If you are a seaman, working on a vessel, and you have been injured as a result of the actions of the employer, captain or crew, you may be entitled to recovery under The Jones Act. If a loved one has been injured or killed while working on a vessel, then recovery may be available.
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 the employer, the captain or fellow crew member which has resulted in an injury. This is not a workers compensation scenario – injured seamen cannot claim any type of workers compensation.
The Jones Act also allows the family of a deceased seaman to sue for wrongful death if there has been negligence on the part of the employer, and they can sue for all the usual damages available in wrongful death cases, such as loss of support and nurturing, loss of inheritance, and any pain and suffering the seaman might have experienced before death.
The law imposes on the employer a duty to provide the seaman a safe place to work, and to use ordinary care under the circumstances to maintain the vessel in a reasonably safe condition. Failure to do these things can give rise to liability if a seaman is injured or killed. 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, or even failure to terminate unsafe or violent workers.
It can be tricky recovering under the Jones Act, because the worker trying to recover damages must be a “seaman” as defined by legislation and case law. Further, the vessel on which the injury took place must be “in navigation.” It is often difficult to determine whether your circumstances 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” and other types of remedies may available to the injured worker. A drilling rig that is semi-submersible is considered a “vessel in navigation” so a claim for an injury on that type of rig may be a Jones Act claim. It can be confusing and frustrating to figure out how best to proceed.
Because there are so many components to a successful Jones Act lawsuit, and you need an attorney experienced in this type of litigation who will be able to quickly analyze your circumstances and guide you to the correct plan of action. The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi, The Law Firm have that knowledge and experience and can set you on the right course. A free, thorough consultation with one of our attorneys can help determine whether you have a valid Jones Act claim, or whether another course of action would be appropriate.