Jones Act Seaman Accident Attorney
Jones Act seaman are a unique class of merchant marine, crew member, seafarer, deck hand, ship’s officer … by whatever name they may go by aboard ship. Jones Act seamen inevitably suffer serious personal injury and even death due to accidents caused by the negligence of a vessel owner/operator, a fellow crew member or worn-out/unsafe tools. Having previously represented cruise ship companies, ship and vessel operators, and yacht owners for 19 years, the board certified maritime attorneys at the law firm of Brais Law Firm are in a unique position to protect Jones Act seaman who have suffered personal injury or death due to an accident while aboard a cruise ship, tanker, yacht, tug, ferry or workboat. The lawyers at the law firm of Brais Law Firm with offices in Miami, Florida, Boston, Massachusetts and Houston, Texas are here to help Jones Act seaman injured as a result of an accident aboard any one of these vessels.
The Jones Act provides compensation to a class of employees known as “seamen” (those who are masters, captains, offices, crewmembers and certain other people who work aboard vessels) for injuries and, in some instances, death due to an accident caused by the negligence of their employer or co-workers. This holds true even when the injured seaman is well aware of the risks associated with their job. Seamen injured on a cruise ship, ferry, water taxi, tug, barges, tankers, riverboat casino, crew boat, shrimp boat, trawler, fishing boat, offshore oil rig and all other vessels on the ocean and all intra-coastal lakes, rivers and canals, as well as, certain drivers and underwater personnel are typically covered by the Jones Act.
Working aboard vessels exposes crewmen to unique and constant risks of serious personal injury and even death. If you were injured while working aboard a vessel as a Jones Act seaman, crewman, or commercial fisherman you may well be protected by a federal statute referred to as “The Jones Act.”
The Jones Act statute protects crew members of all types and from all parts of the world, including a captain and mate in the wheelhouse to a deckhand, wiper, housekeeper, steward, engineer, fish processor, cook and even a tour guide aboard a charter vessel. The Jones Act does not discriminate and as a result the lowest crewmen aboard a vessel have the same rights as a captain. The Jones Act also protects crew members referred to as “day workers” meaning that they work aboard a vessel during the day and return home at night.
If you were injured, you may be entitled to past and future lost wages, past and future medical expenses, vocational and occupational retraining, past and future pain and suffering, psychological suffering. Some serious injuries limit the number and types of jobs available to an injury victim. In this situation, Jones Act seamen are entitled to damages for lost earning capacity. Additionally, if your injury will worsen with time, and cut short your career, you are entitled to future lost wages for this loss.
A Jones Act seaman injured in the course and scope of his/her employers work or “subject to the call of duty” but off the vessel may sue his/her employer and ship’s operator/owner under theories of:
- Jones Act Negligence,
- Maintenance and Cure,
- Unearned or Sick Wages,
- Breach of Contract,
- Earned Penalty Wages,
- Wrongful Discharge from Employment, and
- Additional Claims
Each of these claims requires certain elements to be proven to the Judge or Jury deciding your case. If one of the needed elements is not proven, your claim can be dismissed. This means that you will not get compensation for your injury. Knowing what elements must be proven under each maritime claim and how to prove these elements has been the business of the board certified maritime attorney as the law firm of Brais Law Firm for more than 28 years.
The attorneys at the law firm of Brais Law Firm have the experience to protect your rights, the compassion to serve your needs, and the skill to obtain the compensation you deserve. To reach our lawyers you may click email the firm, call 800-499-0551 from within the U.S., Skype BraisLaw worldwide or click Contact Us to select and complete a form for a free evaluation of your case.
Jones Act Seaman Statute FAQS (Frequently Asked Questions)
Am I a Jones Act Seaman?
The Jones Act covers masters, captains, officers and members of the crew. Typically, anyone who spends 30% or more of their work time on a vessel or group of vessels in navigation and under common ownership qualifies as a Jones Act seaman. An employee who works less than 30% on a vessel or on multiple vessels that are not under common ownership, will generally not be covered under the Jones Act but, will be covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
What is my Employer’s Obligation Under the Jones Act?
Your employer is responsible for providing you with a safe working environment, proper training and safe working equipment. If your employer fails to fulfill its duties and you are hurt because of it, you most likely have a claim under the Jones Act.
Do I Have a Jones Act Claim if I was Injured due to Inadequate or Faulty Equipment?
Yes. Your employer is obligated to provide you with appropriate and properly working equipment to perform your duties. If you were injured because you were provided inadequate equipment or, if the equipment provided was faulty, you have a Jones Act claim.
Do I Have a Jones Act Claim if I was Provided Inadequate Instruction on how to Perform my Job?
Yes. Your employer has an obligation to provide adequate instruction on the proper method to perform your job, the proper method to operate all equipment, as well as, safety devices needed to perform your assigned task. If you were injured due to your employer’s failure to provided adequate instruction, you have a Jones Act negligence claim.
Do I Have a Jones Act Claim if I was Ordered to Perform a Task Without Adequate Assistance?
Yes. An employer is obligated to provide the proper number of co-workers to assist you while performing a task. For example, if you were ordered to lift an object alone but, the weight of the object required at least two people to lift it and were injured, you have a Jones Act negligence claim.
Do I Have a Jones Act Claim if I was Injured on my way to Work?
Perhaps? Commuting to and from the vessel is considered to be within the scope of employer if no living quarters are provided aboard the vessel and it is necessary for the seaman to commute in order to perform his/her duties. As such, the law gives a crewmember a claim against his or her employer for an accident involving an automobile/van/shuttle/taxi/jitney furnished by the employer.
