The Jones Act, Crew Member’s Personal Injury Claims

Working on ships can be difficult because any treatment for injuries can be stalled because of limited resources. For those crew members who have been injured while working on ships, they can file for personal injury claims through the Jones Act. The Jones Act, better known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a statute in the United States providing the promotion and preservation of a US merchant marine.

Generally, the Jones Act provides protection for sailors who are injured or have died due to negligence of the owner, a master or a fellow sailor of the same vessel, while they are on the course of their service. Through this act, the injured sailors or their survivors have the right to file a lawsuit against their employers so long as the negligent conduct of their employers or fellow sailors are the reason for the injuries (through illogical carelessness) and the injured sailor has the right for trial by jury.

The Jones Act is a very important and vital part of maritime law, particularly for sailors, because those who are injured during their employment are not allowed to file for worker’s compensation or worker’s comp claims versus their employers since they are not entitled for it according to state and federal law. Also, in order for a sailor to be covered by the Jones Act, they should be working more than 30 percent of the time employed as a crew member. Dock workers, along with shipbuilders, are not covered by the Jones Law.

An employer can be held liable for injuries or death under the Jones Act if they have not complied with providing a reasonably secure place of work as well as failing to maintain and keep the vessel (or workplace) is a safe condition. Because the Jones Act is an employee-friendly law, it is easier to prove negligence and causation. All the injured sailor has to do is prove there is negligence that created a dangerous condition that subsequently led to injury.

Just as with any personal injury claims, an injured sailor is entitled to damages that cover medical bills (both past and future expenses), lost earnings, mental anguish, and pain and suffering. Sailors should be aware that they have three years to file for an injury, otherwise it would be more beneficial to contact a lawyer who specializes in maritime law.

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