The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, provides legal rights for qualified workers against their employer, who become injured while working aboard a vessel on the open seas, inland waterways, or while in the service of a vessel. If you have suffered an illness or injury while working aboard a vessel or floating structure, or while in the service of a vessel, you may be entitled to compensation under this and other maritime laws.
Maintenance and Cure Benefits
Most injured seamen qualify for maintenance (living expenses, such as rent, food, utilities, etc.) and care (medical expenses) benefits under the Jones Act. They are similar to worker’s compensation benefits. You do not have to show employer negligence in order to collect benefits.
Common Jones Act Claims
The Jones Act covers a wide range of accidents that maritime and offshore workers suffer. Some of the most common are accidents caused by:
- The negligent operation of a vessel by its captain or crew
- Ship, bridge, and dock collisions
- Unsafe loading and unloading procedures
- Defective equipment
- Running aground
- Slip and falls
- Fires and explosions
- Exposure to hazardous materials
- Supply and transfer vessel mishaps
- Lack of safety equipment and training
- Falling overboard
- Negligent or intentional violations of federal maritime regulations
- Decompression illness (the “bends”)
Who Qualifies for Protection Under the Jones Act?
Not every maritime worker is covered under the Jones Act. In order to qualify for Jones Act protections, you must be a seaman. What is the definition of a seaman under the Jones Act? Generally, a seaman is a worker assigned to work on a vessel in navigation and whose job contributes to the mission of the vessel and involves sea-based or seagoing activity.
A vessel can be a cargo vessel, a fishing boat, river barge, cruise ship, tanker, freighter, tugboat, etc. A vessel “in navigation” is one that is afloat and in or capable of operation on navigable waters. Navigable waters include the open sea as well as inland waterways such as lakes, rivers, and canals. Offshore drilling platforms, dredges, floating work platforms, jack-up rigs, semi-submersible rigs, etc. are also considered to be vessels under the Jones Act.
You May Be Protected Under Other Maritime Laws
If you are an injured maritime worker who isn’t covered by the Jones Act, you may still be entitled to compensation under other maritime laws. For instance, if you work at a port facility and became injured while unloading or loading a vessel, you may qualify for benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA). Oil rig workers who don’t qualify for Jones Act benefits could be covered under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA). The maritime injury attorneys at Lewis, Kullman, Sterbcow & Abramson, LLC can help you determine which maritime laws apply in your case.
Speak to a Maritime Lawyer Without Delay
Working on a vessel is a dangerous job where even a minor mistake can result in disaster. If you have been seriously injured or lost a loved one due to the unseaworthy condition of a vessel or while working aboard or in service of a vessel, contact the Maritime lawyers at Lewis, Kullman, Sterbcow & Abramson, LLC without delay. There are deadlines for filing a Jones Act or maritime personal injury lawsuit; if you wait too long, the courts may refuse to hear your case.
The New Orleans-based maritime attorneys at Lewis, Kullman, Sterbcow & Abramson, LLC have played a critical role in many important maritime cases in the last 40 years — including those that defined the requirements for a person and a vessel to be governed by the Jones Act.
You can contact the law offices of Lewis, Kullman, Sterbcow & Abramson, LLC through our website, or call us at (504) 588-1500 to schedule a free initial consultation with a leading Jones Act attorney. We are headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana, but serve clients all over the Gulf Coast and the U.S.