Maritime workers stationed on offshore oil platforms or aboard vessels are given special protections under federal law. When maritime accidents occur, victims and their families may be unsure of how to proceed or what legal rights they have. At Blizzard Law PLLC, we can help you understand your legal options, protect your rights, and pursue compensation for your injuries.
What Is The Jones Act?
Accidents occur in any work setting. Unfortunately, when they occur at sea or on a vessel, the results can easily be catastrophic. If you were injured working offshore aboard a vessel in navigation, you may be entitled to sue for compensation under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal law created to protect the rights of injured seamen, crew members, and workers aboard drilling rigs, towboats, barges, jack-up rigs, moveable platforms, or other vessels. The Jones Act requires that employers take adequate precautions to protect seamen, crewmen, and workers aboard their vessels by:
- Ensuring the vessel is fit for its intended use
- Following all safety regulations, including Coast Guard regulations
- Providing adequate tools and safety equipment, such as cables, lifeboats, stow lines, and wires
- Providing inspections of all vessels, barges, jack-up rigs, towboats, and drill ships to ensure that they are safe and navigable
- Providing proper safety training and job training to crew members and workers
- Providing sufficient crew members and seamen to work aboard the vessel
Who Qualifies As A Seaman Under The Jones Act?
While determining who is and who is not a seaman might seem straightforward, courts actually use a three-part test to determine seaman status. To be a seaman, an individual must (1) work aboard a vessel on navigable waters, (2) spend 30 percent of his time aboard a vessel and perform duties that contribute to the function of the vessel, and (3) contribute to the function of the vessel. Contributing to the function of a vessel means that an individual’s duties must in some way relate to the operation of the vessel. It is not sufficient that an individual is a mere passenger of the vessel.
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 used to transport goods or people across navigable waters. Vessels can include:
- Casino Boats
- Crew Boats
- Cruise Ships
- Fishing Vessels
- Floating Docks
- Floating Platforms
- Jack-up Rigs
- Oil Rigs
- Push Boats
- Semi-submersible Rigs
- Supply Boats
What Compensation Is Available Under The Jones Act?
Under the Jones Act, an injured seaman is able to recover compensation for lost wages, compensation for future economic loss, pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, and medical expenses. Additionally, seamen are also entitled to maintenance and cure. “Maintenance” is a daily allowance to cover a percentage of the basic food and shelter that workers, officers, seamen, or crew members 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.
What Is Unseaworthiness?
Under the Jones Act and general 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 a vessel. Hazardous conditions can 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 his or her employer for damages caused by an unseaworthy vessel.
How Long Do I Have To File A Jones Act Lawsuit?
A seaman generally 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 timeframe, you should consult a maritime attorney promptly after an accident to ensure your claim will not be dismissed. In some situations, other laws can reduce the typical three-year statute of limitations, so you should contact a maritime lawyer as soon as possible.
Experienced Jones Act Lawyers
Blizzard Law PLLC is a nationally recognized law firm that has handled thousands of personal injury cases, obtaining impressive verdicts and settlements for our clients. Our attorneys are trial lawyers who will work to obtain the maximum compensation available. If you have been injured in a maritime or offshore accident, please contact one of the experienced Jones Act lawyers at Blizzard Law PLLC for a free case review.