A Florida Jones Act Lawsuit helps injured crew members or seamen, who aren’t entitled to regular state or federal workers’ compensation benefits. A successful claim may help the injured party recover lost wages, provide for maintenance and cure by paying for housing, utilities, certain taxes and insurance, and food. A Florida maritime lawyer can determine if you are eligible for legal remedies under the Jones Act.
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a federal negligence statute originally passed by Congress in the 1920’s. It was designed to protect the rights of seamen who became ill or injured while working aboard a seafaring vessel. Unlike land-based employees, seamen are ineligible for standard workers’ compensation benefits. Under this maritime law, an injured seaman is allowed to sue the employer for negligence as well as maintenance and cure.
Who is Deemed a Seaman Under the Jones Act?
Over the years the courts have given the designation of “seaman” to any employee of a vessel in navigation, who spends a “significant amount of time” contributing to the vessel’s function.
The type of vessel to which you are assigned is not important as long as it is capable of being in navigation and is afloat in navigable waters. The term “vessel” can be given to any of the following.
- Cruise ship
- Drillship or mobile drilling unit
- Cargo ship
- Shrimp or fishing boat
- Jack-up rig or semi-submersible rig
As long as you meet the basic requirements to be called a seaman, your job on the vessel doesn’t matter. Common jobs include:
- Food service
- Maintenance and housekeeping
Types of Jones Act Claims
From the captain’s team, entertainers, food service, and maintenance, each has a unique set of tasks, challenges, and risks that may lead to myriad injuries.
All crew members are susceptible to acute injuries. Most commonly, these injuries occur because of poor or inadequate training, improper safety practices, and faulty ship equipment. Claims for lost wages may be a factor if the affected crew member is able to substantiate negligence by their employer, supervisor, or a co-worker. Due to the fact that crew members live where they work, becoming sick with common illness is another factor. When the care received is not appropriate or is inadequate, there may be a case for a negligence claim under the Jones Act.
Other issues may arise from psychological stress that is unique to this industry. It’s also important to factor in events like crime aboard the ship and how that may impact the crew.
Slips and Falls
This type of injury runs the gamut from minor to severe. It includes everything from contusions, back injury, sprains, and life-threatening head injuries. Because of the nature of crew work, injuries in this category are very common in the workplace, affecting everyone from the maintenance and janitorial staff to food service employees. When there are unsafe decks, stairs, or floors, all workers are at greater risk.
Crew Members Suffer Cumulative Stress Injuries
Many long-time crew members suffer injury upon injury without even knowing it. In fact, this is so common, those in the industry gave it a name: Cumulative Trauma Disorder or CTD. After years of repetitive motion and heavy lifting, crew members injure and reinjure weight-bearing joints like knees, elbows, ankles, shoulders, and spine. These injuries may present as arthritis or degenerative joint conditions.
How the Jones Act Protects Crew Members Injured On the Job
In his 2016 book, “Occupational Risk Control: Predicting and Preventing the Unwanted,” Derek Viner takes a critical look at the maritime industry and its record of safety including the incidence of workplace injuries. According to Viner, most ship workplace injuries could be prevented and are often the result of the negligence by an employer, fellow worker, or third party. If you’ve suffered any injuries while working as a crew member, you are protected under a maritime law called the Jones Act.
In addition to ensuring workplace safety standards are met, the Jones Act ensures that the seaman can hold a corporation for which they work liable in case of workplace injury —if negligence is involved. The injured crew may also qualify for maintenance and cure, a benefit which provides compensation similar to workers’ compensation. In addition to filing an offshore lawsuit, there are cases, wherein injured workers have the option to file personal injury lawsuits against a third-party who was the cause of their injury.
Are Crew Members Protected by the Jones Act if Injured While Docked?
Most people aren’t aware that a crew member doesn’t need to be aboard a ship that at sea to be considered a seafarer. In most cases, if an injury occurs while working aboard the ship, the worker will be covered under the Jones Act.
However, it does get a little tricky depending on where the vessel is docked. If the ship that is docked at a U.S. port or a port with certain relations to the U.S. the injured crew member could have a viable claim under the Jones Act.
Under limited circumstances, a crew member may even file a Jones Act Lawsuit if they were injured while disembarked. This commonly occurs when the crew member is performing a service for their employer when the off-board injury occurred.
Do You Have an Off-Shore Lawsuit?
Often crew members think their injuries don’t meet the standards and instead forgo their rightfully entitled compensation. Because of the intricacy of the Jones Act, it’s important that an injured crew member consults with a Florida Jones Act lawyer to determine if filing an off-shore lawsuit is advisable.
Your Time May Be Limited to File a Jones Act Claim
Due to the statute of limitations for filing a Jones Act Lawsuit, you only have a limited time to respond. For more information on filing an offshore lawsuit, connect with Attorney Group for Florida today. After we receive your contact information, an attorney will be in touch to answer any questions you may have. All the information you provide to Attorney Group is confidential.