Jones Act Information
Jones Act and
Maritime Injury Law Information
434 NW 19th Avenue
Portland, OR 97209
Q: What is the Jones Act?
A: The Jones Act was passed in 1920 to help injured seamen. Ships are dangerous places to work and maritime workers have an increased risk of on the job injury, but may be days away from medical care in the case of an emergency. As a result, the Jones Act provides special legal remedies to help ensure that injured seamen get appropriate compensation and care following an injury. Because the Jones Act is very complex, it is important to find an attorney who is familiar with the issues and benefits of the Act and can effectively represent your claim.
Q: What kind of claim can I file under the Jones Act?
A: The Jones Act permits injured seamen to seek compensation for injuries resulting from the negligence of their employers or co-workers during the course of their employment on a vessel. Due to the often dangerous nature of working on a ship, a seaman's employer may be liable for even a small breach of duty which contributes to a seaman's injury. This is true even if a seaman is aware of the high risks involved in the work; the seaman can still recover maintenance and cure. Maintenance and cure must be paid even if the incident did not take place on board the vessel, so long as the seaman was still in the service of the ship. This is also the case if the injury or sickness is not the direct result of their employment. For instance, if a seaman slipped walking from the ship to a restaurant while the ship was docked, he would still be entitled to maintenance and cure.
In addition to compensation for injuries caused by negligence, an injured seaman may also make a claim against the vessel's owner on the basis that the vessel was not seaworthy. An employer may also be liable for failing to provide a seaman with adequate medical care. An attorney with Jones Act experience can help you determine which claims are appropriate for your case.
Q: What does “maintenance and cure” mean?
Maintenance includes a seaman’s room and board, or the daily amount necessary to cover lodging which would otherwise be provided aboard the ship. For this reason, maintenance begins to accrue when the seaman leaves the ship, which may or may not be the same date as the injury, and is calculated on a daily basis. This amount is generally fairly low.
The term “cure” pertains to all reasonable medical treatment. A seaman is entitled to maintenance and cure until the seaman is cured, or until everything has been done to reach the maximum level of medical improvement possible. This includes the costs of doctors, hospitalization, nursing, medication, and rehabilitation. The injured seaman is also entitled to the wages he would have earned throughout the duration of the contract, and may be entitled to future lost earning capacity.
Q: What does a claim for “unseaworthiness” entail?
A: An injured seaman may be entitled to recover for "unseaworthiness,” in addition to maintenance and cure. The owner of a vessel owes a seaman an absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel. The fact that a vessel is not in such bad shape that it is in danger of sinking does not mean that it is "seaworthy". A vessel is seaworthy if it is reasonably fit for its intended use, is equipped with appropriate equipment and safety gear, has a competent crew, and is a safe place to live and work. Even where a vessel is seaworthy when it leaves shore, it can become unseaworthy because of dangers that arise or are created during its voyage.
This unseaworthiness recovery includes pain and suffering, injury, impairment of earning capacity, hospital bills, medical bills, and all reasonable loses that occur as a result of their injury or illness that can be attributed to the unseaworthiness. Additionally, a seaman does not lose the right to recover for unseaworthiness even if he or she has been partially negligent or at fault. However, any contributory negligence on the part of the injured seaman may reduce the amount of the award.
It is the ship owner's duty to maintain their vessel in a seaworthy manner. This duty cannot be delegated. In addition to the unseaworthiness of the vessel, if the vessel's equipment, masters, and members of the crew are unfit, it can render a vessel unseaworthy.
Q: Who is protected by the Jones Act?
A: If you have been injured on the water, then most likely you will be covered by the Jones Act. In general, the Jones Act protects seamen injured on ships, offshore oil rigs, barges, tankers, tug boats, riverboat casino crew boats, shrimp boats, trawlers, fishing boats, ferries, water taxis and all other vessels on the ocean and all intra-coastal rivers and canals. This includes drivers, divers, and underwater personnel.
The Jones Act covers not only the members of a crew, but the masters of that crew-- anyone who has a connection that is both substantial in nature and duration to a specific vessel, or to a fleet of vessels, whose duties contribute to the function or mission of that vessel or fleet. Generally, anyone who spends more than 30% of their time on a vessel that is in navigation will qualify as a Jones Act seaman. Traditionally, courts interpret “duration” and “nature” broadly in determining whether or not an employee qualifies for Jones Act coverage.
An employee who works as a contract employee, moving between multiple vessels that are not under common ownership, will generally be covered under Longshore or Maritime law, and not under the Jones Act.
Q: Could I get benefits under the Jones Act and as a Longshore-Harbor Worker?
A: No, you are either a seaman under the Jones Act or you are a Longshore or Harbor Worker covered under the Longshore-Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. You may only recover under one of these legal remedies.
Q: What is the difference between Jones Act, Longshore-Harbor Workers, Workers’ Compensation claims?
A: Workers' Compensation laws are passed by each state, and can vary significantly from state to state. Generally, Workers’ Compensation provides relatively small cash settlements. The Jones Act is a federal law which may provide high cash settlements in some cases, when even the smallest level negligence is involved or the vessel is found to be unseaworthy. There is no state or federal agency involved in the administration of claims, unlike workers’ compensation and Longshore-Harbor Worker Act, however due to the complexity of the law, an experienced attorney is necessary.
Q: What if someone other than the owner of the vessel is responsible for my injury? Do I have a Jones Act claim?
A: In some circumstances, such as when a seaman's injury is caused by an employee of an independent contractor aboard a vessel, it may be possible to pursue a cause of action against that independent contractor in addition to the Jones Act claim. A qualified attorney will help you identify all possible sources of recovery.
Q: How long do I have to file a claim under the Jones Act?
A: Generally, you will have three (3) years from the date of the injury to file your claim. The same time limit applies to cases of unseaworthiness. However, there may be exceptions to this rule. For example, a shorter time period applies to vessels that are owned, operated, or contracted by the federal government of the United States. Contact a qualified attorney as soon as you have been injured to ensure that your Jones Act claim is filed in time.
Copyright 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009
Copyright 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009
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