Jones Act Law
The Jones Act is a federal law designed to ensure that all seamen are equally protected if they are injured in a work-related accident. Because seamen are not covered under worker’s compensation, they are not able to file for compensation against their employer. However, under this law, when seamen are injured they can file a claim for compensation if they were hurt because of the negligence of an owner, operator, office, crew or employee, or because of a defect in the vessel and its equipment. The Jones Act is a complex law that has many requirements and restrictions, some of which include:
Claims of Unseaworthiness – the owner of a vessel is responsible for providing a seaworthy vessel and crew. A seaworthy vessel is in proper working order and is fit for its purpose, with all equipment needed by the seamen and workers maintained in good working order. The owner must also ensure that all crewmembers are competent in their duties and responsibilities. When an owner fails to provide a seaworthy vessel, and a worker is injured, the owner may be held responsible for any injuries sustained.
Inland Waterway Injuries – The law protects more than offshore workers, it also protects the rights of workers on tugboats, barges, drilling ships, and other vessels on navigable inland waterways like lakes, canals, and rivers. When these workers are injured in a job-related accident, they are entitled to collect benefits for medical treatment, lost wages, mental anguish, pain and suffering, and other expenses.
Benefits – offshore seamen and workers on inland waterways who are injured or made sick on the job may be eligible for certain benefits including, maintenance and cure, lost wages, medical expenses, and other damages like mental anguish and pain and suffering.
Negligence – Workers who are involved in an accident on an offshore platform, barge, tugboat, or other vessel type may be able to collect damages for their injuries if negligence was at least partly responsible for the injuries. The seamen must be able to provide evidence of this negligence, however.
Workers Compensation – seamen injuries are not covered under any state worker compensation plans. Instead, seamen and offshore workers are covered by a federal law called the Jones Act. This law requires employers to provide maintenance and cure to eligible seamen.
Lost Wages – when seamen are injured or get sick due to a work-related incident or hazard, they have the right to collect the wages they would have earned through the end of their contract or voyage. If the worker was hurt in an accident because of negligence, they may be eligible for compensation beyond lost wages and maintenance and cure.
Maintenance and Cure – the employers of seamen who are injured on the job or in work-related activities, are required to pay for the worker’s “cure” or medical care regardless of who was at fault for the injury. The employer must also pay the worker living expenses while they recover from the injury.
Maritime Laws – Seamen, offshore workers, longshoremen and harbor workers have rights that are protected under different laws than what guide most land-based jobs. Some of these laws include the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, the Admiralty Extension Act, to name a few.
Offshore Injuries – accidents that occur on offshore vessels tend to be severe if not devastating, in no small part because seamen and other offshore workers depend on their strength and abilities to do their jobs. Because an injured worker may not be able to perform their job duties, the Jones Act provides the worker with certain important protections.
If you have been seriously injured or if you have lost a loved one in a fatal offshore accident, speak to us as soon as possible. We have decades of experience in fighting for people in the commercial maritime industries, and we stand ready to fight for you. Fill out the form for more information about what we can do for you.