In the United States, the Jones Act was implemented in 1920 for the purpose of helping injured seamen receive fair compensation for injuries suffered in the course of employment on a U.S. owned or operated vessel. When an injury is caused, even in part by the negligence of the seaman’s employer, the Jones Act mandates that the employer must provide compensation including lost wages, lost earning capacity (future wage loss), the cost of past and future medical care and “general” damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress. If an injured seamen’s employer does not voluntarily provide all the compensation that is due under the Jones Act, they have the right to file a claim in State or Federal Court. The injured seaman has the right to choose where to file suit.
Federal and State Court–Jury Trial
When an injured seaman files a claim in federal court under the Jones Act, the plaintiff (the injured Jones Act seaman) has the right to choose whether a judge or a jury will hear the Jones Act case. This is an extremely important decision which can only be made on a case-by-case basis. Some judges look favorably on Jones Act claims and some do not. In some jurisdictions, juries are reluctant to make large damage awards, and others juries tend to be “generous.” The choice on whether to have a judge or jury can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of a Jones Act case. In federal court the defendant (the seaman’s employer) cannot overrule the seaman’s choice.
There may be a different rule when a Jones Act claim is filed in state court. In many states, the defendant (the seaman’s employer) will also have the right to choose whether to have a judge or jury decide the case. Therefore, when filing in state court, the injured seaman does not have the only say in whether a jury or a judge hears the Jones Act case. These rules apply to other maritime injury claims such as “unseaworthiness” or “maintenance and cure” when they are filed with a Jones Act claim.
Jones Act Attorney
The law that applies to an injury claim by a seaman is different than the law that applies to workers that are injured working ashore. To receive compensation beyond short-term medical care and room and board while “on the mend,” a seaman must prove that his employer was at fault or that the vessel was unsafe. In many cases, that means the seaman will have to go to court to get compensation for his injury or illness. Because there are a number of important decisions that must be made in a Jones Act case, such as deciding whether to file is state or federal court and choosing between a judge and jury, it is wise to hire a Jones Act Attorney. A Jones Act Attorney can help you make your decision. As well, the attorney will discuss your options, inform you about your rights under the Jones Act, represent you in court and fight on your behalf to ensure you receive ‘just’ compensation. Jones Act Attorneys understand maritime law and know how to make it work for you.
If the injury that you received was the result of the employer’s negligence in any way, or was the result of an unsafe condition on a ship you may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, and other damages. A Jones Act lawyer can help you get those damages. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident or fallen ill while working as a seaman, an attorney specializing in the Jones Act has the skills, experience and the resources to effectively represent you and will work to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.