Jones Act Info Center – Can I File a Jones Act Claim if I was Injured by a Crewmember?
If you work in a maritime environment, you do your best to ensure your actions won’t cause you or your crew harm. Unfortunately, you can’t guarantee that everyone on board behaves the same way. One disregarded order or one careless move by one of your crewmembers can cost you your life. For this reason, the Jones Act (JA) emerged to protect maritime workers who are injured on the job.
The Jones Act protects individuals who work on commercial vessels capable of operating in navigable waters, like the ocean, bays, rivers and other inland waterways. The Act gives you the ability to bring a negligence lawsuit directly against your employer under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), for injuries sustained while working, regardless of who was directly at fault. This is a right not afforded to non-seamen. Under the Act, you have the ability to bring a negligence lawsuit for injuries sustained as a result of:
- someone failing to do something that a reasonably vigilant person would do
- someone doing something that a reasonably vigilant person would not do
- someone failing to take reasonable care to avoid causing injuries to themselves or others
The negligence standard under the Act is set lower than a traditional negligence lawsuit. All maritime employers have a duty to ensure that you and your crew have a reasonably safe environment in which to work. This means that maritime employers must:
- keep the vessel free of dangerous conditions such as slippery decks, unsecured cargo, and other hazards
- ensure all crew members are properly qualified and trained
- keep all equipment in proper working order, inspecting and cleaning or repairing as needed
- ensure that tensions between crew members do not erupt into physical confrontations
- avoid dangerous weather conditions
- maintain proper tools for the crew to do their jobs
- implement appropriate safety and operating procedures
Additionally, a JA lawsuit may be appropriate in the following situations:
- Incorrect orders are given
- Adequate supervision is not provided
- Appropriate medical care is denied
- Constant overtime requirements
- Failure to rescue
In order to prove negligence in a lawsuit under the Act, you must show that some form of negligence, regardless of how slight, had some bearing on your injuries. Your employer may not be directly negligent, but a crew member that was not properly trained, and whose ignorant acts caused you an injury, the failure to train may be enough negligence to justify a lawsuit against your employer. This is a far lower burden of proof to overcome than regular negligence lawsuits.
If you are injured while working aboard a maritime vessel, you have the right to:
- Maintenance and Cure Benefits
- Lost Wages
- Negligence lawsuit damages
Maintenance benefits cover the reasonable costs of living while you are injured. Cure benefits provide for your medical expenses. You are also entitled to wages lost from the time of your injury to the time that your voyage is over. If you prevail in a negligence lawsuit under the Act, you may receive compensation for:
- pain and suffering
- past and future medical expenses
- future loss of earning capacity
- mental anguish
- loss of enjoyment of life
If you are injured by anyone during the course of your employment, you have the right to compensation for your injuries. Seeking the advice of an experienced maritime attorney can help make that happen.