Seamen who are injured in commercial maritime accidents caused by others’ negligence or carelessness have a right to compensation for their losses. If such an injury occurs on an offshore vessel, compensation may be available to cover the injured worker’s medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering through a federal law known as the Jones Act.
The Jones Act is also a protection in cases of injuries suffered because an offshore vessel is not seaworthy.
Our personal injury attorneys at Joye Law Firm want to help if you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury while working offshore. Call Joye Law Firm now or fill out our online contact form for a free claim review and advice about your legal rights under the Jones Act.
An Overview of the Jones Act
The Jones Act is a complex law that, like all laws, is subject to interpretation by the courts. Below are some general facts about a claim under the Jones Act to give you a general idea about whether it may apply to your injury. We can provide you with more information in a free, no-obligation discussion of your case.
To recover compensation under the Jones Act, the plaintiff must be a “seaman” and must show that he or she:
- Contributed to the mission or operation of a vessel or an identifiable group of vessels in navigation, whether underway or at anchor.
- Had an employment-related connection to the vessel or identifiable group of vessels which was substantial in terms of both duration and nature (not sporadic, temporary or incidental).
Seamen include masters (captains) and crew members. Vessels include all kinds of boat, ships and watercraft that are used for transportation on water, including merchant ships, container ships, cruise ships, ferries, tugboats and other vessels.
A seaman may seek compensation if:
- The defendant was negligent and the defendant’s negligence was a cause of the injury or damage to the plaintiff; or
- The vessel was unseaworthy, and the unseaworthy condition was a cause of an injury or damages to the plaintiff.
The defendant in either claim is typically the owner and/or operator of the vessel. In some cases, a third party may be liable for a seaman’s injury.
Negligence under the Jones Act is the failure to use “reasonable care,” or a degree of care that reasonably prudent persons would use under similar circumstances to avoid injury to themselves or others. Negligence includes doing something that a reasonably prudent person would not do, or failing to act to as a reasonably prudent person would under the circumstances.
A vessel owner has a duty to provide and maintain a seaworthy vessel and to provide adequate safety equipment for the vessel. A vessel is unseaworthy if the vessel or any of its parts or equipment is not reasonably fit for its intended purpose, or if its crew is not reasonably adequate or competent to perform the work assigned.
The owner of the vessel is not required to furnish an accident-free ship or to have the best equipment or crew. Again, a case will hinge on what is “reasonably” proper for a seagoing vessel and crew.
How to Pursue a Jones Act Claim
A Jones Act claim works much like workers’ compensation. The injured seaman should report his or her injury or illness to the captain or other supervisory personnel promptly and follow established policy or instructions for receiving medical care and filing a claim. The injured party will likely be required to complete various forms to report the injury to the insurance company that would ultimately pay the claim.
As you receive medical care, either aboard ship, once you arrive at port or are transported by the Coast Guard, you must follow medical orders from doctors assigned to your case or you could jeopardize your claim. You may also seek a second opinion from your own doctor.
Another factor to keep in mind is that the Jones Act is a comparative negligence statute. This means that if a jury decides that the injured seaman was negligent in a manner that contributed to his or her injury, the damages award will be reduced accordingly. The jury may decide, for example, that the plaintiff bears 30 percent of the blame for the accident. That would reduce the award by 30 percent. If a plaintiff’s negligence was more than 50 percent, compensation may not be available.
We suggest you talk with an experienced maritime injury attorney as soon as possible to assist with a Jones Act claim. At Joye Law firm, we would investigate and document your accident and injuries to ensure you receive the compensation you are due, as well as assist with the fundamental work required to file and keep up with a claim.
If your claim is denied or approved benefits are not appropriate, we can appeal the decision for you. We can also help to mitigate any negligence on your part that might adversely affect your claim.
Contact Our South Carolina Attorneys With Your Jones Act Claim
A Jones Act claim must meet specific federal maritime regulations to secure compensation for injuries or illness aboard a seagoing vessel. If you or a loved one of yours has been injured in an accident offshore, a Joye Law Firm maritime accident lawyer can help you protect your rights.
Call Joye Law Firm now or use our online contact form for a free case review today.