Who is a Seaman under the Jones Act?
The Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 688 (1970), is a federal statute that provides protection to individuals who are members of the crew, officers or captains of a ship or vessel. In order to be covered under the statute a worker must be classified as a “seaman.” A seaman is an individual who spends a significant portion of their work time on a vessel that is in navigation. Typically, this means that the worker must spend 30% or more of his or her work time on a vessel or fleet of vessels in operation and capable of moving on navigable waters.
There are many categories of workers who can be classified as seamen under the Jones Act, including inland river workers and offshore workers who work on Jack-up rigs, semi-submersibles, barges, drill ships, tug boats, tankers, cargo ships, construction barges, floating cranes, motorized platforms and other floating or movable structures. If you are a worker who has been injured on or near the water it is important to discuss your situation with a law firm that knows what it takes to get maximum compensation and benefits when a seaman is injured.
What Rights do Injured Seamen Have?
Below are several important rights that the law provides for an injured seamen:
Right to Collect Maintenance and Cure from the Employer. Injured seamen have an absolute right to collect maintenance and cure benefits from an employer if they are injured or become ill while in the service of a ship or vessel. Employers are required to provide these benefits regardless of who may be at fault for the seaman’s injuries or accident. “Maintenance” benefits are daily payments which are meant to compensate the injured seaman for the costs of living on land in the same manner the seaman lived offshore. “Cure” payments compensate the seaman for the medical care and services needed to treat his injury or illness.
Right to File a Negligence Suit Against the Employer. Under the Jones Act, when a seaman is hurt on the job due to the negligence of his employer or a co-worker, the seaman has the right to file a negligence Jones Act lawsuit or claim against the employer. In these cases, the burden of proof is very low and the employer can be held liable for almost any unsafe condition on the vessel. For instance, if a seaman slips and falls on an oily deck and is injured, the seaman may be able to file a claim or lawsuit for damages from the employer for lack of maintenance or negligence on the part of a co-worker for failing to properly clean the area.
Right to File a Negligence Claim Against the Owner of the Vessel. In many situations, a worker may be employed by one company while the ship or vessel they are working on is owned by another company. In these cases, an injured worker can file an unseaworthiness claim against the owner of the vessel along with a negligence claim against the employer. An unseaworthiness claim arises when the owner of the vessel fails to make sure that the vessel and its equipment is safe and in proper working order. When a seaman is injured due to the unseaworthiness of the vessel, the seaman has the right to sue the vessel owner for damages. If the vessel owner is also the injured worker’s employer, then the worker may be able to file both a Jones Act negligence case and an unseaworthiness claim
Other Legal Actions. Often when a maritime accident occurs, other parties in addition to the employer and vessel owner may be held liable for a seaman’s injuries. Depending upon the circumstances of the injury and accident, the seaman may be able to file a legal action against certain third party defendants, including product manufacturers, contractors, equipment suppliers and maintenance and repair companies.
Contact an Experienced Seaman Law Firm
With over three decades of experience helping injured workers and seamen, The Willis Law Firm will vigorously fight for your right to collect the compensation and benefits that you are legally entitled to. When you contact our firm, Attorney David P. Willis will carefully review your case and identify all courses of legal action that may be available to you and your family members. Call us today at 1-800-468-4878 to schedule your free, initial consultation.