How are seamen protected by the Jones Act?

The Jones Act, which is the common name for the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, provides valuable information about maritime laws that govern the shipping of goods. It also covers important information about how worker injuries while at sea will be handled.

In short, a seaman who is injured on a vessel can seek compensation from their employer without having to turn to the workers’ compensation system. There are some specific points that must be met if the person is going to file a lawsuit against their employer.

Who is a seaman?

A seaman is a person who works aboard a seafaring vessel. The person must spend at least 30% of their time at sea or they aren’t considered a seaman. There have been many cases that have worked to further define the criteria for a seaman, but one important distinction that seems to be common is that the vessel you work aboard must be seaworthy. Some have tried to bring cases involving oil platforms, but those have been largely unsuccessful.

What injuries are covered?

Only on-the-job injuries are covered by the Jones Act. This includes any that occur onboard the vessel if you meet the qualifications of a seaman. The act can also cover wrongful death cases if the seaman passes away while performing their duties. Things like brain or spinal cord injuries, broken bones, hernias and other significant injuries are all covered under this act. The accident must have been due to unsafe conditions, such as a lack of safety equipment or insufficient training. You do need to be able to show the employer was liable for the injury.

How are Jones Act injuries handled?

When you have an injury that qualifies for a lawsuit under the Jones Act, you need to report the injury to your immediate supervisor as quickly as possible. There is a 7-day time limit for making this report. You must fill out an accident report, which serves as the official statement about the incident. You need to get medical care and keep detailed records about what’s said and done. Finally, you can either work out a settlement with the employer or file your lawsuit.

It’s a good idea to discuss your case with a lawyer who is familiar with the Jones Act so you know what options you have and how to work toward your chosen outcome. Because it is such a complex law, there are nuances that must be factored into the decisions you make. Just remember, you can’t waste time in making your claim. Lawsuits filed under the Jones Act have time limits, so you must act quickly.