The Jones Act

If an American working at sea suffers from an injury on the job, then he or she can look to the Jones Act for a way to seek compensation for the injuries or illness suffered. The Jones Act allows for qualifying workers to sue their employees for negligence. There are additional laws available to provide compensation to seamen, including the opportunity to sue ship owners from injuries resulting from unsafe vessels, and guarantees of medical and living expenses to an injured seamen, regardless of the cause of the medical condition he or she has suffered.

The Jones Act only Applies to Seamen

In order use the provisions of the Jones Act, a worker must be considered a “seaman.” Since the law fails to properly define what a “seaman” is within the context of the Jones Act, previous court decisions have been used to develop a concept of what makes a worker a “seaman.” In order to qualify, the individual must work on a vessel for a considerable amount of time, somewhere in the range of 30% of their time. The vessel must work in navigable waters. Navigable waters are waterways that can facilitate interstate, or international commerce.

Negligence under the Jones Act

Most land based employees are covered by workers’ compensation. Under workers’ compensation, employees cannot sue their employers for negligence, but must look for compensation through the workers’ compensation program. For seamen, this is not so, and as a result, if an injury is caused by an unreasonable risk taken at the hands of the injured person’s employer or co-worker, a case for negligence can be made. The Jones Act has a reputation for being friendly to employees. Part of the reason for this is that the law sets the burden of proof at a lower standard than a regular negligence case. Negligence cases require that the proximate cause of the claimant’s injury was the defendant’s negligence. While a standard negligence case requires that the defendant’s negligence plays a substantial role in the causation of the resulting injury, in Jones Act claims the employer’s negligence must only have played some part, however small, in the cause of the seaman’s injury. This means that if there were other factors at play that were far more directly responsible for the injury, the claim could still be held, so long as a tiny amount of the suffered injury could be attributed to an act of negligence on the part of the employer.

Damages under the Jones Act

The damages in a negligence case often exceed those in a workers’ compensation claim because they can include things like pain, suffering, and punitive damages, in addition to medical costs and missed wages. Thus while a Jones Act claim is a fault based system that requires the injured party to show some small amount of a wrong doing on the part of the employer, seamen with claims under the Jones Act typically recover more than a workers’ compensation claimant could hope to.

If you were injured while working at sea, you might have a number of questions about whether you qualify as a seaman, and what type of recovery you should seek based on the specific circumstances relevant to your injury and your claim. You should consider speaking with an experienced Jones Act attorney to evaluate your claim and come up with the best way to pursue the support that you need.

Contact Stern Law, PLLC for A Free Consultation

At Stern Law, PLLC, we have compassionate and caring attorneys ready to work with you in order to find the best strategy for seeking compensation for injuries suffered by maritime workers. Contact Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 for a free consolation with an experienced attorney.

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