Jones Act Protections for Maritime Personal Injuries
Whether you are a seaman, onshore maritime worker or passenger on a cruise ship, you have rights under US federal law from injuries sustained while on a vessel. Maritime personal injuries can be painful, frustrating and even debilitating. The medical expenses, lost wages, lost earnings and pain and suffering resulting from the accident are a lot to bear for the family of an injured person.
Thankfully, federal laws exist to ensure all persons injured on a vessel have a right to compensation for the injuries sustained.
Jones Act Protections
The Jones Act provides seamen injured at work with various remedies. Here, a seaman is any person who works for a significant time aboard a ship or vessel in navigation. It includes fishermen, merchant mariners, deck hands, engineers, captains, crew members, cooks, barge tenderers, dredge workers, and any other employee who contributes to the mission of the vessel.
The Jones Act allows injured seamen to sue their employers for injuries sustained in the course of work as a result of the negligence of an employer or coworker. The injured seaman can file a claim seeking compensation for damages such as past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The success of the claim will depend on whether the injured worker can prove, among other things, negligence by the employer or coworker. Examples of negligence are:
- Failure to provide safety equipment
- Failure to hire competent staff or to train new staff
- Failure to maintain vessel tools and equipment
- Overworking staff
- Failure to abide by industry standards of practice
- Ordering work be performed in very bad weather
- Failure to put guards on vessel
- Failure to clear obstacles on pathways.
The Act also entitles you to receive maintenance and cure benefits for your injuries. You are entitled to these benefits if you were injured on the job regardless of fault. Maintenance includes living expenses covering the rent, mortgage, property taxes, utilities, food and other necessary daily living expenses of the seaman. Cure benefits cover medical expenses up until you recover or reach a maximum point of recovery.
If you are injured, you can also sue the owner of the ship on which you are working, in the event that the injury happened because the ship was not in seaworthy condition. A ship that is unseaworthy has:
- Insufficient crew
- Incompetent crew
- Defective equipment
- Insufficient tools
- No warning signs ahead of slippery surfaces
- Very little first aid or lifesaving equipment
Maritime accidents can happen due to negligence or due to a vessel that is not in seaworthy condition. Common accidents include:
- Collisions with other vessels
- Running aground
- Personnel overboard
- Falling cargo
- Slippery decks
- Faulty winches, blocks or safety equipment
- Engine fires
These accidents can cause serious and sometimes, fatal injuries. Some of the most common maritime injuries are:
- Spinal cord injuries
Sometimes, you can be injured and not realize it for many years. This is the case with exposure to certain carcinogens like diesel fuel, gasoline, oil, solvents and other potentially toxic compounds. Regardless of when you discover that you are injured, it is important to report the injury as soon as possible. The deadline for filing a lawsuit against your employer under the Jones Act is 3 years from the date of the injury or your discovery of the injury.