If you work on land and are injured during the course of your employment, in exchange for waiving your right to sue your employer for negligence, you can recover for your lost wages and medical expenses through the workers’ compensation provided by your employer.
State workers’ compensation statutes are intended to eliminate the need for litigation, by having the employee give up his/her potential claim for pain-and-suffering awards, in exchange for not having to prove that his/her employer was negligent.
But, what if you don’t have a land-based job? What if you work in Louisiana’s maritime industry?
Then you will need to look to federal and maritime law for compensation for your injuries.
Which Law Applies to You?
If you are a longshoreman, harbor worker, or someone who works “near” the water but not “on” it, like most people who work on the docks, in shipping terminals or shipyards, the law that we are going to discuss in today’s post, does not apply to you.
You will want to speak to experienced maritime counsel because you will need to proceed under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
The law we are looking at today, the Jones Act, applies only to qualified seamen who work onboard a “vessel” (i.e., ship).
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is the fundamental law of the U.S. maritime industry. It focuses on issues related to maritime commerce, including the transport of people or goods between ports in the same country (referred to as “cabotage”). The Jones Act also provides the means by which sailors can seek damages from the crew, captain, or ship owner if they are injured while working.
Named after Senator Wesley Jones who introduced it, the Jones Act is a federal statute. It introduced a law to fill in a gap in the admiralty law to allow seamen who are taken ill or are injured while working at sea, to sue for personal injury damages. Injured seamen are not entitled to workers’ compensation under either state or federal law. This means that the only compensation injured seamen are legally entitled to receive is through the Jones Act and the general maritime law.
How Does it Work?
The Jones Act allows an injured seaman to file a lawsuit against his employer for negligence. An employer can be held liable for a number of unsafe conditions on board the vessel, as well as for the negligence of other crew members or even assault by a co-worker.
While a very employee-friendly law, the Jones Act nevertheless has some strict requirements. For example, who qualifies as a “seaman” is not so easy to figure out. Generally, a “seaman” is a person who spends a “significant amount of his/her time” working as a crewmember or a captain on a “vessel “(almost any kind of ship or boat) that is considered “in navigation.”
This may sound simple enough, but each one of these words or phrases— “seaman”, “significant amount of time”, “vessel”, and “in navigation”—have a specific legal meaning. This is why the issue of whether a person qualifies as a “seaman” under the Jones Act is frequently a hotly debated question. If you were injured at work and think you might qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, you should contact maritime counsel as soon as possible.
At the Day Law Group, we work hard to get you the compensation you deserve. If you were injured while working on a ship but are not sure if you qualify as a “seaman” under the Jones Act, call us. We offer free consultations and we can help. Contact us ToDay or call (225) 465-1232.