objects and even assaults. There are many reasons for maritime injuries and it is important to be able to determine whether negligence or unseaworthiness of a vessel played a role.

If you win your Jones Act lawsuit, you may be awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars for damages. That is a lot more than your employer will offer you.

As a seaman, you are legally entitled to “maintenance and cure” if you are injured in the course of your employment, regardless of who was at fault. Maintenance refers to the small daily compensation you receive, which usually equates to as little as $10 to $35 per day. Basically, the amount of maintenance should equal the costs of your living expenses on land, assuming you have comparable accommodations as you had on the vessel. Cure is defined as your employer’s obligation to provide medical care until your condition cannot improve any further. Unfortunately, many seamen are unaware that they have a claim under the Jones Act and settle for maintenance and cure – missing out on a large potential settlement.

Seaman – The Legal Definition

One of the first steps in a Jones Act case is the determination of whether or not you are legally a seaman. By definition, a seaman is a crew member of a vessel or person who was assigned to a vessel or fleet of vessels. Individuals who work on the following are considered to be seamen:

  • Fishing vessels
  • Supply boats
  • Tankers
  • Freighters
  • Jack-up rigs
  • Towboats
  • Tugboats
  • Semi-submersibles
  • Barges
  • Crew boats
  • Movable or jack-up drilling rigs

There are requirements to proving seaman status that should be discussed with a maritime attorney – seek legal help to protect your rights.

Negligence and Unseaworthiness

In order to have a successful case under the Jones Act, you must be able to prove negligence or fault by the vessel’s owner, operators, officers or co-workers. Defects in the vessel, equipment, tackle or gear also allow for certain remedies. You may have a Jones Act claim if your employer did something unreasonable that directly or indirectly caused the accident or if your employer failed to perform an act that could have prevented the injury. The admiralty lawyers at our law firm will help you determine if your employer was negligent.

If the vessel is found to be unseaworthy, you may also have a valid case. A ship’s owner has a duty to ensure that the vessel is seaworthy and that it provides a safe environment for you to work. A vessel owner can be held liable if there were conditions that could have been corrected, which ultimately resulted in your injury. An experienced Jones Act attorney will be able to review your case and find out if the vessel was unseaworthy.

Statute of Limitations

There are deadlines as to when you can file a claim. The Statute of Limitations for a Jones Act case is generally three years from the date of the incident. Some exceptions include situations where the injury occurred on a vessel that is in some way connected to the U.S. government. Do not wait to speak with a Jones Act lawyer. If your case does not fall under the Jones Act, your statute of limitations can be as little as one year. You could miss out on a large cash settlement if you are past the deadline.

Contact an Attorney

The Willis Law Firm will go over your rights as a seaman and assist you with your Jones Act injury case. Contact our law office 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your consultation is free and confidential.

Jones Act Protects Seaman’s Rights

In 1920, the Merchant Marine Act became law, which is one of the three federal laws often referred to as the Jones Act. It is a cabotage law that also has provisions protecting the rights of seamen.

The Jones Act places restrictions on the carriage of goods or passengers between United States ports to U.S. built and flagged ships. Under this law, at least two-thirds of the crew must be U.S. citizens. In addition, any foreign repair work of U.S. flagged ships’ hull and superstructure is limited to 10 percent foreign-built steel weight. Basically, this restriction prohibits U.S. vessel owners from renovating their vessels at overseas shipyards.

There are also provisions in the Jones Act that protect seamen’s rights. The Jones Act allows injured seamen to pursue damages from their employers for negligence on the part of the vessel owner, captain or other crewmembers. This protection is similar to that of railroad workers. The law states that any seaman who suffers personal injury in the course of employment may take action to collect damages and has the right to a trial by jury. The action can be brought in a U.S. federal court or a state court.

A case heard by the United States Supreme Court, known as Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347, 115 S.Ct. 2171 (1995), established a benchmark for determining the status of an employee as a “Jones Act seaman.” Based on the Supreme Court ruling, a worker who spends less than 30 percent of his time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters is presumed not to be a Jones Act seaman.

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 has been revised numerous times, with the most recent revision in 2006.

Amputations and the Jones Act

Working on a vessel can be treacherous, as the ocean and weather conditions can be unpredictable. The use of heavy machinery and equipment can also be dangerous. Accidents may happen on oil rigs, barges, tugs, towboats, tankers and freighters. A maritime accident can lead to serious injuries. In some unfortunate cases, an amputation can result from a catastrophic injury.

An amputation occurs when part or all of a body part that is enclosed by the skin is removed. It can be complete, where the entire body part is removed, or it can be partial, where only a portion is taken off. Amputations are often done during surgery, but can also happen during an accident. An accidental amputation is serious and it is crucial to know what to do if such an event happens.

If you witness a fellow maritime worker experiencing an amputation, you need to seek emergency medical care immediately. You can help stop the bleeding by applying steady pressure to the injury site. The injured worker should lie down and elevate the site that is bleeding. Sterile dressing or a clean cloth should be wrapped around the injured area until medical treatment is received.

Shock frequently follows an amputation injury. The injured seaman may pass out, feel dizzy, lightheaded or weak and become less responsive.

The amputated body part should be taken to the hospital for possible re-attachment. It should be gently rinsed, wrapped in sterile gauze, placed in a waterproof container and put on ice. Re-attachment is possible depending on what body part was amputated, the condition of the body part that was removed, the time passed since the injury occurred and the health of the injured worker.

Depending on what caused the accident and amputation, the injured seaman may be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act or General Maritime Law. Under the Jones Act, employers are required to pay for maintenance and cure. Maintenance is designed to cover living expenses, while cure is meant to pay for medical care. The Jones Act also allows seamen to pursue monetary damages for pain and suffering, lost wages, both past and present, medical expenses, disfigurement and mental anguish, if the vessel owner was negligent in any way or if the vessel was unseaworthy. Contact an experienced Jones Act lawyer today to review your case. Our law firm will provide you with a free and confidential consultation.