About Jones Act Claims
If you are a seaman working on a vessel and you have been injured as a result of the actions of your employer, the captain or your fellow crew, you may be entitled to recovery under The Jones Act. If your loved one has been injured or killed while working aboard a vessel, then recovery may be available as well.
The Jones Act is a federal statute, one portion of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which allows injured seamen to sue their employers where there has been negligence on the part of their employer, the captain or fellow crew member which has resulted in an injury.
Who can file claims under The Jones Act?
Under the Jones Act, sailors injured in the course of their maritime duties on navigable waters may file claims against their employers. The Jones Act sets a strict standard for those who may file claims. To be considered sailors, employees must spend a significant portion of their time aiding in the navigation of a vessel.
Without the assistance of an experienced and knowledge maritime attorney, it is often difficult to determine whether the circumstances of an injury will actually give rise to a Jones Act claim. For instance, a drilling rig fixed to the ocean floor, is not a “vessel in navigation” under the Jones Act and other types of remedies may available to the injured worker. However, a drilling rig that is semi-submersible is considered a “vessel in navigation” and claim under the Jones Act may actually be made.
What must I prove for claims under the Jones Act?
Claims under the Jones Act must prove negligence on the part of the sailor’s employer or unseaworthiness on the part of the vessel owner were at least partially to blame for the sailor’s injuries. The Jones Act imposes a duty on the employer to provide sailors a safe place to work and to use ordinary care under the circumstances to maintain the vessel in a reasonably safe condition.
Some examples of unsafe conditions that could result in employer liability are:
- Failure to maintain equipment properly
- Failure to properly train the crew
- Unsafe work methods
- Failure to provide the crew with proper equipment
- Negligence of fellow crew members
- Failure to terminate unsafe or violent workers
Who hears injury claims under The Jones Act?
Since the Jones Act is a federal law, claims are usually heard in federal courts. Cases are remanded to the federal district where the employer or ship owner’s principal office is located. Injured sailors are granted to trial by jury, a unique feature of the Jones Act as federal claims are usually presided over by a single judge.
The statute of limitations of a Jones Act claims is three years
The Jones Act allows injured sailors to recover for most damages that may be awarded under tort claims just as if they occurred on land. Personal injury claims may be necessary when employers, ship owners, or any other negligent parties fail to take responsibility for the damages they have caused.
Damages in personal injury claims include:
- Past, present, and future lost wages (possibly with interest)
- Hospital expenses
- Medical bills including costs of surgery, medication, and necessary medical devices
- Physical therapy
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
The Jones Act allows surviving family members to bring wrongful death claims against the deceased’s employer in tragic cases of fatality. In Jones Act wrongful death lawsuits, family members may only be able to recover for :
- Loss of financial support
- Conscious pain and suffering
- Funeral expenses
Wrongful death claims only extend to fatalities within three nautical miles of U.S. territories. Death outside of three nautical miles make be brought in accordance with the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA). Benefits available under the DOHSA differ from The Jones Act and surviving family members are strongly encouraged to seek legal advice about which act their claim may fall under.
Maintenance and Cure
While the Jones Act does not cover workers’ compensation claims, general U.S. maritime law holds injured sailors are entitled to their own version of workers’ compensation known as maintenance and cure.
Maintenance and cure provides benefits for the room and board the sailor would normally have received while out at sea. Maintenance refers to financial benefits and cure refers to medical benefits. Injured sailor are entitled to these benefits until a physician determines the injured worker has reached his or her maximum medical improvement.
Here are some examples of benefits provided under maintenance and cure:
- Mortgage payments
- Property taxes
- Homeowners insurance
- Transportation costs for necessary medical treatment
- Doctor’s visits
- Physical therapy
- X-rays and diagnostics
Maintenance and cure does not cover cable and internet utilities or car notes as these are not considered “necessary” household expenses.
While most injured sailors may receive certain financial benefits under the provisions of maintenance and cure, they may not receive all the wages lost while recovering from an injury. Maintenance and cure only provides financial benefits for necessary household expenses, everything else may be lost income.
Furthermore, serious injuries may leave sailors with disabilities or long term medical conditions which seriously impede their ability to earn a living. In these situations, injured sailors may need to file claims for lost wages under the Jones Act to ensure they are properly compensated for all the harm they have incurred through someone else’s negligence.
Jones Act Lawsuit Attorneys
The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm regularly handle injury claims made under the Jones Act and aggressively advocate for the best interest of our clients and their families. Often times, maritime employers are powerful entities who place profits before people. Do not be intimidated by these wrongdoers, contact Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm and get the legal help you need.