Exploring the History of the Jones Act

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Skilled New Orleans Personal Injury Lawyer Explains the Jones Act

Various laws focus on maritime acts, but a popularly known law is the Jones Act. The Jones Act was passed by Congress at the end of the Prohibition Era and was known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.

Under this federal statute, maritime commerce is more regulated in United States waters and ports owned by the U.S.

One part of this Act ensures that seamen injured during the regular course of employment can sue their employer for their injury damages. This portion of the Act is critical, because seamen are not entitled to workers’ compensation like other injured employees, and the only benefit they can receive for their work-related injuries comes from the protections under the Jones Act.

The Jones Act is a complicated statute, but today we focus on the portions that protect injured workers, the importance of the Act, and definitions that play a pivotal role in determining whether you can receive compensation.

The Jones Act Protects “Seamen” and How It Applies to New Orleans Workers

Under the Jones Act, you receive protections if you are classified as a “seaman.” A seaman is typically a crewmember or captain that performs their work on a vessel. To qualify under the “seaman” category, you must spend 30 percent of your work time on a vessel.

Furthermore, the vessel must be in navigation.

What Is a “Vessel in Navigation?”

A vessel in navigation is a legal term that means the boat must be in operation, capable of movement, afloat, and works on navigable waters. Realize that the ship does not have to be moving or at sea for a person to be considered a seaman. If the vessel can move at any given point, it is a vessel in navigation. Therefore, a worker would be able to receive compensation even if they were injured on a boat that was sitting at a dock.

Conversely, if that vessel is out of water at the time of the injury, such as dry docked, then the ship does not qualify.

Navigable Waters – What Qualifies

Navigable waters is a legal term that refers to waterways used for interstate or foreign commerce. While this typically involves open seas, it can also include landlocked lakes if they enter or extend into another state.

Examples of Vessels Not in Navigation

To help clarify what qualifies as a vessel in navigation, here are a few examples of what would not be eligible:

  • Oil Drilling Platforms – An oil platform that is afloat or permanently anchored to the ocean’s floor is not a vessel in navigation – regardless of how far away from land it might be.
  • Vessels Under Trial – A ship recently constructed that is still going through a sea trial may not qualify because it is not in commercial operation until delivered to its customer.
  • Casino Barges – Most casino barges do not sail around in the ocean, and many are afloat, but anchored. Sometimes casino barges qualify, but it is best to speak with an attorney and see if your injury on a casino barge qualifies you for compensation.

How the Jones Act Helps Injured Workers

Under the Jones Act, an injured seaman can sue their employer for negligence. However, you must show that the employer, owner, captain, or a crew member on that vessel was negligent and that their negligence contributed to your injuries.

How the Jones Act Defines “Negligence”

To qualify for protection under the Jones Act, once you have established that you are a seaman, an employer must:

  • Give you a reasonably safe place to work, and
  • Provide you with reasonable care and maintain the vessel where you work.

The Jones Act is employee-friendly, and it forces employers to take extra caution to ensure that their vessels and working conditions are adequate for their employees. Employers can be held liable under the Jones Act for a variety of negligent acts, including:

  • Slip and falls from grease or oil on the deck
  • Broken equipment
  • Poorly maintained equipment
  • Failing to provide employees with materials needed to perform their job safely
  • Failing to train employees
  • Providing unsafe working conditions or implementing hazardous working methods
  • Assaults that occur by co-workers or the captain
  • Negligent acts by crewmembers, captains, and third-party vendors on the vessel

The Jones Act Carries Lower Burden of Proof

In a typical injury case, the plaintiff carries a heavy burden to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the cause of their injury. In these cases, the plaintiff would have to show that the defendant’s negligence was the main reason for the plaintiff’s injury.

Under the Jones Act, the plaintiff does not carry the same burden. Instead, they only must show that the defendant’s negligence played some part in their injury – even if there were a few other causes at play. If the employer or defendant plays any role, then they will be liable under the Jones Act.

What Damages Does the Jones Act Provide?

In a Jones Act-level claim, the plaintiff would receive the same types of damages that they would receive in a personal injury case, including medical expenses, lost earnings, loss of earning capacity, future medical costs, pain, suffering, and mental trauma.

How Does a Seaman File a Jones Act Lawsuit?

To file a lawsuit under the Jones Act, you need to hire a maritime injury attorney. An attorney will review your case and determine if you qualify for compensation under the Jones Act. Even if you do not, your line of work will likely be eligible for another state or federal protection – allowing you to receive compensation for your work-related injury.

Contact a Trusted New Orleans Personal Injury Attorney

As a seaman, you work long hours away from family, friends, and home. If you suffer an injury on the job, you deserve compensation for that injury. To explore your options, contact the Shlosman Law Firm. Attorney Thomas W. Shlosman has been focusing on personal injury for state and federal courts, and he knows how complicated injuries can be when they occur on a vessel.

Schedule a free case evaluation today at 504-826-9427 or request a no-obligation consultation online.