What is the Jones Act?

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What Is The Jones Act

Many injured maritime and offshore workers often ask, what is the Jones Act? What are my rights under it and what affect does it have on me and my injuries? The Jones Act also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is a Federal statute that oversees the maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. Much of the Jones Act deals with coastal shipping known as cabotage, requiring that all goods be transported on U.S. flagged ships between U.S. ports. The Jones Act requires that these vessels be made up crews of citizens of the United States. Vessels can be ships, movable offshore drilling rigs or jackup rigs, supply boats, cargo ships, tugs, cruise ships, fishing boats, fish processing boats, diving boats, drill ships, tugboats or push boats and many other type of vessels under the Act.

The Jones Act also provides legal causes of action and remedies for damages for members of the crew known as seaman that have been injured while their performing duties. These damages are in the form of monetary compensation. The duty to provide a daily wage is known as maintenance and medical treatments called cure. This is the statutory responsibility of the Jones Act employer to the injured worker or seaman. Further, pursuant to the Act, the injured seaman may also bring a negligence lawsuit to recover additional damages if the employer or co-employee is found to be negligent in any way. If the Jones Act employee is injured due to a defect in the ship or it is shown that the ship’s owner was negligent in maintaining the ship, hiring the crew, training the crew, using old or outdated equipment, navigating in high seas or in bad weather conditions, then the injured may have a separate lawsuit for unseaworthiness against the ship owner.

What is the Jones Act Definition of a Seaman?

Under the Jones Act to be a seaman the maritime employee must make some contribution to the ship’s work and be a master or a member of a vessel’s crew. The law clearly states the employee does not need to assist in the operation, navigation or transporation of the vessel, but rather must have a connection to its navigation. In the U.S. Supreme Court case called Chandris v. Latsis, the court wrote of two requirements that must be met, “The worker’s duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission, and the worker must have a connection to a vessel in navigation (or an identifiable fleet of vessels) that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature.” Some courts have also stated that employee must spent more than 30% of his or her time onboard the vessel to qualify as a seaman, though the Act doesn’t specifically stated that percentage of time.

What is Maintenance and Cure?

How does this differ from workers compensation? In short, under the Jones Act, the employers obligation to an injured party is two-fold. One, to provide the injured worker with a daily wage while off the ship called “maintenance” . It basically is calculated as the amount of money spent on the employee while on the ship as living expenses. If later during the recovery the seaman is able to work, then the daily maintenance may be partially reduced or fully stopped. If however the employer willfully refuses to pay maintenance and cure, then the employee has an additional cause of action for attorneys fees and punitive damage against the employer. Daily rates for maintenance are usually set by contract, and can range from 15-40 dollars a day. Cure on the other hand is the medical treatments needed to heal the injured or for them to reach maximum medical improvement. Often a Jones Act lawyer is needed to fight the employer and the adjuster on allowing the employee to get the needed medical treatment to reach full cure.

Negligence – What is the Jones Act Seaman’s Rights against the Employer?

Often an injured seaman will ask what right do I have against my employee other than the limited maintenance and cure benefits? Unlike state based worker’s compensation, under the Jones Act the injured seaman may bring a lawsuit for negligence against the employer. The amount of negligence to be successful is slight, therefore the injured worker’s rights can be substantial if negligence is proved. This higher duty on the employer is suppose to help keep the ships and vessels a safer place to worker while a ship is out at sea away from doctors and hospitals and needed medical help. The goal is the higher the standard of care, then the lower the number of incidents of negligent and carelessness on the part of the employer. An injured seaman is able with a showing of negligence against the employer, has a legal right to file a lawsuit for personal injury types of damages.

Rights against the Vessel Owner for Unseaworthiness

What is the Jones Act definition of a vessel that is unseaworthy? Does that mean it is horrible condition and is not sea worthy or the ship is ready to sink? No. When a ship or vessel is found to be unseaworthy, this means that the ship’s owner was found to be negligent in some manner and that negligence caused or contributed to the injuries to the seaman. This negligence may be proved by the owner’s failure to keep the decks free of oil, providing safe access to the ship, safe steps, stairs and ladders, properly working winches and tools, hiring and training a competent crew to run the ship. If the injured worker proves such acts of neglect, then a lawsuit for damages due to this unseaworthiness is available for the injured to pursue.

Hiring a Jones Act Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured on a ship or vessel then hiring a Jones Act Lawyer is important. Talk to a maritime injury lawyer 24/7 and get a free Jones Act Case review and find out where you stand and what are the Jones Act rights available to you. Talk to a Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Lawyer about your case. Headquartered in Houston, Texas with Nationwide Help Available. Call 1-800-883-9858 or visit us online.

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