Jones Act Injuries
Jones Act Injuries And Maritime Injuries
If you’ve been injured at sea, on inland waters, or during shoreside operations, you may qualify for compensation through the Jones Act or other federal laws.
The Jones Act is a federal statute that applies to injured seamen, dock workers, oil and gas workers, and others who may have been exposed to dangerous working conditions in the maritime industry. The Jones Act reflects the dangers of maritime work, and a seaman’s employer may be liable for even a small breach of duty which contributes to a seaman’s injury. This is true even when a seaman performs perilous work and is aware of the high risks involved.
Seamen, offshore oil and gas workers, deck hands on supply vessels, and longshoremen constantly work in an environment where conditions and substances can cause injuries, illnesses, and possibly even death.
Injured maritime workers have relied on the Jones Act since the 1930s, when the need for laws to protect the rights of injured seaman and offshore workers became so great that Congress decided to act.
The act provides several remedies. First, the employer must compensate an injured seaman for: Transportation, Wages, Maintenance and Cure. Transportation and Wages are paid until the voyage is complete. Maintenance and Cure, similar to traditional workers’ compensation, are paid until the seaman has reached his maximum medical improvement (MMI).
If the injury was caused in any way by employer negligence, the injured seaman may also be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages.
U.S. Maritime Law may also provide benefits for injuries or deaths if the vessel was found to be “unseaworthy”.
Often, the negligent actions of a fellow crewmember are the cause of an accident. The Jones Act permits recovery for these instances as well.
Under the Jones Act, an injured worker must prove that the ship or drilling rig owner or operator was negligent or at fault for an injury.
Payment regardless of fault is not part of the act. It is the seaman’s burden to prove there was negligence or error on the part of the vessel’s owners, officers, operators, and/or other employees. They can also make a claim if there was any defect in the vessel or equipment – or if the vessel was basically unseaworthy. This burden of proof is why it’s important to retain an aggressive Jones Act lawyer who understands the shipping industry and applicable federal laws, including the Jones Act, Longshoreman & Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, and the Death on the High Seas Act, to represent your interests.
The mere fact that a vessel is not in immediate danger of sinking does not mean that it is seaworthy. A vessel is seaworthy if it is fit for its intended use, is equipped with appropriate equipment and safety gear, has a competent crew, and is a safe place to live and work. Even if a vessel is seaworthy when it leaves shore, it can become unseaworthy during its voyage.
In order for a seaman to prevail in their case, an employer must have acted unreasonably or failed to do something to prevent the injury. An employer may also be liable for failing to provide a seaman with adequate medical care.
Only those workers considered seaman can make claims under the Jones Act. A seaman is defined as any member of the crew of a vessel. Those who work on tankers, freighters or other crafts including offshore workers are usually considered “seaman” under the Act as well.
Maintenance and Cure
When a seaman is injured on a vessel, regardless of who is at fault, the seaman has a legal right to maintenance and cure benefits, which are similar to workers’ compensation benefits.
Maintenance is basically room and board which would normally be provided on board the vessel. Maintenance payments start on the day a seaman leaves the vessel, not when the injury or illness occurred. Recently, Courts have found maintenance benefits to also include mortgage payments, rent, and grocery bills.
Maintenance should continue until a seaman is cured or healed, even if the seaman is disabled and can’t go back to work.
Cure benefits are medical expenses, including medication and medical supplies. These payments are also made until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement.