The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act, is the foundational federal law that governs the maritime industry in the United States.
While lots of laws can be complicated and confusing, admiralty law or maritime law is in a class by itself. Maritime law has its own substantive and procedural rules that are separate and distinct from common law and it takes years to master its nuances. However, it has some basic concepts as well.
Here are 3 things that you should know about the Jones Act.
- Only a Seaman Can Sue His Employer for Injuries Under the Jones Act, But the Jones Act Does not Define Who is a “Seaman.”
Historically, seafarers had no common law right to sue their employer for negligence. If injured or taken ill, seafarers were entitled to such things as maintenance, cure, and unearned wages, but they could not bring an action to recover for their damages.
Then in 1920, Congress passed the Jones Act (The Merchant Marine Act of 1920) to fill in that gap. The Jones Act gave seafarers the right to sue their employers for damages caused by the employer’s negligence.
But what Congress did not do in the Jones Act, was define what the term “seaman.” Instead, it was left it up to the federal courts to decide who is a “seaman” entitled to the protection of the law.
So the first thing you need to know about the Jones Act is that you must qualify as a “seaman” in order to be eligible to file a Jones Act claim.
Over the years, the courts have developed through case law, a number of tests and ways of deciding whether a person is a “seaman” for purposes of the Jones Act.
- The Standard of Proof is Low.
The Jones Act is an employee-friendly law. Unlike many negligence statutes, to recover for work-related injuries caused by the ship’s owner, officers, or fellow crew-members under the Jones Act, you do not need to prove that your employer was negligent.
Instead, all a qualifying seaman who is injured on a qualified vessel (for more details on this please contact counsel) must show is that his employer’s negligence contributed to his/her injury. In other words, even if you were largely at fault for your own injuries, if you can show that your employer’s negligence was a contributing factor, you may recover under the Jones Act.
- There are Deadlines You Must Meet.
If you are a qualified seaman and are injured on the job as a result of the negligence of the vessel’s owner, officers, employer, or a fellow mariner, you need to file a Jones Act claim in order to recover for your injuries.
You only have 7 days to report your injury to the captain, employer, or the senior officer aboard so do it immediately. Also, make sure the captain enters the incident in the ship’s log. Finally, be aware that the captain or senior officer aboard must also file a Report of Marine Accident, Injury, or Death (CG-2692) form regarding your accident.
In most instances, your company will require you to fill out a written accident report. Do so as soon as you can (but not if you are on medication). You should contact qualified maritime counsel for further guidance on your claim and insurance company requests for a statement.
The other deadline you must keep in mind is the statute of limitations. All civil claims have a statute of limitations which serves as a “drop-dead date” for you to file your case. If you do not file your action within the required timeframe (in this case, within 3 years of the date of injury) your claim will be barred.
If you are injured while working at sea, you deserve to be compensated. Don’t neglect this important fact by failing to get proper medical attention, filing a report immediately, and contacting counsel to assist you with your Jones Act claim.
If You Need Help, We Can Help.
At the Day Law Group, we handle maritime industry claims, personal injury actions and worker’s compensation claims. Our passion is helping people who have been wrongfully injured. We offer FREE consultations and in most cases (not in cases covered by the Longshoreman Act) we don’t get paid unless you win your case. We have offices in Baton Rouge and we serve all of Southern Louisiana. Call (225) 465-1232 ToDay to schedule your free consultation or contact us here.