Jones Act Maritime Lawyers

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The Jones Act provides an injured seaman a remedy against employers for injuries arising from negligent acts of the employer or co-workers during the course of employment on a vessel. Claims brought under the Jones Act can also raise claims against a vessel's owner that a vessel was unseaworthy. If a seaman dies, a wrongful death claim may be based on the Jones Act, general maritime law, or on a separate federal statute, the Death on the High Seas Act.

About the Jones Act

The Jones Act is a federal law that provides remedies to seamen who are injured while working on a vessel. The Jones Act extends the provisions of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), a statute that provides remedies for injured workers, to provide similar remedies for seamen. As a result, an injured seaman can recover damages from the employer when an employer or a co-worker's negligence causes an injury. The Jones Act applies only to seamen, which are persons with an employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation and who contribute to the vessel's function or mission; that is, persons who do the ship's work. A person whose work is covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act may be treated as a Jones Act seaman in some cases. A lawyer can help figure out whether someone is a seaman for purposes of the act.

The Jones Act applies to negligence claims against a seaman's employer when the employee is injured or killed during the course of employment.

Seaman may be protected by the Jones Act even if they are not working on a vessel. If a seaman is injured while working temporarily elsewhere, the Act may still apply. However, if the temporary assignment is not "in the service of the ship" when he was injured, the act may not apply.

Failing to provide a safe place to work can give rise to a Jones Act claim, if the unsafe place is the vessel or if it is another place under the employer's control. An unseaworthiness claim also may be pursued If the employer is also the owner of the vessel, and the injury is caused by an unsafe condition on the vessel. An employer also can be liable if there is a violation of a safety statute which is the cause of the injury. An employer can also be liable for failing to provide adequate medical care.

The Jones Act also holds an employer liable for the negligence of other employees or individuals for which the employer is responsible, including the negligence of the seaman's co-workers during the scope of their employment. An independent contractor can sometimes be viewed as an employee under the Jones Act.

The employer must attempt to rescue or search for a seaman if he jumps or falls overboard for as long as it is feasible that the seaman could be alive in the water. Failure to do so can result in liability under the Act.

An employer owes a seaman a higher duty of care under the Jones Act than an ordinary negligence case, and the employer can be liable if its breach of that duty, no matter how small, contributed in any way to causing the seaman's injury. Although a seaman contributed to causing his own injury, the employer's liability may be reduced. Even if the seaman assumed the risk of injury by intentionally proceeding with a dangerous activity aware of the risks- this will not reduce the amount of compensation under the Act.

A Jones Act claim must generally be brought within three years of the injury. The claim can be filed as an admiralty claim either in federal court or state court, or as a "law" claim in federal court. A lawyer should decide where to file the claim as this choice can affect the amount of the recovery.

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