Jones Act/Maritime Law

The Jones Act, 46 USC sec 688 is a federal law enacted by Congress after recognizing that an injured seaman had no cause of action against the vessel or his employer for injuries caused by the negligence of a fellow seaman or his employer. The Jones Act thus applies to persons who suffer injuries while working on tug boats, freighters, tankers, cruise ships, river barges, fishing vessels etc. The Jones Act requires a seaman’s employer comply with safety statutes and provide a reasonably safe place to work. This means an employer is liable for its own negligence and the acts of its employees that cause injury. A relaxed burden of proof applies to these cases such that the vessel owner will be liable for damages when the employer’s negligence plays, “any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury or death for which damages are sought.” Damages recoverable under the Jones Act include past, present and future pain and suffering, medical expenses, wage loss, compensation for disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, etc.

Maintenance, Cure and Unearned Wages

Every seaman who becomes sick or injured during his employment, regardless of any fault of the owner or operator, is entitled to maintenance, cure and unearned wages as a matter of right. “Maintenance” is the seaman’s reasonable expenses of room and board while ashore, until the seaman is fit for duty or until maximum benefit of treatment is reached. “Cure” is the reasonable medical expenses incurred by the seaman for curative treatment. “Unearned wages” are wages the seaman would have received if he had not become sick or injured, to the end of the voyage.

Maritime Law and Jones Act cases can be quite complex. Numerous legal issues often arise including whether an injured worker is even covered by the Jones Act. For these reasons, you need to contact a Jones Act lawyer as soon as you can after suffering an injury. Your employer most likely will not give you the information you need regarding your rights and remedies. In addition, there are often deadlines that apply which may prevent you from bringing your claim if they are not met. For these reasons, it is important that you find an attorney well versed in this complex area of the law. Contact the Davis Law Center for a free consultation.

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