If you’re a seaman by trade, it’s important to understand the basics of the law for Jones Act claims. This is especially true if you may need the assistance of a Houston Jones Act claims attorney.

What is the Jones Act?

It’s a federal law that enables seamen who sustain injuries in the course of their duties to sue their employer for personal injury damages. The Jones Act is a necessary statute because seamen do not have access to worker’s compensation benefits if they get hurt on the job. Because of this, if a seaman sustains an injury on the job, the only compensation they can legally receive is through the Jones Act. Jones Act cases can be complex, and require an attorney experienced in Jones Act claims and in general maritime law.

What Does the Jones Act Do?

The Jones Act allows an injured seaman to sue their employer for negligence. To recover damages through the Jones Act, the seaman has to prove that the owner, captain, and/or crew of the vessel in question were negligent. They must also prove that the negligence was a cause of the seaman’s injury.
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What is a Seaman?

Under the Jones Act, a seaman is anyone who performs a significant amount of work on a seafaring vessel (a vessel being any kind of ship or boat). 

Any part-time seaman must spend at least 30% of their time working on a vessel in order to qualify under the Jones Act.

Who does and does not qualify as a seaman is a highly complex part of maritime law. For this reason, if you sustain an injury while working aboard a seafaring vessel, it’s important to contact an attorney to see if you qualify under the Jones Act.  

What is Negligence Under the Jones Act?

The Jones Act requires a seaman’s employer to:

  • Provide the seaman with a reasonably safe place to work
  • Use ordinary care under the circumstances to maintain and keep the vessel in question in a reasonably safe condition

A maritime employer is liable to the seaman under the Jones Act for the negligence of any of their employees. This includes the seaman’s captain and coworkers. 

Does the Jones Act Protect Employees?

The Jones Act is highly employee-friendly. It places a great burden on the employer in question to provide a safe working environment for the employees. An employer can be held accountable for negligence under a Jones Act claim for unsafe conditions such as:

  • Grease or oil on the deck
  • Breakage of equipment 
  • Improperly maintained equipment 
  • The employer’s failure to provide crew members with the proper equipment for them to do their work 
  • Improper training of the seaman or of the crew in general 
  • Unsafe work methods 
  • Negligence of the seaman’s coworkers, and
  • Assault by a coworker

As you can see, the Jones Act covers a wide variety of injuries. The Jones Act even applies if a maritime employer hires, or fails to fire, a violent crewmember.  

What is the Burden of Proof Under the Jones Act?

In standard negligence cases, the plaintiff has to prove that the defendant’s negligence was a proximate cause of the injury. 

Proximate cause means the defendant played a substantial part in the plaintiff’s injury. This places most of the burden on the plaintiff to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the main cause of their injury. 

However, in a Jones Act claim, the seaman must only prove that their employer played some part in their injury, however small. There may have been four different causes of the injury, but the employee is still entitled to damages from the Jones Act employer. 

Damages Under the Jones Act 

An injured seamen is usually entitled to all the same damages one would see in an ordinary personal injury case. This includes compensation for:

  • Past lost wages
  • Future loss of earning capacity
  • Past and future medical expenses 
  • Past and future pain and suffering 
  • Past and future mental anguish      

How Do I Calculate Damages?

The amount of damages you recover from a Jones Act claim will be a combination of medical bills and other expenses, as well as wages you may have earned while you are recovering. However, as you can see, there are also potential damages that are more difficult to calculate. 

It’s impossible, really, to put a price tag on pain and suffering. For this reason, if you are seeking compensation in a third-party personal injury claim, it is essential that you have an attorney experienced in personal injury. An experienced attorney like Trey Barton can use their personal experience and knowledge of precedent to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. 

To schedule a free consultation, call 832-916-2526 or fill out the online form today!

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When the insurance company calls you, call me! The insurance company is interested in resolving your case for the smallest amount of money possible. They don’t care about you, your family, your injury, or what it will take to make you whole. They want to resolve your case before you have a chance to speak to a personal injury attorney that knows what you are entitled to recover. Act now to protect your legal rights! Contact me today for a free case evaluation.