WORKERS COMPENSATION VS THE JONES ACT
Earning a living at sea can place seamen at a high risk of experiencing an injury or an illness contracted by unhealthy working conditions. Although workers’ compensation addresses some of the financial needs of employees who lose time on their job at sea, Congress passed the Jones Act to account for employer negligence for injuries and illnesses sailors may suffer on the navigable waters of the United States.
Overview of Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation represents a type of employment insurance that employers purchase to cover work-related injuries and sicknesses. Often referred to as “workers comp,” the employment insurance program follows the legal guidelines mandated by each state. The guidelines stipulate how companies pay employees for down time caused by work-related incidents. Federal government agencies follow federally issued standards for the insurance program. With most cases, employees receive money regardless of who caused an injury or illness. Since the insurance cash cover medical bills and other expenses, you do not have the legal right to sue your company.
Often called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act covers eligible seamen who are involved in accidents or become sick during the time of performing duties at sea. Congress enacted the legislation to provide sailors with a legal tool to sue employers for negligence. Seamen must prove neglect causes an injury or sickness, which comes in the form of physical evidence and the sworn testimony of several witnesses. Eligible maritime employees must spend at least 30% of occupational time on board a vessel.
This Act mandates nautical companies provide professionals with a “reasonably safe place” to perform job responsibilities. Employers also have to maintain safe conditions on the vessels. Your captain and peers can also be liable under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. The landmark maritime law is considered to be employee-friendly, as it places the legal responsibility of creating a safe environment on the company. Types of unsafe conditions include oil on the deck, broken equipment, and improperly maintained gear.
Is the Jones Act Right for You?
If your employer’s action caused you pain and suffering, you might have a case to file by invoking this Act. You have to prove negligence and unseaworthiness to file a valid lawsuit. Unseaworthiness does not have a concise definition, which can lead to issues during the hearing of your civil case. If the vessel you performed your professional duties on was understaffed or lacked proper equipment, you might have a case to pursue in court. Ships full of hazards, such as the improper storage of dangerous chemicals, can also trigger accidents. Inferior training and unsafe on the job procedures can constitute neglect.
The most significant difference between employment insurance and the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is the amount of money you receive, with the latter law possibly offering you much more money. However, the burden of proof makes neglect cases difficult to win unless you hire a licensed attorney who has litigated several maritime injury cases successfully. A sailor who experiences an injury or illness at sea who submits an employment compensation claim does not have to prove anyone caused the physical distress.
If you get hurt or become sick at sea while performing your duties, contact an experienced maritime law attorney to schedule an initial free consultation.