Brian White | January 24, 2022 | Jones Act
Individuals whose jobs require them to work on navigable waterways and platforms or structures out in the ocean face risks that other workers do not face. Therefore, laws have been enacted to provide special legal protection in the case of maritime injuries and accidents. Jones Act attorneys understand these laws and help victims of maritime accidents receive the compensation they deserve.
What is Maritime Law?
Rhodian Sea Law, written sometime between 600 and 800 A.D., may be the first known reference to maritime or admiralty law. Admiralty courts in England handled matters related to maritime injuries. The United States developed similar admiralty laws as maritime cases were heard.
The United States Constitution states that judicial power extends to all cases, including cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. Early U.S. Supreme Court decisions gave federal courts jurisdiction over injury lawsuits involving passenger injuries, ship collisions, and damage to cargo.
By the mid-1800s, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that maritime jurisdiction applied to cases arising on all navigable waters, even those bodies of waters contained within a state’s borders. With the addition of the Jones Act in 1920, Congress ensured that seaman and other maritime workers injured on the job could sue to recover compensation for damages.
What is the Jones Act, and How Does it Apply in Injury Cases?
Before the Jones Act, seaman did not have a legal cause of action to recover compensation for injuries caused by their employers or fellow crew members.
However, a provision of the Jones Act gives maritime workers the right to sue their employers for negligence. This right applies to maritime accidents occurring at sea or on navigable waters anywhere within the United States.
The Jones Act had another important effect on admiralty law in the United States. It gives the seaman the right to choose a jury trial or trial without a jury. Until the passage of the Jones Act, seamen who filed lawsuits seeking damages did not have the right to a jury trial.
Jones Act lawsuits may be filed in federal and state courts. Therefore, most maritime workers can file in state court rather than federal court. A maritime injury lawyer can evaluate your case to determine whether filing in federal or state court provides the most advantages.
What Types of Cases Can Be Filed Under the Jones Act?
Seaman and offshore workers face numerous risks. The injuries they may incur while working on watercraft can result in permanent disabilities and life-threatening conditions. Catastrophic injuries, including brain damage, paralysis, and amputations, are common offshore injuries.
The Jones Act covers a wide variety of maritime injury claims. Examples of vessels that the Jones Act would cover include, but are not limited to:
- Cruise ships
- Crew boats
- Jack-up rigs
- Oceangoing vessels
- Pile drivers
The Jones Act applies to almost anyone who works on an ocean or water vessel. That means that deckhands, captains, drillers, tankermen, mates, pilots, roughnecks, and almost anyone who works in maritime and offshore jobs can file a Jones Act claim. It applies to industries including dredging, fishery, cruise lines, barges, oil fields, canning, shrimping, and other offshore jobs.
How is the Jones Act Different From Workers Compensation?
Even though Jones Act claims may be filed in state court, it is federal law. Workers’ compensation laws are enacted by states. Both laws provide workers with compensation for on-the-job injuries. However, several differences in the Jones Act benefit injured seaman and maritime workers.
For example, you can receive compensation for non-economic damages under a Jones Act claim. Workers’ compensation does compensate injured workers for pain and suffering. Non-economic damages include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Decreased quality of life
Furthermore, workers’ compensation does not compensate injured workers in full for all lost wages, future loss of income, loss of earning potential, and permanent impairments. Under a Jones Act claim, an injured seaman can recover substantially more money than under a workers’ compensation claim.
There is a drawback. Under workers’ compensation laws, employees cannot sue their employers for work-related injuries. However, an injured seaman can sue his employer to recover compensation under the Jones Act.
However, the seaman must prove his injuries were caused by negligence or an unseaworthy condition. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. Therefore, an injured worker does not need to prove negligence and fault to receive workers’ comp benefits.
Furthermore, under contributory fault laws, the compensation for damages could be reduced by the seaman’s percentage of fault for causing his injury. In some cases, if the seaman is over 51 percent at fault, the seaman would receive no money for his claim.
Before filing a Jones Act claim, it is in your best interest to seek legal advice from an experienced Jones Act lawyer. Maritime claims are complicated injury cases that require a specific level of skill and knowledge. Therefore, it is wise to understand and weigh all options for recovering compensation for a maritime injury.
Contact the Houston Jones Act Lawyers at Attorney Brian White Personal Injury Lawyers For Help
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