If you have been injured while working on a vessel or floating movable structure, you may be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal law that protects the income of injured maritime workers and seamen. Unlike traditional workers’ compensation laws, the Jones Act allows injured workers to pursue legal action against employers under specific circumstances. These special circumstances require that the injured seaman consult with an experienced Jones Act attorney to achieve the best results.
Jones Act History
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act, established the rules for coastal trade within the United States. The primary aim of the Jones Act was to limit trade between U.S.-based ports to U.S.-flagged vessels. For example, any goods that leave the Port of Houston and travel to the Port of New Orleans must be on vessels flagged and registered with the U.S. government.
Another provision of the Jones Act is the protections it grants to workers on those vessels. Prior to the Jones Act, seamen and workers on vessels did not have the right to pursue legal action against ship owners for injuries that occurred aboard the vessel.
Jones Act vs. Workers Compensation
There are several differences between a standard workers compensation case and a Jones Act lawsuit. While each state has its own rules regarding workers compensation, the Jones Act is a federal statute that applies across all states. Also, while a state’s workers compensation laws can prohibit an employee from pursuing legal action against an employer for that employer’s negligence, the Jones Act has no such limits on how a seaman can bring a lawsuit against a vessel owner.
Who Gets Covered By The Jones Act?
The Jones Act reads, in part:
“Any sailor who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right to trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply…”
Under this law, a “sailor” can be defined as anyone who works on a floating vessel that moves through navigable waters. This can include vessels ranging from ocean-going cargo ships to tugboats, and from river barges to riverboat casinos. Since it only covers workers on floating vessels, it does not include workers on stationary platforms, such as port structures or offshore oil rigs.
Although the Jones Act was put into place to cover seamen for their injuries, the law neglected to define exactly which workers qualified for protection under the Jones Act. Therefore, the burden of proof to determine if a worker is covered under the Jones Act often falls on the workers themselves. With this in mind, employers and their insurance carriers may find reasons to show that the injured workers does not qualify for the Jones Act.
What Does The Jones Act Cover?
Jones Act protections cover workers under very specific sets of circumstances. In some cases, the worker must show that their injuries were the result of negligence, either by the employer or by a co-worker. For instance, if a worker suffers an injury due to unsafe equipment, and it can be shown that the employer was responsible for maintaining that equipment so that it could be operated safely, the employer could be found liable under the Jones Act.
The employer can also be held liable for their failures to consider the workers’ safety in their decisions. These failures can include:
- Failure to rescue a worker overboard
- Failure to provide adequate medical treatment
- Failure to provide adequate supervision
- Failure to avoid heavy weather that could endanger the vessel
The worker could also show that the vessel they were working on was not seaworthy. The law determines the “seaworthiness” of a vessel in terms of its condition, its equipment, its crew, and other circumstances. For instance, if a vessel goes to sea with a crew that lacks the proper training, without adequate safety equipment, or with unsafe substances to which the crew could be exposed, that vessel can be considered “unseaworthy” and the worker could be eligible to file a Jones Act lawsuit.
Unlike workers on shore, seamen will often stay on a vessel for days or weeks at a time. This means that seamen are exposed to any potential hazards on board the vessel for the duration of their voyage. The Jones Act extends the worker’s protection to their off-duty hours. For example, if an equipment malfunction injures a seaman sleeping in his bunk, the seaman could qualify for a Jones Act lawsuit.
The best way to determine if a worker is eligible for protection under the Jones Act is for that worker to consult a seasoned Jones Act injury lawsuit attorney. An experienced Jones Act injury lawyer can examine the worker’s case, the circumstances of their employment, and evaluate the details to see if the worker could be entitled to Jones Act protection.
Jones Act Lawsuit Damages
Seamen who are eligible for protection under the Jones Act can recover damages against the employers whose negligent actions and unseaworthy vessels contributed to their injuries. These damages can include:
- Lost income
- Lost future earnings
- Hospital expenses
- Doctor’s office visits
- Assistive devices (wheelchairs, ramps, etc.)
- Pain and suffering
- Physical therapy
- Mental health counseling
- Prescription medications
- … and much more
Contact A Skilled Jones Act Injury Lawsuit Attorney
The attorneys at Simon & O’Rourke Law Firm PC have more than 25 years of collective experience in dealing with offshore injury lawsuits. Our firm understands the intricate details involved in pursuing Jones Act lawsuits. We also pride ourselves on providing both quality legal advice and top-flight service to our clients. Call or email us today to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.