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.

Jones Act Claim – Hurt by a Co-Worker

As a Jones Act seaman, you are exposed to hazards on a daily basis. You work with heavy machinery, tackle, fishing gear and other equipment, all while battling the weather and sea conditions. The work environment on a vessel can lead to maritime injury, but so can the actions of a co-worker. If you have been injured in a maritime accident that was caused by a co-worker or fellow crewmember, you may have a Jones Act claim.

The Jones Act provides protection for seamen who have been injured during maritime employment. To have a Jones Act claim, you must prove that there was some negligence or fault on the part of the vessel’s owners, operators or officers. If the negligent actions of a co-worker caused your maritime injuries, you may also have a Jones Act case.

When a co-workers’ negligence causes injuries to a Jones Act seaman, the employer can be held responsible. The co-worker may have done something unreasonable or failed to perform a reasonable act that would have prevented your injuries. Depending on the details of the Jones Act case, there could even be a claim for unseaworthiness.

You may have the right to sue your employer for your injuries in a Jones Act lawsuit. A successful Jones Act suit could entitle you to compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, both past and present, medical expenses, disfigurement and mental anguish. The settlement can be substantial.

There is a statute of limitations as to when a Jones Act claim can be filed. If you have been injured in an offshore accident caused by a fellow crewmember, contact a maritime injury lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your legal options.