Everything You Need to Know About the Jones Act

December 18, 2014 @ 9:56 am

Pilot-BoatWhat is it?

The Jones Act is federal legislation that was created to protect American workers at sea. This Act is meant to allow workers who are injured or become sick to file for compensation from his or her employer. While most workers in Louisiana may not sue their employers directly and are only covered by Workers’ Compensation, workers who are covered under the Jones Act may sue their employer directly for negligence and seek damages in federal or state court.

Who is covered under the Jones Act?

All workers who work near or on the water are not covered under the Jones Act. A number of factors determine whether an employee is considered a “seaman” under the Jones Act. The legislation does not provide a thorough definition of who qualifies as a seaman, so the courts have defined the term as “an individual who is assigned to a vessel or fleet that operates in navigable waters, meaning waterways capable of being used for interstate or foreign commerce.” Also, the seaman’s work must be related to the vessel’s purpose. An additional factor in qualifying as a seaman has to do with the amount of time spent on the vessel. The Jones Act requires a seaman must spend a “significant” amount of time on the vessel to qualify. In order to determine time qualification, one should contact an attorney with maritime law experience.

What are “claims” and “negligence” regarding this Act?

Those who are qualified seaman can claim negligence against the employer. Negligence in this case refers to when either an employer or coworker undergoes unreasonable risks resulting in injury. If the seaman can prove negligence, he or she can request different types of damages such as: past and future medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, and pain and suffering.

Is the result of an employer’s direct actions the only way to file a suit for injuries occurring on a vessel or fixed platform?

No. Injury and sickness can result from the poor conditions of the vessel, from negligence of third party contractors, or unreasonably dangerous conditions on a platform or rig. Injuries occurring in the oilfield often create complicated scenarios in determining which party may be responsible. It is critical if you are injured offshore that you consult with an attorney experienced in making these claims to make sure you do not lose your rights.

If you are injured offshore, contact an experienced Jones Act attorney from Morrow, Morrow, Ryan & Bassett to make sure your legal rights are protected.