What is The Jones Act?
The Jones Act is federal legislation that protects American workers injured at sea. Also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, this law permits qualifying sailors who’ve been involved in accidents or become sick when performing their responsibilities to recoup compensation from their companies.
Pursuant to the act, negligence claims can be brought as soon as an injury results in the careless actions of an employer or coworker. Ship owners may also be liable if an injury is brought on by the dangerous condition of their boat. And no matter how or why a sailor was injured, certain health and medical expenses must be paid.
Not everybody who works on or near the water will satisfy the standards of the Jones Act. The legislation explicitly states that it only applies to “seamen,” but unfortunately, it doesn’t offer a functional definition of the period. Therefore, maritime lawyers seem into the text of court decisions to figure out if a particular crewmember will qualify.
Federal courts have interpreted the expression seaman to mean a person who’s assigned to a vessel or fleet that works in navigable waters, meaning waterways capable of being used for overseas or interstate trade. The individual must perform work that’s regarding the vessel’s purpose. As long as it furthers the mission of the vessel, the comparative importance of the individual’s job description is not important.
Seaman standing under the Jones Act also demands a worker spend a large quantity of time upon the vessel. One federal court has stated that an employee must devote no less than 30% of his or her time onboard to qualify. While that 30% figure is helpful as a rule of thumb, it is by no means determinative. Employees that are unsure should they qualify as seamen should speak a maritime lawyer for advice on their specific conditions.
Claims for Negligence
The most significant advantage for people who qualify under the Jones Act would be the ability to deliver a negligence suit against their employer. By comparison, most land-based employment is covered by workers compensation, which permits injured employees to regain a limited number of damages, without examining the problem of fault. This may provide a level of certainty, but without the chance to show negligence, seamen would be not able to hold their employers fully accountable.
The wrongfulness of the behavior is extremely relevant, and helps determine how much money the seaman will receive. These suits not simply compensate the victim, but they discourage employers from ignoring the safety of the employees.
After an injured seaman has established negligence, they is able to ask the jury to award several types of damages. These fall into two different classes, economic and non-economic. Monetary damages compensate for things like past and future medical costs, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity. Non-economic damages are meant to cover pain and suffering, and to penalize the employer in cases involving egregious behaviour.
Liability for Unseaworthy Vessels
Sometimes the substandard condition of a boat would be to blame for an seaman’s injury, rather than the direct actions of their employer or someone else onboard. In such scenarios, the “unseaworthiness” doctrine applies. The proprietor or entity responsible for a vessel has a legal duty to make sure it is in safe working order, properly equipped, and operated by a capable crew. If one of these responsibilities are not fulfilled, and also a seaman gets hurt, then the owner will be responsible in tort. This means the victim can regain the exact sorts of damages available in a negligence suit.
Right to Maintenance and Cure
The philosophy of maintenance and cure differs from the other procedures of getting compensation, mainly because it does not require the conduct of their employer or boat owner into account. Within this respect, maintenance and cure looks like onshore workers compensation. All the seaman must establish is that the injury or illness is work-related.
A claim for maintenance and cure will be easier for a seaman to establish, however, the recoverable damages are far less extensive. It is essential to note that these advantages, while modest, can be collected along with any recovery due to negligence or unseaworthiness accountability.
Retaining a Jones Act Attorney
Jones Act claims are regarded as a niche, even among lawyers who have already narrowed their practice to marine law. If you’ve been hurt or contracted an illness in sea, your situation has to be handled by a professional. Speak to a Jones Act lawyer to learn about your right to reimbursement.