In nearly all situations, individuals who are hurt on the job can file for workers’ compensation, except for seamen, or maritime workers. Individuals who work primarily on a boat or other vessel are considered seamen and have different legal rights when it comes to work-related injuries. Those who work on land can file for workers’ compensation, while seamen are not entitled to do so. Instead, seamen who are injured on the job can sue their employers for damages through a personal injury lawsuit.
In order to be considered a seamen, an individual must perform the majority of his/her work onboard a water-based vessel. If maritime workers get injured on the job, the Jones Act allows them to sue their employers for negligence. For a lawsuit to be successful, the injured employee must be able to prove that his/her employer was negligent and that the injuries were directly caused by the employer’s negligence.
The Jones Act is an extremely beneficial law for maritime workers because it places substantial responsibility on maritime employers to ensure safe working conditions for crew members. The list below outlines some of the responsibilities that maritime employers have regarding worker safety. If not fulfilled, employers could be held liable if an employee gets injured:
1. Grease or other slippery substances on deck must be maintained
2. Equipment must be maintained and fixed when broken.
3. Work procedures must be safe and employees must be properly trained
4. Proper equipment must be provided to allow for work to be completed safely
5. Assault from one crew member to another (employer could be liable – see below)
As number 5 above states, maritime employers could be liable for violent crew members. For example, if a crew member has shown consistent aggression to his/her coworkers, the employer has a legal duty to terminate the violent employee in order to avoid injuries to other seamen on board.
The one key difference between regular personal injury lawsuits and Jones Act lawsuits is the plaintiff’s (injured party) burden of proof. In ordinary personal injury cases, the injured party must prove that the responsible party’s negligence played a significant role in causing his/her injury. Under the Jones Act, the injured party only has to prove that the responsible party’s negligence played “any” part in his/her injury. So for injured maritime workers, they only need to prove that their employer’s negligence had at least some role in causing their injuries.
As far as damages, injured maritime workers can recover the same types of damages as any other personal injury lawsuit. These include lost wages, medical bills, emotional pain and suffering, and future earning potential.
Contact an Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured while working on a sea vessel, contact a personal injury attorney immediately. Jones Act lawsuits can be filed up to three years after an accident, however it is best to consult with an attorney as soon as the injury is sustained. The attorneys at Ingerman & Horwitz specialize in personal injury litigation and know how to get you the compensation, and justice, that you deserve.