How Does Maritime Law Protect Injured Seamen? A Jones Act Lawyer Explains

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

The work of a seaman is dangerous, as seamen travel aboard vessels that move around on open waterways. Seamen often do intensive physical labor under a wide variety of conditions while they are aboard vessels on the water, and the risk of injury is great. Unfortunately, because of the physical nature of the work, an injury often means the end of a seaman’s career or at least a lengthy period of recovery and unemployment.

When seamen are hurt aboard a vessel, it is imperative that workers in this industry understand their rights. There are laws in place to protect seamen and ensure that they are able to obtain fair compensation after an injury, under appropriate circumstances. One of the most important of these laws is the Jones Act.

The Jones Act allows injured seamen to make claims for compensation, but there are strict time limits, specific requirements regarding what a seaman must prove to obtain compensation, and other complex rules that must be followed in order for an injured seaman to be entitled to recover monetary damages. The stakes are high, so victims injured while aboard a vessel should reach out to a qualified Jones Act attorney for help.

Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. has the knowledge necessary to provide the assistance you need in understanding your rights under Jones Act provisions. We have decades of collective experience in helping injured seamen to maximize their recovery after an accident aboard a vessel and we can put our legal knowledge to work on your case. You should call an injured seaman lawyer as soon as possible so we can begin fighting on your behalf to get the compensation you deserve after being harmed while doing your job at sea.

How Does the Jones Act Protect an Injured Seaman?

Under the terms of the Jones Act, it is possible for a maritime worker to make a claim to obtain compensation by proving that the worker was hurt as a direct result of an employer’s failure to provide a safe working environment.  Get a more comprehensive explanation of the Jones Act here.

Anyone who qualifies as a seaman should be entitled to make a claim against an employer to recover compensation, no matter where the injury actually occurs. If a seaman is doing work tasks at the time when injury strikes, the Jones Act should provide protection.  This is true even in circumstances where the injured seaman has been sent to do something on shore by an employer — if the seaman is hurt in the process, the employer can be held accountable.

The Jones Act not only provides a remedy for seamen where no such remedy existed in the past, but it also provides for broader compensation in the event a victim is harmed, compared with the compensation available under traditional maritime laws.

Traditional maritime laws allowed vessel workers who got hurt to receive only maintenance and cure, which includes daily living expenses (maintenance) and payment of medical costs (cure). The Jones Act provides much broader compensation, including payment for medical expenditures, lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of consortium with family members, lost benefits, decreased quality of life, disability, mental anguish or disfigurement.

Seamen who find themselves in the unfortunate position of being hurt while at sea are thus much better compensated for serious incidents that occur under the Jones Act rules compared with classic maritime laws.

Are You a Seaman?

While the Jones Act provides important protection for individuals harmed on a vessel, only seamen are covered by this Act. Those who do work onshore, dock workers and others in professions that are tangentially related to this field will not be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act.

Typically, individuals who can be properly classified as seamen spend a good portion of their working time — usually around 30 percent or more – aboard a vessel. If you are spending a great deal of time aboard a vessel as part of your daily work tasks, you may be classified as a seaman. Captains, officers, and crew members are classic examples of individuals who are seamen because they clearly spend the bulk of their work days on vessels.

An injured seaman lawyer with Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. can help you to determine if you are likely to qualify as a seaman given the nature of your job duties and the circumstances under which the injury occurred.

If you do not qualify as a seaman, there are other laws in place to provide at least some protection from financial loss if you are hurt. For example, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is one of several laws protecting workers that victims may be able to make a claim under if they are hurt while working on or near a vessel, but they do not actually qualify as a seaman.

How to Enforce Your Rights Under the Jones Act

If you are, in fact, classified as a seaman, you should make certain that you work within the statute of limitations to do everything possible to recover the compensation that you deserve after your injury. The statute of limitations gives you three years from the time you were injured, or three years from the time a reasonable seaman would have become aware of being injured, to take action.

If you believe you have a claim, there are some steps you should take to protect your health and preserve your right to file your case.  To file a Jones Act claim and maximize your chances of success, you should:

  • Report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. You don’t want to delay, as a long delay in making a report could lead to your employer arguing you weren’t actually hurt at work or could lead to your employer claiming you are exaggerating your injuries.
  • Provide a detailed written account of the incident: You may be asked to complete a detailed accident report by the company you work for. Before completing this report, it is important to get legal help. You don’t want to inadvertently say or write something that could jeopardize your Jones Act claim and make it more difficult for you to obtain compensation.
  • Obtain medical care: You want to make certain that your injuries are fully documented so you can prove you were hurt while doing your job as a seaman and so you can demonstrate the extent of the damage that you suffered as a result of the negligence of the vessel operator or your coworkers.

There are many different types of employer negligence that could occur which could potentially give rise to a Jones Act claim. This includes failing to maintain safe equipment; not providing appropriate medical supplies; failure to provide adequate medical treatment or equipment; negligent supervision; and failure to search and rescue.

It is important to remember that you can still recover compensation for injuries and can still make a successful claim even if you were partially to blame for your own injury.  Your compensation will simply be reduced by whatever percent of fault is attributed to you – but you’ll still be provided with monetary payment for damages from the vessel operator even if the amount is reduced.

Getting Help From a Jones Act Attorney

An injured seaman lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. can provide personalized advice on how you can take advantage of your rights under Jones Act provisions.  We will assist you in making your claim, obtaining evidence, proving your case, and getting full and fair compensation under the protections provided by the Jones Act. To find out more about how we can help you, contact us today.