Seaman’s Claims and The Jones Act
In 1920, the United States Congress passed the Jones Act which permitted a seamen injured in the course of his employment by the negligence of the ship owner, master, or fellow crew members to recover damages for his injuries. Prior to the Jones act proximate cause of any injury was relevant. The Congress abolished contributory negligence as a defense under the Jones act. As this act is very pro labor rights, Longshoremen where also held to be “seamen” and covered under the Jones Act as well. Seas Shipping Co. v. Sieracki, 328 U.S. 85. Moreover, the Jones Act has made it a duty on the part of ship owner to exercise reasonable care.
The Jones Act applies to inland river workers as well as offshore workers who work on a jackup rig, semi-submersible ship or rig, barge, drill ship, tug / towboat, crew boat , drill ship, dredge, floating crane, tanker, cargo ship, fishing vessel, chemical ship, research vessel, construction barge, lay barge, motorized platform, diving vessel, cruise ship, recreational boat or other floating / movable structures. The Jones Act governs the liability of vessel operators and marine employers for the work-related injury or death of an employee.
Although the Jones Act is similar to workers’ compensation, it is different in many regards and is not well understood by vessel owners and insurance companies. It does not require payment regardless of fault. In order for a worker to recover under the Jones Act, a worker must prove some negligence or fault on the part of the vessel’s owners, operators, officers, and/or fellow employees or by reason of any defect in the vessel, its gear, tackle, or equipment. The Jones Act provides an injured seaman a remedy against his or her employers for injuries arising from negligent acts of the employer or co-workers during the course of employment on a ship or vessel. This means that the employer must do something negligent or fail to perform a reasonable act that would have prevented injury in order for the seaman to win his claim. An injured worker’s maritime claim under the Jones Act can also raise claims against a vessel’s owner that a dangerous condition existed on the vessel that made the vessel unseaworthy.
There are time deadlines that apply which prevent bringing a claim if they are not met. Depending upon where the accident happened and what law applies, the deadline can be one to three years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit.
Jones Act: 46 U.S.C. Sec. 688