The Jones Act: Negligence on the High Seas
The Jones Act is one of the oldest pieces of worker protection legislation in the United States. It defines and regulates the relationship between maritime workers and their employers. When the actions of careless employers directly contribute to the injury or death of a seaman, the Jones Act ensures justice.
It is extremely important that you hire an attorney who understands maritime law.
Maritime matters are governed by federal law, not state personal injury law. To properly protect your rights, injured maritime workers should speak with an experienced maritime attorney. Richard Serpe as a Master of Laws (LL.M) in Maritime and Admiralty Law.
- Am I a Jones Act Seaman?
- Maintenance & Cure Payments
- Jones Act vs Workers’ Comp
- Defining Negligence
- $3.5M Settlement Video
Do I Qualify Under the Jones Act?
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is an important federal maritime law. This law protects workers who are injured or become ill at sea by allowing them to recover compensation from their employer.
- To qualify for such protections, a maritime worker must fall under the Jones Act definition of a “seaman”. U.S. courts have generally interpreted “seamen” to mean anyone performing work related to a vessel’s purpose operating in navigable waters. Navigable waters meaning waters capable of being used for commerce.
- The employee must also spend a “significant” amount of their time on the vessel. This is evaluated on a case-by-case basis by taking into account the circumstances of employment. However, this often means at least 30% of their time.
Maintenance and Cure
Maintenance and Cure are automatic under the Jones Act, and are to be implemented even if the injury happened for reasons that were nobody’s fault.
The entitlements for which injured workers are automatically eligible are:
- Maintenance: This is a small daily allowance for living expenses during the time that you are injured. This should last for as long as the worker would have been working had the injury not occurred.
- Cure: This is coverage for your medical bills, including rehabilitation and therapy, until the injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement. You should realize that maximum medical improvement can be reached even if the injured victim will never fully recover from his injuries, or even if he or she will never be able to return to work.
The Jones Act vs. Workers’ Compensation
Many are surprised to learn that maritime employees are not covered by normal workers’ compensation insurance. Instead, seamen can file personal injury claims against the company they work for. If maritime workers can prove that their employer did not provide a safe environment in which to work, they can recover the costs associated with their injury.
Defining Negligence Under the Jones Act
For an incident to qualify as negligent under the Jones Act, one of three standards must apply:
- Someone acts in a way a person with good judgment would not
- A person fails to do something that a person with good judgment would do
- Another person does not take reasonable care to prevent being injured or causing the injury of others
Maritime work always carries some degree of risk, however, employees deserve a safe work environment to perform their duties. Regardless of whether a ship is in port or at sea, the Jones Act requires maritime employers to:
- Free the deck of hazards, obstacles and slippery substances like oil
- Keep equipment and tools in good working order
- Regularly inspect equipment for possible defects
- Crewmembers must be properly trained
- Prevent fights and physical altercations between colleagues
- Ensure the vessel avoids storms and other hazardous conditions
- Create and use safety procedures routinely
$3.5M Settlement: Client Story
Contact an Experienced Jones Act Lawyer
A seaman injured while working aboard a vessel may be entitled to compensation. Our maritime injury lawyers can help you recoup the costs associated with your injury and help set you up for a brighter tomorrow. Contact us now for a free consultation.