Recovering Compensation Under The Jones Act
The Jones Act is federal legislation that gives seamen injured in a work-related accident the right to file a lawsuit against their employer for personal injury damages. In other words, if negligence on the part of the owner, captain, or crew of the vessel where the seaman was working caused the injury, then the seaman can sue for damages. Seamen are not provided for under state or federal Workers’ Compensation programs, thus they can only be compensated for work injuries through the Jones Act and general maritime law.
Who Qualifies as a Seaman?
The Jones Act favors seamen, so it is important to know who qualifies as a seaman and is therefore protected under the Act. Generally speaking, any person, such as the captain or a crew member, that performs most of their work on any kind of ship or boat is a seaman. For a part-time worker to qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, they must spend at least 30 percent of the time they work for their employer on a vessel.
If you are not sure of your status as a seaman, speak to an experienced South Jersey maritime accident lawyer at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. who can help you determine under which aspect of maritime law you are covered.
An Overview of the Jones Act
The Jones Act protects seamen by requiring their employers to maintain a safe workplace and to use ordinary care to maintain their vessels in a reasonably safe condition. Employers who fail to do so can be held liable for a seaman’s injuries resulting from any unsafe conditions, including:
- Broken or improperly maintained equipment
- Improper training of the crew
- Failure to provide the proper equipment needed for the job
- Unsafe work methods
- Grease or oil on the deck of the vessel
- Negligence on the part of any co-workers
- Assault by a co-worker
Burden of Proof Under the Jones Act
In personal injury cases, the person suing for damages (the plaintiff) must prove that the negligence of the party they are suing (the defendant) was a significant cause of their injuries. However, the Jones Act makes it much easier for seamen to recover damages as they must only show that the employer’s negligence was partly responsible for their injuries. Even if it was not the most significant part, and played only a small role in the plaintiff being injured, a seaman may be eligible for damages if it can be proven that one negligent condition on the vessel existed.
Damages for injuries suffered in an offshore work accident may include:
- Compensation for your medical expenses, past and future
- Lost wages, past and future
- Damages for pain, suffering, and mental anguish caused by your injuries
Filing a Claim Under the Jones Act
If you are a seaman who was injured in the course of your work, you have seven days under federal maritime law to report your injury. But the sooner you report it, the better it will be for your case. Whether you are at sea or on land, report your injury immediately to your supervisor or captain.
If you hesitate to report your injury, even if you do it within the seven-day time frame, insurers could use it against you to say that you were not really hurt enough to say something about it right away. The report will likely ask you who was at fault for your accident. If you are afraid of repercussions from your employer, then you have the option to state that you are not sure and need to think about it.
It is very important to avoid giving a written or recorded statement to the insurance company. Seek medical attention for your injuries and consult with a qualified maritime accident lawyer who can advise you as to whether to file your claim in state or federal court. You have three years from the date of your injury to do so.
South Jersey Maritime Accident Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C.
If you or someone you love has been injured at sea, the experienced South Jersey maritime accident lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. have your back. We have a proven track record of helping injured seamen, let us help you too. We represent injured maritime workers throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey including Cape May, Gloucester and Wildwood, and North Carolina from our offices in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, and Pinehurst. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 888-999-1962.