If you were injured working offshore as aboard a vessel in navigation, you may be entitled to sue for compensation under the Jones Act.
Accidents occur in any work setting. Unfortunately, when they occur at sea or on a vessel, the results can easily be catastrophic. While there are laws in place to protect all kinds of workers across the country, maritime employees are granted specific protections under maritime law. The Jones Act is a federal law created to protect the rights of injured seamen, crewmembers, and workers aboard drilling rigs, towboats, barges, jack-up rigs, moveable platforms, or other vessels. The Jones Act requires that employers take adequate precautions to protect seamen, crewmen, and workers aboard their vessels by:
- Ensuring that the vessel is fit for its intended use
- Following all safety regulations including Coast Guard regulations
- Providing adequate tools and safety equipment such as cables, lifeboats, stow lines, and wires
- Providing inspections of all vessels, barges, jack-up rigs, towboats, and drill ships to ensure that they are safe and navigable
- Providing proper safety training and job training to crewmembers and workers
- Providing sufficient crewmembers and seamen to work aboard the vessel
Who Qualifies as a Seaman under the Jones Act?
Generally, courts use a three-part test to determine seaman status:
- A seaman must work aboard a vessel on navigable waters.
- A seaman must spend 30 percent of his time aboard a vessel and perform duties that contribute to the function of the vessel.
- A seaman must contribute to the function of the vessel. This means that the worker’s duties must in some way relate to the operation of the vessel. It is not sufficient that the seaman or crewmember be a mere passenger.
What is a Vessel under the Jones Act?
Under the Jones Act, a vessel refers to both traditional vessels and modern vessels. Essentially, a vessel is anything that is used to transport goods or people across navigable waters, a list that can include:
- Casino Boats
- Crew Boats
- Cruise Ships
- Fishing Vessels
- Floating Docks
- Floating Platforms
- Jack-up Rigs
- Oil Rigs
- Push Boats
- Semi-submersible Rigs
- Supply Boats
What Compensation is Available under the Jones Act?
Under the Jones Act, an injured seaman is able to recover compensation for lost wages, compensation for future economic loss, pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, and medical expenses.
Under the Jones Act, seamen are also entitled to maintenance and cure. “Maintenance” is a daily allowance to cover a percentage of the basic food and shelter that workers, officers, seamen or crewmembers would have received aboard the vessel while on duty. “Cure” includes medical expenses such as treatment, hospital expenses, doctor visits, physical therapy, prescription medication, and any other treatment necessary to ensure maximum medical improvement.
Maximum medical improvement refers to a point in a seaman’s recovery when their condition will no longer improve.
What is Unseaworthiness?
Under the Jones Act and general maritime law, a vessel is considered unseaworthy if the vessel or its crew were not reasonably fit for their intended use. An unseaworthiness claim is brought when a person is injured because of an unsafe or hazardous condition aboard the vessel. Hazardous conditions can include defective equipment, lack of supplies, inadequately trained crew, understaffed crew, and unsafe operation of the vessel. Under these circumstances, a seaman may bring a claim against an employer for an unseaworthy vessel.
How Long do I Have to File a Lawsuit under the Jones Act?
A seaman has three years from the date of injury or the date the injury was discovered to file a Jones Act lawsuit. Because of this relatively short time frame, you should consult an attorney promptly after the accident to ensure that your claim will not be dismissed. In some situations, the typical three years can be reduced by other laws, so you should contact a maritime lawyer as soon as possible.
Experienced Jones Act and Maritime Lawyers
Nabers Law Firm is a nationally recognized law firm that has handled thousands of personal injury cases and has obtained impressive verdicts and settlements for our clients. Our attorneys are trial lawyers who will work to obtain the maximum compensation available. Over the past 30 years, we have won cases against some of the largest corporations in the world. The complex nature of Jones Act claims requires that you consult an experienced maritime trial attorney such as those at Nabers Law Firm.
If you have been injured in a maritime or offshore accident, please contact us by email or call us at 1-877-NABERS-1 for a free case review.