"If you have been seriously injured working on a vessel at sea, the Jones Act and maritime law can help you recover by providing maintenance (medical payments) and cure (lost time from work), as well as recovery for pain and suffering, physical impairment, and mental anguish. I have successfully represented injured clients in Jones Act cases and I can help you."
Sheadyn R Rogers, President of Rogers Law Firm
Sailor Personal Injury / Jones Act Overview
Sailors and seamen are considered the working lifeblood of any vessel or ship, with a job description comprised of an extensive variety of tasks. Due to the demanding nature of their work, the potential for injury is significant. Injuries may range from minor lacerations, abrasions, and bruises to major and even life-threatening ones.
Unlike other workers, sailors injured during the course of their employment are not entitled to file for worker’s compensation against their employers according to federal and state law. However, the Jones Act is available to help seaman who are injured during the course and scope of employment.
There are several types of accidents that occur at sea or in navigable waters. Please click below to learn more about these various types of accidents:
In addition, please click below to learn more about maintenance and cure, the Limitation of Liability Act, and Unseaworthiness accidents and claims:
The Jones Act and Sailors’ Rights
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act, is a U.S. federal statute that provides for both the promotion and preservation of the U.S. merchant marine. It defines the legal rights of sailors who are either injured or killed in the course of maritime service.
Part of the Jones Act establishes certain protections for sailors, creating a system of benefits for those who are injured or who have died as a result of the negligence of the owner, captain, or the vessel’s crewmembers while in the course of their service.
An employer may be held liable for a sailor’s injury or death if they failed to maintain and keep the workplace or vessel in safe condition, as well as provide a reasonably secure place of work for their employees. In order for the injured sailor to sue for damages under the Jones Act, he or she simply has to prove that there was negligence on the part of the employer or fellow sailor on the same vessel that created a dangerous or hazardous condition that lead to the injury.
Similar to other personal injury claims, the injured sailor is entitled to receive both economic and non-economic damages that cover past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. The injured sailor also has the right to a trial by jury. Sailors have three years to file a lawsuit with respect to an injury claim.
Under the Jones Act, all individuals who spend a minimum of 30 percent of their time in active service on a merchant marine vessel are considered a "seaman" and therefore are entitled to receive benefits. This law does not cover shipbuilders and dockworkers.
The law expressly states that it applies only to “seamen”, but does not provide a definition of the term. Federal courts have interpreted the term to refer to a person assigned to a fleet or vessel that operates in navigable waters who performs work related to the vessel’s purpose.
At present, the Jones Act applies to inland river workers, as well as sailors and seamen who work on barges, drill ships, cruise ships, recreational boats, towboats, rigs, semi-submersible ships, cargo shops, floating cranes, fishing vessels, dredges, and tankers.
Before the Jones Act
Before the legislation was passed in 1920, sailors’ rights were limited—primarily due to old-fashioned court opinions and legal concepts that favored and protected employers. Therefore, they had very few options in terms of recovering damages and receiving assistance if they were physically injured on the job.
If a sailor sustained injuries due to the negligence of the shipmaster, captain, or a fellow sailor, maritime law only entitled the injured sailor to receive “maintenance and cure”—or contractual compensation that provided a living allowance for medical expenses, lodging, and food. A sailor could only recover damages from his or her employer if it could be proven that his or her sickness or injury was work-related.
Causes of Sailor Injuries
Working at sea comes with inherent risks and dangers. Common causes of maritime injuries include falling overboard, sailor fatigue, lifting heavy items, overuse injuries, pushing or pulling heavy items, resurfacing too quickly, coming in contact with toxins, being trapped or struck by moving objects, and slips, trips, and falls.
Common Sailor Injuries
The severity of a maritime injury is dependent on the unique circumstances of the accident, including the force of impact, vessel size and type, and speed of travel. Some of the more common sailor injuries include fractures, loss of limbs, neck and back injuries, wrist injuries, traumatic brain injuries, concussions, internal damage, puncture wounds, lacerations, frostbite, drowning, and hypothermia.
If you are a sailor/seaman who has suffered serious injury during the course and scope of employment, the Jones Act and maritime law are available to you to help you recover. Please feel free to call Corpus Christi Tx Jones Act and maritime lawyer Sheadyn R Rogers of Rogers Law Firm at (361) 356-6057 or fill out the law firm's online consultation request form for a free consultation concerning your case.