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.