Case Type: Maritime Accidents

What is the Jones Act?

A series of laws originally passed by Congress in 1920, the Jones Act is designed to protect the rights of maritime workers who have fallen ill or gotten injured while working on the water.

Under the Jones Act, any negligence on the part of the employer which causes or contributes to a crew member’s illness or injury, however slight, is sufficient enough to demand liability from the employer. Simply, anytime a worker is hurt through employer negligence, the case can be taken to court and the employer may be held responsible.

Am I covered by the Jones Act?

Because of the complex wording of the Jones act, many workers are initially unsure if their rights are protected by the Act.  Any worker with substantial connection to a vessel in navigation, from captains to busboys and every job in between, is covered by the Jones Act. And the vessel doesn’t have to be actively navigating, either –  even if the vessel is docked, if it is currently staffed and in use, it’s considered “in navigation” And that means it’s protected by the Jones act.

What should I do if I’m injured while working on water?

The first and most important thing is to get your injury tended by a licensed medical practitioner, either on your vessel or on land. Once you’ve recovered enough, the next step is to file an official accident report with your employer. This is critical to determine if your case can be covered by the Jones act, so make sure the report is as detailed as possible.

Describe any workplace factors that may have contributed to the accident, such as poor lighting or darkness, slippery floors or surfaces, co-worker negligence, insufficient or defective equipment, insufficient manpower, unsafe procedures, or anything else that may have contributed to your accident. The more information you can provide, the stronger your case will be.

Difference between state workers’ compensation laws and Jones Act

If you were hurt on the job while working offshore, you are going to be entitled to collect significantly more money and a settlement than if you were only protected by state workers’ compensation laws. State workers’ compensation laws are basically run by large insurance companies. The insurance companies have an incentive to provide the minimum amount of medical care. As a result, the insurance companies will hire doctors who often care little about the patients and more about making money from the insurance company. They will put you back to work well before you are ready, they will write reports saying your injuries were “pre-existing,”  and they will do all sorts of other underhanded things to prevent you from getting your full benefits.

Benefits of being covered under Federal Maritime Law

It is different when you’re covered by federal maritime law and the Jones Act. Under the Jones act, for example, your employer is required by law to pay for all of your medical care until you reach maximum medical improvement. Unlike state workers’ compensation laws, you get to go to your own doctors, not doctor’s hand picked by your employer or some big insurance companies. You are also entitled to something called “maintenance,”  which is daily living stipend while you are off work recuperating from your injury.

In addition to medical payments and maintenance payments, you are also allowed to bring a lawsuit for negligence damages, which you can’t do if you are getting state workers’ compensation benefits. Under state law, you cannot sue your employer if they have workers’ Compensation Insurance, regardless of the amount of negligence committed. Under the Jones act, you can sue for negligence.

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