Have you heard of the Jones Act? If you are a maritime worker, you already know it’s a part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 that helps to protect injured maritime workers. It explains important things like seaman’s rights after they are injured. Some people consider this Act an extremely important part of legislation that impacts and protects maritime workers.
The Jones Act was named for Wesley Jones, the Senator that created it, and was used to replace several older laws that were still based on the Navigation Acts from England. The creation of the Act was to “develop and encourage” a prosperous and well-equipped U.S. maritime industry and address issues related to national defense. While this is true, seamen benefit the most from the law.
Seamen’s Rights Under the Jones Act
Before the Jones Act was created, the ability a seaman had to acquire compensation from an employer for the injuries they suffered while working at sea was extremely difficult. For hundreds of years, it was understood that if a maritime worker suffered an injury in the course of their job the employer was the one who would provide medical and financial help while they recovered. However, this didn’t always occur naturally, and if it did, the assistance provided was inadequate, leaving seamen with no legal options to get the compensation deserved.
With no legal options to help them demand sufficient compensation, most seamen were left with what their superiors were willing to do rather than what was moral and fair. It’s the Jones Act that changed all of this.
The provisions of the Act were adopted from FELA, which stands for Federal Employers Liability Act, in the early part of the 20th century. The goal was to ensure fair protection and compensation for workers in the railroad industry. Noting the danger faced by railroaders compared to average workers, FELA made it possible for these workers to sue after suffering an on-the-job injury. Because it was based on an older Act, the Jones Act has similar protections in place and a similar burden of proof.
The workers’ compensation laws on a state level are automatic. However, rewards provided through the Jones Act are not. In fact, the acceptance of workers comp results in the person receiving the benefits losing the ability to sue their employer. With the Jones Act, the injured maritime worker must show the defendant in the case was negligent in some way to receive compensation. While this is true, it’s not necessary to prove that the employer is the only one responsible for the injury or a loss of life.
Understanding Negligence and How It Is Defined by the Jones Act
Negligence, in this case, includes expected things, such as:
- Failure to maintain a shop
- Failure to maintain equipment
- Improper training
However, there are other situations that may meet the law negligence requirements, too. Some of these could be surprising.
This includes things like:
- The poor selection of crewmen
- Allowing inebriated seamen on the vessel
- Demanding overtime
If inebriated seamen are allowed onto a ship, and they are injured, they will still be able to sue for it. Injuries also don’t have to take place during the workers’ on-the-clock hours. Any injuries that occur while a seaman is living on, boarding, or leaving the vessel will also be covered. The claim of “unseaworthiness” isn’t covered by international maritime law; however, it can be used under the Jones Act.
What Is Considered a Maritime Injury?
Maritime injuries occur when a crew member or seaman is injured on a vessel or ship in U.S. navigable waters. This federal law is essential for any injured maritime worker who does not qualify to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
With the Jones Act, there’s legal recourse for injured workers to file a civil lawsuit against their employer to receive employment-related benefits for the injuries they sustained.
Understanding What Damages You Can Recover
The types of damages you can claim are numerous. Along with lost wages and medical costs, an injured worker also has the right to claim:
- Pain and suffering
- Funeral expenses
- Mental anguish
- Loss of support to family members
These are just a few examples of the types of damages allowed by the Jones Act.
While it is possible to recover damages for these things, it’s also necessary to bring a claim to court within three years. Also, the individual must qualify as a seaman, which means they spend a minimum of 30% of their time working on the ship. While proving your status as a seaman can be difficult, hiring an experienced maritime attorney will be beneficial.
How Injured Employees Receive Payment Through the Jones Act
If a maritime employee or seaman is injured while on the job, they may have the right to file a lawsuit against their employer. This is possible if they experienced the injury while working on a waterway or while at sea. In these situations, it’s required that the employer pay the injured victim their weekly wages from when the accident occurs until the voyage is done.
The employee who is injured can also receive cure and maintenance benefits if injured on a ship or vessel. The maintenance benefits cover the injured person’s cost of living while they are on land.
Cure benefits offer financial compensation to cover required medical services or to receive treatment for injuries until the person is fully recovered.
It’s possible to file a civil lawsuit against the employer, which will help ensure additional compensation is provided for both past and future medical costs, along with lost earnings, disfigurement, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, and mental anguish.
Contact Our Maritime Legal Team for Help
If you are involved in an accident that results in an injury while at sea, you have rights thanks to the Jones Act. If you have questions or need help with your case, contact our legal team at Burkett Law Firm. We can help ensure you receive the compensation deserved for your injuries and losses.