Jones Act Lawyer for Offshore Maritime Accidents/Injuries
The Jones Act is a branch of admiralty law that protects the rights of seamen who are injured or suffer an illness because of negligence or because a vessel is unseaworthy. Nearly all maritime workers face great risks as part of their jobs. Harsh weather, heavy cargo, heavy equipment, and dangerous duties and responsibilities all contribute to the risks these people face every day.
When an accident occurs, and workers are injured, most workers aren’t able to access medical help as quickly as those who work on the land. Because of all these factors, a seamen’s injury may be more serious have a more detrimental effect on the worker than an injury sustained on land.
The Act provides an avenue for these workers to attain quality medical care and compensation for their injuries. Under this law, the owner of a vessel is responsible for the safety and training of their crew, as well as the seaworthiness of the ship. When an owner is negligent in their duty to provide a safe vessel with trained crew, and a seaman is injured because of it, the law allows that seaman to seek compensation for:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Wages lost because of the injury including during recovery
- Cost of living expenses
- Physical pain
- Mental suffering and anguish
When an injury occurs that is not due to the negligence of the owner, crew, officer, or third-party, the Act requires the employer to provide “maintenance and cure” to the seamen. Maintenance includes benefits to cover utilities, room, board, food, and transportation, while cure benefits cover medical expenses for the injury. Rehabilitation or in-home personal care are also covered under “maintenance and cure.”
While the vessel owner is required to provide the benefits, seamen shouldn’t be surprised that receiving them isn’t as easy as it seems. 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.
Jones Act Law Overview
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. As 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 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 responsibility. 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, vessels, 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, and some 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 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. These expenses may include rent, mortgage, utilities, food, property taxes, and homeowner or renter insurance.
- 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.
The Jones Act protects the rights of offshore and inland waterway seamen and workers. When a worker is injured in a job-related accident, the law allows for them to seek recovery. However, the law does not consider all maritime workers as seamen, and those who do not have seamen status are not covered under the Jones Act.
Generally, a seaman is “a master or member of a crew of any vessel” and while the captain, their officers, and their crewmembers would be classified as seamen, seamen status is determined by numerous factors including what activity the worker was engaged in at the time of the accident, whether or not they have a permanent attachment to the vessel, the vessel must be in navigation, and the worker’s primary responsibility is to aid navigation of the vessel.
If you are a seaman who has been injured and wants to file for compensation, be aware that there is a strict time limit on how long you have to take action.
The statute of limitations is like a clock that starts winding down as soon as the injury occurs. Once it stops, the injured party is no longer able to seek legal action for injury claims. The statute of limitations is different for all legal claims, including maritime claims.
Claims made under the Jones Act must be made within three years of being injured. There are special circumstances under which the statute of limitations is extended. For example, if you were exposed to asbestos while working in the maritime industry, but aren’t diagnosed for several decades, the clock won’t start ticking until you are diagnosed.
It is important to know that even within maritime law, the statute of limitations may differ. For instance, claims made against the U.S. government by seamen who are working aboard a vessel that is owned, contracted, or operated by the U.S. may have less time to file a claim than other seamen.
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, protects the rights of seamen when they are injured or killed on the job. This Act consists of the precedents and statutes that govern issues or disputes that occur on navigable waters including liability of employers, vessel operators, and owners for injuries sustained by their employees.
The Act is a federal law which establishes the same liability guidelines for all seamen who are injured at work. However, unlike some other protections, the injured is required to prove fault in order to claim the benefits of the laws. Learn more about the Jones Act.
Only those assigned to a vessel or fleet are covered under the Jones Act. This means that those who work on commercial fishing vessels, barges, tugboats, tankers, oil rig platforms, or freighters are protected under this law, while those who work on shore or on fixed platforms are generally covered by other laws, like the Longshore and Harbors Workers Compensation Act. Learn more about your protections as a seaman.
The Longshore and Harbors Worker Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides protections to people who work on docks, ports, terminals, and shipyards. Employees who work loading and unloading vessels, and shipbuilders, breakers, and repairmen, as well as those who support and contribute to the employer’s maritime business such as truck drivers and mechanics, may also be covered under the LHWCA. Learn more about Longshoremen rights, including the status test that determines if you covered under this law.
Maritime employees who are injured in work-related accidents and incidents may receive compensation under the maritime law. However, the law is complex and many times the employer will dispute some aspect of the claim. It is very important that you file accidents claims quickly, and correctly to be eligible for compensation under the law. Learn more about filing an injury claim for injuries and accidents.
Maritime law, also called Admiralty Law, is the body of the law that governs maritime offenses. The law is comprised of both domestic laws and private international laws which deal with matters of the transportation of goods or passengers at sea, as well as marine navigation, salvage, shipping, and sailors. Learn more about Maritime Law here, or through our Maritime Law Glossary.
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 or call us for more information about what we can do for you.