What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act provides benefits to seamen who are injured or killed through the negligence of their employers. To be covered by the Jones Act a worker must be in the services of the vessel, and his employer's negligence must cause the injury or death. Compensation under the Jones Act may include damages for past and future pain and suffering, past and future damages for lost wages and lost earning capacity, medical expenses, retraining costs, nursing services and rehabilitation costs, compensation for physical and psychological injuries, compensation for disfigurement, and compensation for loss of enjoyment of life. The family of a deceased crewman may recover damages for loss of economic support, predeath pain and suffering, and loss of care nurture and guidance. Jones Act seamen are one of the highest protected class of workers in the United States. In addition to Jones Act benefits, seamen have claims for unseaworthiness, unearned wages until the end of the voyage, and maintenance and cure.
The Jones Act is unlike claims under the State Workers Compensation Act in that you must prove fault to recover damages under the Jones Act, and there is no set schedule of how much compensation is to be awarded for any particular injury. Each Jones Act case is different and requires skilled and experienced maritime lawyers to evaluate the value of any Jones Act injury or death case. As a general rule, a seaman covered by the Jones Act who can establish negligence will recover far greater compensation under the Jones Act that he would receive under the State Worker's Compensation Act. Importantly, Jones Act seamen have the right to demand trial by jury.
Determining whether or not negligence was a cause of your accident should be evaluated by qualified and experienced maritime lawyers. Under the Jones Act, the employer is responsible for the negligent acts of your fellow crewmen. Negligence under the Jones Act includes such things as: Defective equipment; working in heavy weather; oil on the decks; improperly designed vessels; failure to guard machinery; working excessive hours; improper manning and failure to assign proper number of crewmen to do the job; excessive lifting; failure to provide proper medical care to sick or ill crewmen; failure to properly train; failure to supervise; unsafe ingress and egress to vessels; lack of safety training; improper working procedures; failure to warn; and failure to provide a safe place to work. It is rare that a seaman's injuries could not have been prevented by his employer. Slight negligence may support a Jones Act negligence claim.
The Jones Act, 46 USC Sec. 30104 is a Federal law that was passed by the United States Congress in 1920. The benefits of the Jones Act are available only to seamen. Generally, to qualify for seaman status a worker must be employed upon a vessel in navigation, must have an employment connection to the vessel that is substantial in terms of duration and nature, and the employee work must contribute to the work or mission of the vessel. In most cases, all crewmen aboard vessels will qualify to be seamen. In most cases, fishermen and fish processors will qualify as having seaman status and rights under the Jones Act. Pile drivers, divers, and other workers also may qualify for seaman status. Other workers doing ship repair and dockside-type cargo and handling services may be classified as Longshore Harbor Workers. If there is any question about whether or not you are a seaman you should have your claim reviewed by an experienced maritime lawyer to determine whether or not you are a seaman under the Jones Act. If you work at approximately 30% of the time aboard a vessel that floats, you may qualify for seaman status.
If you have been injured at sea, please contact an experienced maritime law attorney at Beard Stacey & Jacobsen today for a free initial consultation and case evaluation.