Jones Act – Protecting the Rights of Injured Seaman and Maritime Workers

The Merchant Marine Act was adopted by the United States Congress in 1920.  The act is now commonly referred to as the Jones Act after the Congressman who was a key sponsor of the Act.  In addition to other provisions, the Jones Act provides injured sailors with the right to make claims and collect against ship owners, a ship’s captain, and crew members.

Jones Act claims may be brought in either federal or state court, and the injured seaman has the right to a trial by jury.  In order to bring a claim under the Jones Act, the injured person must be considered a “seaman,” which generally means that the injured person spends at least 30% of his or her time on a “vessel” in navigable waters.

The term “vessel” includes virtually all types of ships, including barges, tug boats, and container ships.  “Vessel” also includes platforms not usually considered ships, such as offshore drilling rigs and other types of water related platforms.

Jones Act Statute of Limitations

Similar to other types of personal  injuries, Jones Act claims must be brought within a specified time period after the injury occurs, or after the injury is first known.  If you have been injured, it’s critical to seek legal assistance immediately after you are injured, or as soon as possible after you first become aware that you may have sustained an injury due to maritime-related work.  If a lawsuit is not timely filed, the statute of limitations (the time allowed under applicable law to bring your claim) may expire.  If this happens, you will be prevented from ever bringing a claim in court.

In some instances, maritime injuries may not become apparent for many years.  Even then, a worker may suspect (but still be unsure) that the injury was caused as the result of maritime work.  Because of the statute of limitations period, a worker should call a Jones Act lawyer when the worker first suspects that he may have been injured as the result of maritime work.  Later investigation can then be done to determine the most likely cause of the injury, and in the meantime, the worker will have preserved the right to sue those who may have been responsible for causing the injury.

Maintenance and Cure

Under the Jones Act, injured maritime workers may sue for maintenance and cure.  The term “maintenance” as used in the maritime context refers to the obligation of a maritime employer to continue paying a worker during the duration of the injury when the worker is unable to work.  The concept of maintenance is intended to cover a basic level of costs that a worker is likely to incur while onshore until the worker is able to return to work.

Maintenance is required under the Jones Act regardless of fault. Thus when a maritime employee is injured, the employee will not have to prove the company is at fault in order to collect maintenance.  The amount of maintenance is not specifically defined, but usually is comprised of basic living expenses, such as rent, food, and other necessities.  Maintenance does not necessarily cover all costs of housing that may be incurred.  It is important for an injured worker to consult with a lawyer to determine what the likely permitted coverage amounts may be, as well as what other on-shore costs may or may not be covered.

The term “Cure” under the Jones Act refers to medical expenses that are incurred in treating the maritime injuries in order to “cure” the worker.  Similar to Maintenance, Cure may not necessarily cover all medical expenses, so when a maritime injury occurs, it’s important to understand what medical expenses are likely to be covered and not covered under the Jones Act.

If you’ve been injured, we know what is at stake.

  • Your future lifestyle and earnings capacity.
  • The loss of income and support to your family.

We’ll be there to help you through this difficult time and will work tirelessly to prove your case against all who may be responsible for your injuries.

Call us so that we may meet you and learn about your maritime-related injuries. We can explain how the Jones Act may apply to your injury, and your options of recovery against the companies and all others who may be responsible.  This consultation is free, and you will not be under any obligation to hire us.  If we are hired, we can advise you as to the options available to pursue recovery, and advise you as to what must be proven and to what damages you may be entitled.

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