Jones Act Negligence
The Jones Act - Seaman's right to compensation for injuries caused by negligence of their employer.
Federal maritime law governs a seaman right to compensation when he is injured while working aboard his ship. The Jones Act, 46 USC § 30104, was enacted by the United States Congress in 1920 and has now provided benefits to injured seamen for nearly a century. The maritime lawyers at Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC have handled thousands of Jones Act injury cases. They are dedicated to representing injured seamen. They have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for their clients in Jones Act injury cases.
Injury lawsuits for seamen under the Jones Act are frequently joined with two other maritime claims, a claim for unseaworthiness and a claim for maintenance and cure. These three laws provide compensation to seamen when they are injured while in the service of their vessel through negligence and unseaworthiness. The maintenance and cure doctrine is a no fault remedy available to seamen to provide for their reasonable and necessary medical expenses and to provide a daily living allowance while the crewman is recovering from his injuries.
Damages available under the Jones Act and the unseaworthiness doctrine are nearly identical and include compensation for past and future lost wages, lost wage earning capacity, mental pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, medical expenses, and more. The Jones Act is a compensation system limited to seamen. It is far different from State workers compensation acts. The Jones Act, in most cases, provides greater compensation to seamen than they would receive under State workers compensation acts.
WHO QUALIFIES TO BE A SEAMAN UNDER THE JONES ACT
If you have questions about whether or not you qualify to be a Jones Act seaman, you should contact an experienced maritime lawyer. In many cases, it is easy to determine who is and is not a seaman. Crewmen who have an employment connection to a vessel who are more or less permanently connected to an identifiable fleet of vessels in navigation are seamen. The crewman’s work must contribute to the function and mission of the vessel. The seaman’s work must be more than merely sporadic or temporary aboard the vessel. Crewmen aboard ships, tugs, fishing vessels, ferries are all seamen. But many other types of workers qualify to be seamen as well. Harbor patrol workers may be seamen, employees on cruise ships and floating gambling casinos may be seamen, fish processors are seamen, and workers aboard marine construction barges, dredges and derricks may be seamen.
WHAT TYPE OF VESSEL MUST I BE WORKING ON TO BE A SEAMAN
For the purposes of the Jones Act, a vessel is any type of watercraft or artificial contrivance used, or practically capable of being used, as a means of transportation. If you are on any type of work platform that floats and is capable of being moved, it may be considered a vessel for purposes of the Jones Act. The definition of vessel under the Jones Act is very broad. Vessels that are docked or anchored are still vessels under the Jones act unless they are permanently taken out of service and not capable of navigation.
WHAT IS JONES ACT NEGLIGENCE
Under the Jones Act, an employer owes its crewmen a reasonably safe place to work. Your employer owes you a duty to use reasonable care to prevent your injury. Negligence is the failure to do something that a reasonably prudent person would do, or not do, under similar circumstances.
There are few accidents aboard ship that cannot be prevented if proper safety procedures are followed. Employers and vessel owners frequently fail to perform proper risk analysis to prevent crewmen injuries. Profits and speed of production are many times emphasized over worker safety. Lack of maintenance and repairs are sometimes sacrificed at the risk of injury to seamen. Perhaps the number one cause of injury aboard ship is the negligence of a fellow crewman. It has been frequently said that proof of negligence under the Jones Act is feather light. Under the Jones Act, there is a reduced causation, and if the negligence of the employer played any part in the injury to the seaman, no matter how slight, even if the negligent acts are in combination with other acts or in combination with some other cause, the employer is fully liable.
PREEXISTING INJURIES ARE NOT A BAR TO RECOVERY UNDER THE JONES ACT
Seamen who have preexisting injuries are not barred from claiming damages under the Jones Act or the unseaworthiness doctrine. The employer and vessel owner are liable for an aggravation or increase of your injury caused by shipboard negligence or unseaworthiness.
ASSUMPTION OF THE RISK IS NOT A BAR TO A JONES ACT CLAIM
Under the Jones Act, there is no assumption of the risk defense. A seaman does not assume the risk of the Jones Act negligence of his employer. Under the Jones Act a seaman’s damages may only be reduced by his comparative fault, if any.