How The Jones Act Protects Seamen Who Are Injured

oil rig in the middle of the ocean

Seamen and other maritime workers are exposed to all types of dangers, especially those in the oil and natural gas industries. The risk of sustaining serious, life-changing injuries is high, and they may not know where to turn if they have been hurt. Signed into law in 1920, the Jones Act created certain protections for seamen that enable them to hold employers liable if their injuries were the result of negligence. Our maritime law attorneys at Pepper & Odom, P.C. have successfully handled hundreds of these complex cases for hardworking injured seamen and their families.

Oil rig standing in the middle of the ocean on the horizon during sunsetWho Is Protected By The Jones Act?

There are certain criteria that must be met to qualify as a Jones Act seaman. You must work on an offshore vessel in navigable waters and your work must contribute to the vessel’s purpose or mission. The amount of time you spend working on a qualified vessel may also play a part in your eligibility to recover compensation under the Jones Act. A federal court ruled that a seaman must spend at least 30% of their time on the vessel to be covered by the Jones Act. However, this number is not set in stone – it is a rule of thumb that is not part of the act itself.

Which Types Of Vessels Does The Jones Act Cover?

Vessels included under the Jones Act include boats, ships, barges, and many types of offshore drilling platforms. For many years, unpowered floating structures were not considered Jones Act vessels. A 2005 Supreme Court decision changed that requirement, and a Jones Act Vessel is not required to be self-propelled.

As offshore drilling has expanded, the definition of a vessel has been revised to include special-purpose vessels such as mobile offshore drilling units, jack up rigs, dredges, and even pontoon rafts or floating dorms. There are many other structures that may not be traditionally considered vessels that are eligible under the Jones Act as well. Although it may seem fairly straightforward, this is where it can get tricky; some vessels may not considered vessels under the Jones Act.If you are seeking compensation under the Jones Act it is vital to hire a seasoned attorney who is familiar with the nuances of these determinations.

How Is The Jones Act Different From Workers’ Compensation?

Workers who are hurt on the job are eligible for benefits for state workers’ compensation regardless of who was at fault for their injuries. To receive certain types of benefits and compensation under the Jones Act, you must prove that an employer’s or fellow crew member’s negligence caused injury or death.

Unlike workers’ compensation, the Jones Act allows injured seaman to recover damages such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, disfigurement and other non-economic damages in addition to medical expenses and loss of income or earning capacity. Because there is no state or federal agency that handles Jones Act claims, they must be filed in state or federal court. Hiring an experienced attorney to handle Jones Act litigation is critical to ensure you receive the maximum benefits and compensation to which you may be entitled.

What Is Maintenance And Cure?

Many injured seaman and other maritime workers do not realize that maintenance and cure benefits are separate from Jones Act claims and that negligence does not need to be proven to receive them. Jones Act maintenance and cure benefits include income supplement and medical expenses related to your work-related injury or illness. Maintenance and cure benefits also apply to both land-based and at-sea injuries, provided that the worker was in the service of the vessel at the time.

When Is An Employer Liable For Work-Related Injuries Under The Jones Act?

The Jones Act requires employers to provide seamen with a reasonably workplace, and to maintain and keep the vessel on which they work in safe condition.

Under the Jones Act, an employer may be responsible for your injuries if:

  • You were injured while working as a seaman or vessel crew member
  • Your employer was negligent
  • Your employer’s negligence caused your injury

Improper crew training, failure to provide necessary safety gear, failure to maintain equipment, unsafe work practices, and assault by a coworker are just a few examples of how negligence may play a role in a Jones Act case. The Jones Act is a very complicated area of the law and proving negligence is not always an easy task. If you have been injured and are considering filing a claim, an attorney can assess your case and advise you on the best way to move forward.

Contact A Maritime Injury Lawyer To Learn More

At Pepper & Odom, P.C. our maritime injury attorneys are well-versed in handling all types of Jones Act cases and are committed to helping injured seamen and their families recover the compensation they need to protect their health and financial future. Contact us online to learn more about our services. We assist clients throughout the state of Alabama, Mississippi, and nationwide, utilizing local counsel.