Jones Act and Maritime Accidents

The Jones Act is a law that provides protection to the crew of a vessel. This law applies not only to workers at-sea, but river workers and longshore workers as well. Read on to learn more about the Jones Act:

What Is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is federal maritime law that regulates the legal responsibilities of vessel operators and marine employers in the event of the work-related injury or death of an employee. Although the Jones Act protects seamen, it is not the same as workers’ compensation, due to the fact that it does not require payment to the employee regardless of fault. In order for a worker to receive compensation under the Jones Act, a worker must prove that their injury was caused by:

    • Negligence of the vessel owner, vessel operator, or his/her coworkers.

OR

  • Defects in the vessel, gear, tackle, or equipment.

The Jones Act provides an injured seaman a way to collect the compensation they need to fully resolve work-related injuries that are the fault of others. In order for the worker to qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, the employer must do something unreasonable or fail to perform a reasonable act that would have prevented the injury.

Jones Act — Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations in a Jones Act case is generally three years from the date of the injury, though there are exceptions to this general rule. Maritime law actions against the vessel owner for claims of unseaworthiness must also be brought within three years from the date in question.

If you think that you may have a maritime law case, contact our lawyers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania today to get started on your claim.

Legal Damages Under the Jones Act

An injured worker under the Jones Act is legally entitled to recover the following damages:

  • Lost wages (past and future)
  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Compensation for physical / emotional pain and suffering (past and future)

Who Is a Seaman?

One of the central questions in any maritime injury case is whether the injured party is a seaman, since only a seaman can pursue compensation under the Jones Act.

A seaman is defined as someone who is assigned to work on a vessel or a fleet of vessels, or is a member of the crew of a vessel. This includes workers, officers, and crew who work on:

  • Tankers
  • Freighters
  • Jack-up rigs
  • Semi-submersibles
  • Towboats / tugs
  • Supply boats
  • Crew boats
  • Barges
  • Lay barges
  • Movable or jack-up drilling rigs

Often in a Jones Act case, disputes arise regarding whether or not the seaman was working on a vessel when his or her injury occurred. It is very important to allow your maritime law attorney to examine the facts surrounding the accident and the vessel to help legally determine seaman status.

Maintenance and Cure

Regardless of fault, if a seaman becomes injured on a vessel, he or she is legally entitled to collect maintenance and cure under maritime law. “Maintenance” provides compensation for the food and shelter that would have been supplied to the seaman while aboard the vessel. “Cure” is the obligation of the employer to supply medical necessities, treatment, and care to the injured worker until he or she reaches maximum medical improvement. When a maximum medical improvement is reached, the vessel owner is no longer obligated to pay maintenance and cure. During the treatment period, the seaman has the right to choose his own physicians. If the employer refuses to provide compensation for maintenance and cure, the employer can be held legally and financially responsible for the damages incurred by the worker in addition to the worker’s attorneys’ fees.
See also: Maritime & Longshoreman Accidents