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Jones Act Seamen

The Jones Act is a federal law, formerly known as the Merchant Mariners Act, which governs the liability of vessel operators and marine employers for their employee’s work-related injuries. The Jones Act provides remedies to seamen injured while working on a vessel. This law helps courts decide the compensation for seamen's injuries throughout the United States. An injured seaman can recover damages from their maritime employer when the employer or a co-worker's negligence causes an injury.

An injured offshore worker must prove some negligence or fault on the part of the vessel's owners, operators, officers, and/or fellow employees or show a defect in the vessel, its gear, tackle, or equipment.

Some examples of sustainable bases for Jones Act cases are:

      • Failing to provide a safe place to work, if the unsafe place is the vessel or if it is another place under the employer's control,
      • An unseaworthiness claim may be pursued if the employer is the owner of the vessel, and the injury is caused by an unsafe condition on the vessel,
      • A violation of a safety statute causes the injury,
      • Failing to provide adequate medical care,
      • Negligence of other employees or individuals for which the employer is responsible, including co-workers,
      • Failure to rescue or search for a seaman if he jumps or falls overboard,
      • The vessel was not reasonably fit for its intended use, not a safe place to work and live,
      • The vessel was not equipped with appropriate safety gear and equipment,
      • The vessel had unsafe recreation facilities,
      • Failure to maintain a competent crew, and
      • Dangerous conditions arising during the voyage or created by co-workers.

A maritime employer owes a seaman a higher negligence duty than in the usual employer-employee relationship, and the employer if its breach of that duty contributed to the seaman's injury. Even if the seaman assumed a risk of injury, compensation under the Jones Act is not reduced.

One of the central questions in any maritime injury case is whether the injured party is a seaman since only a seaman can recover under the Jones Act. These offshore workers have an employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation and contribute to the vessel's function or mission.

A seaman under the Jones Act must be a member of the crew of a vessel such as a tanker, freighter, jack-up rig, semi-submersible, towboat, tug, supply boat, crew boat, barge, lay barge, or fishing vessel, or someone assigned to a fleet of vessels by his employer. The vessel must also be in navigation, there must be more or less permanent connection with the ship, and the worker must be aboard naturally and primarily as an aid to navigation. Sometimes, even a person whose work is covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act may be treated as a Jones Act seaman. A lawyer can help figure out whether someone is a seaman for purposes of the act. The facts of each particular case must be examined closely by an experienced maritime attorney who will understand the ins and outs of the offshore activity the seaman was engaged at the time of injury.

A Jones Act claim must generally be brought within three years of the injury. The claim can be filed as an admiralty claim either in federal court or state court or as a "law" claim in federal court. A lawyer should decide where to file the claim as this choice can affect the amount of the recovery. If you have been injured on a vessel and would like more information about your rights, then contact our experienced maritime lawyers at the Merman Law Firm. 

Maintenance and Cure

Seamen injured in the course and scope of their duties are entitled to Maintenance and Cure. If an employer fails to provide maintenance and cure following an accident, it can be liable for additional damages. While maintenance and cure are required, the payment required to satisfy the statutory duty of the shipowner is typically very low. You need to contact an experienced admiralty lawyer to make sure you are getting what you are entitled to as maintenance and cure.