Do I Have a Jones Act Claim if I was Injured by the Negligence of Another Crewmember?
Yes. Your employer has the obligation to properly train and equip all members of the crew. If you were injured because your fellow crewmember was not properly trained to perform his or her job, there were not enough crewmembers assigned to the job or your co-worker was not properly equipped for the job, you have a Jones Act claim.
Do I Have a Jones Act Claim if I Was Assaulted by a Fellow Crewmember?
Perhaps? A crewmember has a Jones Act claim against his employer for an assault by another crewmember if: (1) the assault was committed by the crewmember’s superior for the benefit of the ship’s business; or, (2) your employer failed to prevent a foreseeable assault.
Do I Have a Jones Act Claim if I was Injured due to an Unqualified or Incompetent Master or Captain?
Yes. Your employer has the duty to select competent and qualified masters and captains. If you were injured due to a master or captain’s incompetence, you have a Jones Act negligence claim.
Do I Have a Jones Act Claim if my Employer did not Correct or Warn me of a Dangerous Condition?
Yes. Your employer has the duty to warn you of known dangerous conditions. If you were injured due to a dangerous condition known to your employer, you have a Jones Act negligence claim.
Do I Have a Jones Act Claim if my Employer is not the Ship Owner/Operator?
Yes. Oftentimes crewmembers are employed by one company and the ship they work on is owned and/or operated by another company. In such cases, the crewmember has a Jones Act claim against his or her employer even if the employer has no control over the ship. The crewmember can also bring an unseaworthiness claim, as well as maintenance and cure claims against the ship owner/operator.
Do I Have a Jones Act Claim if my Employer Provided-Doctor Worsened my Condition?
Yes. Your employer has a duty to select and tender a doctor who is competent to provide you treatment. If your employer tendered to you a doctor who is unqualified or provided you substandard care, you have a claim against your employer under the Jones Act for the worsening of your condition. Liability also exists against your employer if he withholds appropriate medical care or fails to send you shoreside for appropriate medical care in a timely fashion.
What is the Difference Between a Jones Act Claim and Workers Compensation?
Unlike land-based workers, seamen do not have a right to bring a claim under state workers compensation laws. Instead, injured seamen have a right to bring a negligence claim against their employers under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is different from workers’ compensation as it does not provide for payment regardless of fault. A seaman must prove negligence or fault on the part of his or her employer, vessel operators, officers, and/or fellow crewmember to obtain an award of money damages. This means that the employer must do something unreasonable or fail to perform a reasonable act that would have prevented injury in order for the seaman to prevail.
When looking at The Jones Act versus state workers compensation, it is important to note that settlements and payouts under the Jones Act are often much larger than those paid out under workers’ compensation schedules. Workers’ compensation is usually paid out in accordance with a schedule of benefits fixed by State Statutes. The damages under the Jones Act have no schedules and, therefore, can be substantially higher than worker compensation payouts.
What is the Difference Between the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
The Jones Act is a negligence based claim Congress gave to seamen while the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”) is a non-fault workers compensation claim Congress gave to non-seaman maritime workers such as longshoremen, land-based crane operators and temporary repairmen. The Jones Act and the LHWCA are mutually exclusive, meaning that a seaman cannot bring a claim under the LHWCA and a non-seaman maritime work cannot bring a claim under the Jones Act.
How Long do I Have to Bring a Lawsuit Under the Jones Act?
The statute of limitations in a Jones Act case is limited to three (3) years from the date of the injury. There may be exceptions to this rule when you have a case against a vessel that is owned, operated, or contracted by the United States, a consequence of which you may have less time to bring the case.
Can my Employment Contract or Collective Bargaining Agreement Prevent me From Bringing a Jones Act Negligence Claim?
No. The law is clear that an employer cannot require a seaman to “contract away” his Jones Act negligence claim. If your employment contract or collective bargaining agreement requires the application of non-United States law or specifically states that you forfeit your rights under the Jones Act, such employment contracts and collective bargaining agreement more likely than not will be deemed null and void. The most an employer can do is require that you arbitrate your Jones Act claim before an arbitration panel as opposed to litigate the claim in a court. This area of the law is developing and matters concerning these topics are subject to change as more and more decisions are issued by various courts.
What Types of Damages am I Entitled to as an Injured Crewmember?
There are several types of damages that are available to injured crewmembers, which include:
- Pain and Suffering – Although it is difficult to put a dollar amount on the pain and suffering that you may have endured during your injury, this amount will be carefully estimated to be appropriate in compensating you for the hardships of your injury.
- Disfigurement – Many severe injuries impact the way someone looks, walks and/or hears. If this happens, a crewmember may be entitled to disfigurement damages, which are intended to compensate someone for the embarrassment that they feel due to how they look after the accident.
- Mental Anguish – If your injury has affected your ability to enjoy life and all of the things that you loved to do before you were injured, you are eligible to seek damages for mental anguish.
- Lost Wages/Lost Earning Capacity – The Jones Act is designed to compensate workers who have lost wages for the time that they were unable to work due to injury. The Jones Act also covers seamen who have recovered from their injuries but are not able to earn wages at the same level that they did before they were injured. If your earning capacity has been affected by your injury, you may legally seek damages for this change in pay.
- Medical/Assisted Living Expenses – If you have been injured while working on a vessel, you will need to seek medical attention to recover. Health care is very expensive and the Jones Act allows compensation for any hospital care, medications, surgeries and any assisted living services that you require during your injury. Ongoing medical expenses may also be sought if your injury will affect your life for years to come.