Originally called the Merchant Marine Act, the federal statute, The Jones Act, was adopted in 1920 as a way to regulate maritime commerce on U.S. waters. The Jones Act provides protections for any person who meets the definition of a “seaman.” To be covered under the Jones Act, a person must spend at least 30 percent of the time in the service of a particular vessel or a fleet of vessels operating on “navigable waters.” In addition, the seaman’s work must contribute to the vessel’s purpose or function. This part of the test is construed very broadly, and includes workers such as a hair stylist on a cruise ship and a “fish spotter” helicopter pilot. If you meet this criteria, you will likely be covered under the Jones Act and be able to seek damages if you are injured as the result of negligence of your employer or of the officers or crew of your ship.
An employer found liable for negligent injury to a seaman must provide compensation for such things as: past and future medical care, loss of income and earning capacity, pain, suffering and emotional distress.
General maritime law allows both seamen and non-seamen to file claims against third-party individuals for any negligence that contributed to injury or death. For example, a cruise ship passenger’s right to sue for injuries caused by the negligence of the cruise line arises from the general maritime law. For Jones Act seamen, general maritime law provides additional remedies including Maintenance and Cure and Unseaworthiness. Maintenance and Cure is a seaman’s right to receive nursing care, hospitalization, physician care, medical treatment, medicines, and accommodations that are similar to lodging on the vessel while recovering from injury or illness. The ship owner and employer’s obligation to provide Maintenance and Cure ends when the seaman reaches a maximum medical cure. Under general maritime law, a ship owner has a duty to provide a seaman with a fit and seaworthy vessel. A vessel is deemed “unseaworthy” where the vessel or any of gear, equipment or even its crew in not reasonably fit. Common examples of ‘unseaworthiness’ include such conditions as a ships stair or ladder without an adequate non-skid surface, the failure of a mooring line during normal use, lack of safety equipment, damaged or missing equipment, unsafe orders by a Captain or superior crew member, etc. Under such conditions, an injured person can seek to recover damages.
The Benefit of a Jones Act Attorney
A seaman’s employer will employ specially trained investigators and attorneys to try to reduce the amount of compensation they have to pay, so it is essential to have a Jones Act Attorney represent an injured seaman. This type of attorney specializes in maritime cases and understands the various aspects and interpretations of the law. The attorney will relieve the stress and burden associated with the litigation process so that the client can focus on recovery. If you or a loved one suffered an injury while working offshore, a Jones Act Attorney will help you protect your rights and work on your behalf to make sure you receive fair compensation for your injuries and losses