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3 things you should know about the Jones Act

As a seaman in the Lake Charles area, you probably already know that you are not eligible for workers' compensation benefits when you are at sea. Fortunately, the Jones Act, officially known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, may provide you with the protections you need if you suffer an injury while you are working offshore.

If you get hurt on the job, it is important to know your rights as a seaman. The following is a brief overview of how the Jones Act might benefit you.

Covered workers

In general, the Jones Act applies to Merchant Marines. This usually includes people who work at sea in a commercial capacity, such as private mariners who engage in importing and exporting activities. Since certain laws, like those that govern workers' compensation, do not apply to seafaring men and women in the private sector, the Jones Act exists so that these employees can sue their employers if they suffer an on-the-job injury.

The Jones Act typically applies to masters, captains, officers and other crew members who are on a "vessel in navigation" at least 30 percent of the time. In order for a vessel to meet the "in navigation" requirement, it must be afloat, operational and have the ability to move on navigable waterways. Even if a ship or other vessel is tied up at dock, it is still "in navigation."

Protection

As a mariner, the Jones Act requires that your employer provide a safe workplace. In other words, your boss has to ensure that the ship or vessel you work on is reasonably free from hazards. If your employer fails to do this and you suffer an injury while at work, you might be able to sue your boss for negligence and win compensation for your medical expenses and lost wages.

Filing a claim

When you file an injury claim under the Jones Act, the only thing you have to show is that your employer's negligence somehow contributed to your condition. Even if your employer's negligence was only a minor contributing factor and your own negligence also played a part, this could still be enough to win your claim.

After you suffer an injury, you have seven days to notify your supervisor. After that, you will have to make an official statement about your injury and fill out an accident report. You will also need to see a doctor for medical treatment so that you have records that back up your claim. Once you have finished these steps, you will either settle the claim or take legal action against your employer.

If you suffered a maritime accident while on a vessel, you might be able to file a claim under the Jones Act. If you cannot settle the claim, then a lawsuit might be your only option to fight for the compensation you deserve.

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