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If you are a maritime worker, you know that there are countless ways to become injured on a vessel. Improper training, slip and falls, and heavy equipment are just a few causes of maritime workers’ injuries. Whether you are employed in fishing, shipping, or marine transportation, you will face risks unique to your work on a vessel. These unique risks and injuries helped motivate Congress to pass The Jones Act in 1920.
The Jones Act was meant to incentivize workers to find employment in the maritime industry. It provides special protections for maritime workers by creating regulations for workers’ safety. Knowing these protections can help you determine whether your offshore injury qualifies you for compensation under the Jones Act.
TWO WAYS THE JONES ACT PROTECTS MARITIME WORKERS
The Jones Act was passed as part of the Merchant Marine Act to ensure that United States companies and citizens owned and crewed the vessels carrying goods between ports within the United States. It is a federal law, which means it applies across every state and trumps state law.
Two of the most prominent ways that the Jones Act protects you as a maritime worker include providing relief to workers who sustain injuries and mandating the seaworthiness of the vessel.
WHEN YOUR INJURY OCCURS OFFSHORE
The company that hires the crew, typically the owner of the vessel, is responsible for the crew’s safety. The injuries covered under the Jones Act arise from the negligent acts of the employer. This means that these injuries are most likely due to the employer’s safety and training oversights.
A few common injuries that workers sustain include slip and falls, improper training, and injuries due to repetitive movement. Each of these injuries can result from the negligence of the employer.
Slip and falls might occur because of a condition on the vessel that the employer should have addressed but instead neglected, such as an uneven and unmarked floor. If an improperly trained crew cannot maintain adequate safety standards and takes risky shortcuts, then the employer might also be liable. Finally, an employer might neglect to adapt ergonomic practices that could reduce the chances of an employee sustaining an injury from repeating the same action over and over.
A worker could also fall overboard or lose a limb due to malfunctioning or improperly operated equipment. This list is by no means exhaustive. Indeed, there are several categories of hazards attributable to work on a vessel.
Illness and Harmful Conditions
Other injuries include illness, which can result from the environmental conditions of the work or from chemicals or other hazards. Some illnesses can be difficult to identify since you may not be able to pinpoint an exact event as the cause of your ailment. However, some illnesses may have much longer-lasting effects than other kinds of injuries.
For example, exposures to chemical cargo might take a while to develop into an illness like pneumonia. Also, repeated exposure to loud noises can result in hearing loss. Maritime workers usually work in conditions with loud tools and machinery; employers who do not provide the proper protection against these conditions and illnesses might be negligent.
INJURY ON AN UNSEAWORTHY VESSEL
The “unseaworthiness” of the vessel refers both to the physical condition of the ship itself and to the ability of its crew to do its job. A vessel is sufficiently seaworthy if the carrier has supplied the crew with the necessary equipment, supplies, and training to maintain the ship. If workers do not have the correct equipment or proper safety precautions, they are endangered by the negligent or careless actions of their employer.
DO I QUALIFY FOR COMPENSATION UNDER THE JONES ACT?
Even if you sustained an injury under these categories, you do not automatically qualify for compensation under the Jones Act. There are other conditions that you must meet that involve the nature of your work and your connection to the vessel. There are also specific conditions that might exclude you from compensation under the Jones Act even if you meet the other qualifications.
Conditions under Which You May Qualify
In order to qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, you must first qualify as a seaman. A seaman is a maritime employee who works on a ship and has a connection to the vessel; this does not include land-based workers who happen to be on the vessel at times. A worker should spend at least 30 percent of his or her time on the vessel to qualify as a seaman.
The vessel must also be in navigation at the time of the injury. A vessel need not be moving to be considered in navigation; a docked vessel can still be capable of navigation if it is afloat, in operation, and capable of movement on the water.
Conditions under Which You May Not Qualify
You may not qualify for recovery under the Jones Act if the employer made the vessel seaworthy by exercising due diligence and providing the ship with all of the necessary equipment and the crew with the necessary training. Also, the employer is not liable under the Jones Act if your injury arose from the dangers of the waters, an inherent defect of the goods, an attempt to save a life or property at sea, or other defenses specific to the Jones Act.
WHAT DO I DO IF I HAVE BEEN INJURED?
If you have suffered from an injury or illness while working on a vessel, you should first seek medical treatment. As mentioned above, your injuries might be serious and life-altering. Be sure to keep track of all medical bills and time off work.
Next, as soon as you possibly can, you should file an accident report with your employer or supervisor. You should file your claim within seven days, but it is best to file the claim immediately after you are injured so that you can avoid losing your right to compensation.
When you file your claim, note the circumstances that may have caused or contributed to the accident, such as inadequate lighting, negligence of coworkers, defective or insufficient equipment, or other unsafe practices. The more information you can remember about the possible cause of your injury, the better case you can build to obtain compensation.
SHOULD I HIRE AN OFFSHORE INJURY LAWYER NEAR ME?
Once you have visited a doctor to address your injuries and reported your accident, you may consider hiring a lawyer familiar with the Jones Act. There are several thresholds to recovery under the Jones Act that we have discussed here, including the type of injury you sustained and its cause, the requirement that you are a seaman, and the requirement that the vessel be in navigation. There are also the aforementioned exclusions from the employer’s liability that might bar your recovery.
You may want to consult with an attorney to determine whether you qualify under the Jones Act. The attorney can also advise you on how to characterize the accident surrounding your injury and can help you through the procedural process of your claim.
HOW CAN AN OFFSHORE INJURY LAWYER HELP ME?
In order to receive compensation under the Jones Act, you must first establish that your injuries or illness were caused by the negligent acts of another. A personal injury attorney will be extremely familiar with the concept of negligence, and depending on the facts of your specific case, may be able to show that your employer failed to provide adequate supervision or to take reasonable precautions to protect you from your injury or illness.
An attorney will also know the types of compensation to which you are entitled under the Jones Act. You could qualify for economic damages to cover your medical expenses, loss of past and future wages, and physical disability. You may also qualify for noneconomic damages to compensate your pain and suffering.
If it is necessary for you to go to court, a lawyer can advocate for you at trial. It can be not only intimidating to represent yourself at trial, but it can be incredibly damaging to the strength of your case and the amount of compensation you could receive. An experienced lawyer can build a case that is compelling to a jury.
OUR OFFSHORE INJURY ATTORNEYS ARE HERE FOR YOU
If you are wondering whether you qualify for compensation for your injury under the Jones Act, call a personal injury lawyer at (888) 240-9319. Our Zinda Law Group attorneys can schedule your free consultation and let you know if they can help you recover.
Our experienced attorneys know how to navigate the complexities involved in admiralty law and the Jones Act. If we take your case, you can be confident that you will not pay us unless we win your case for you. That is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.