MARITIME LAW FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: PART 2
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a primary rule of maritime law designed to protect workers on navigable waters when they are injured as a result of negligence or the unseaworthiness of the vessel. It protects the rights of seamen to a safe work environment, and allows them to recover damages for their injuries.
What is a “Jones Act Seaman”?
Maritime law defines a seaman as someone who works at least 30 percent of their total work time on a vessel. This could be, for example, a bartender on a cruise ship, a fisherman, a driller on an oil rig, or an onboard mechanic. The vessel can be any vessel engaged in maritime commerce, such as a tugboat, fishing boat, dredge, oil rig, or cruise ship.
What is “unseaworthiness”?
Unseaworthiness is the legal term for any unsafe condition on a vessel that may cause injury to passengers or workers. Examples of unseaworthiness might be lack of proper safety equipment, poorly trained or unqualified crew members, wrong type of vessel for the work involved, insufficient number of crew members, poorly maintained ship or equipment, or lax safety procedures. If a vessel where an injury occurs is deemed unseaworthy and the injury is due to the unsafe condition of the vessel, the injured party can recover damages for unseaworthiness.
If I was injured in a maritime accident on the job, what kind of compensation can I receive?
If you meet the definition of a seaman, and the injury happened while you were in the service of a vessel (even if you happened to be on land at the time of the injury), you are eligible for maintenance and cure. This means you can receive living expenses, sick pay, and compensation for medical expenses.
Also, if you can prove negligence on the part of the ship owner or unseaworthiness of the vessel, you may also be able to collect compensation for disability and/or future lost earning capability.
I’m not a seaman but was injured as a ship’s passenger. Can I get compensation for a maritime injury?
Injured passengers are also protected under maritime law. You may be able to collect damages such as present and future medical costs, disability, lost wages and future earning capability, and even pain and suffering.
Can I get compensation if nobody was at fault for my maritime accident?
You should never assume or admit that an accident was your own fault or was no-fault. Often, those injured in an accident are unaware of details that may have made the vessel unseaworthy, or of the actions of others that may have created a hazard in the work space.
It is vital that you understand all of your rights under maritime law. Even if the injury truly was your own fault, if you are a seaman as defined under the Jones Act, you can still receive compensation in the form of maintenance and cure. Contact a maritime lawyer immediately after any injury to make sure your rights are protected and you get the compensation you deserve.