The Jones Act and Maritime Injuries
The Jones Act is a federal law created to protect the rights of injured seamen, crewmembers and workers aboard vessels, drilling rigs, towboats, barges, jack-up rigs, moveable platforms, docks or drill ships. The Jones Act requires that employers take care of the seamen, crewmen and workers aboard their vessels by:
- Providing adequate tools and safety equipment such as cables, lifeboats, stow lines and wires
- Ensuring that the vessel is fit for its intended use
- Providing proper safety training and job training to crewmembers and workers
- Providing sufficient crewmembers and seamen to work aboard the vessel
- Following all safety regulations including Coast Guard regulations
- Providing inspections of all vessels, barges, jack-up rigs, towboats and drill ships to ensure that they are safe and navigable
If you were injured working as a crewman, seaman or worker aboard a vessel, you are entitled to sue your employer under the Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, your employer is responsible for paying your medical bills and providing maintenance and cure, a daily allowance that is given throughout the time that you are injured. You may also file a lawsuit for negligence under the Jones Act if you were injured as result of an unseaworthy vessel or violation of a coast guard regulation.
Answers to Common Questions About the Jones Act
Who Qualifies as a Seaman under the Jones Act?
Generally, Courts use a three part test to determine seaman status:
- A seaman must work aboard a vessel on navigable waters.
- A seaman must spend 30 percent of his time aboard a vessel and perform duties that contribute to the function of the vessel.
- A seaman must contribute to the function of the vessel. This means that the worker's duties must in some way relate to the operation of the vessel. It is not sufficient that the seaman or crewmember be a mere passenger.
What is a Vessel under the Jones Act?
Under the Jones Act, a vessel refers to both traditional vessels and modern vessels. Essentially, a vessel is anything that is used to transport goods or people across navigable waters, a list that can include:
- Cruise Ships
- Floating Platforms
- Jack-up Rigs
- Oil Rigs
- Crew Boats
- Supply Boats
- Semi-submersible Rigs
- Push Boats
- Fishing Vessels
- Casino Boats
- Floating Docks
What Compensation is Available under the Jones Act?
Under the Jones Act, a seaman is able to recover compensation for lost wages, compensation for future economic loss, pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement and medical expenses. Some of the compensation you could receive includes:
- Compensation for lost wages
- Compensation for future economic loss
- Pain and Suffering
- Mental Anguish
- Medical Expenses
Under the Jones Act, seamen are also entitled to maintenance and cure. “Maintenance” is daily allowance to cover the basic food and shelter that workers, officers, seamen or crewmembers would have received aboard the vessel while on duty. “Cure” includes medical expenses such as treatment, hospital expenses, doctor visits, physical therapy, prescription medication and any other treatment necessary to ensure maximum medical improvement. Maximum medical improvement refers to a point in a seaman’s recovery when their condition will no longer improve. A seaman can also reach maximum medical improvement if they become permanently disabled and treatment will not improve their condition.
What is Unseaworthiness?
Under the Jones Act and maritime law, a vessel is considered unseaworthy if the vessel or its crew were not reasonably fit for their intended use. An unseaworthiness claim is brought when a person is injured because of an unsafe or hazardous condition aboard the vessel. This can include unsafe conditions include defective equipment, lack of supplies, inadequately trained crew, understaffed crew and unsafe operation of the vessel. Under these circumstances, a seaman may bring a claim against an employer for an unseaworthy vessel. Claims of unseaworthiness are construed liberally by the Courts and can be relatively easy to prove.
How Long do I Have to File a Lawsuit under the Jones Act?
A seaman has three years from the date of injury or the date the injury was discovered to file a Jones Act lawsuit. Because of this relatively short time frame, you should consult an attorney promptly after the accident to ensure that your claim will not be dismissed.
Experienced Jones Act and Maritime Law Attorneys
Blizzard & Nabers is a nationally recognized law firm that has handled thousands of personal injury cases and has obtained impressive verdicts and settlements for our clients. Our attorneys are trial lawyers who will work to obtain the maximum compensation available. Over the past 25 years, we have won cases against some of the largest corporations in the world. The complex nature of Jones Act claims requires that you consult an experienced maritime trial attorney.
If you have been injured in a maritime or offshore accident in Alabama, Texas , the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Alaska or Washington, please contact us by email or call us at 1-800-349-0127 for a free case review.