If you are injured while working aboard a vessel, a barge or other floating structure you are covered by the Federal Jones Act or General Maritime Law, entitled to serious injury damages including pain, suffering and lost wages. You are not a State Workers’ Compensation worker entitled to only limited benefits. I have represented maritime workers for over 30 years and successfully pursued cases to trial and through the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Vessel owners are vigorous in defending these cases and frequently hire attorneys and experts to investigate and photograph the scene and secure witness statements immediately. Our immediate involvement and investigation is critical to your case. Our firm had the experience and dedication to fight these vessel owners and insurance companies to secure you a fair and reasonable settlement or take your case to trial to pursue your rights.
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The Jones Act is a law enacted by Congress that provides protection to persons who are members of the crew of a vessel. This law applies to inland river workers as well as offshore workers who work on jackups, semi-submersibles, lay barges, drill ships or other floating, movable structures, tugs/towboats, crew boats, tankers, cargo ships, fishing vessels, chemical ships, research vessels, diving vessels and cruise and recreational ships.
If injured, there are a few very important steps that you must take in order to protect your legal rights to recovery under the Jones Act in the future. These are as follows:
Get co-workers to write a statement as to what the conditions were at the time of the accident.
The Jones Act is an Act of Congress, which governs the liability of vessel operators and marine employers for the work-related injury or death of an employee. It is a federal cause of action, meaning that the United States Congress intended for all seamen's injuries throughout the nation to be guided by the same liability standards. Although the Jones Act protects seamen, it is not the same as workers' compensation. It does not require payment regardless of fault. In order for a worker to recover under Jones Act, a worker must prove some negligence or fault on the part of the vessel's owners, operators, officers, and/or fellow employees, or by reason of any defect in the vessel, its gear, tackle, or equipment. The Jones Act provides an injured seaman a remedy against his or her employers for injuries arising from negligent acts of the employer or co-workers during the course of employment on a vessel. This means that the employer must do something unreasonable or fail to perform a reasonable act that would have prevented injury in order for the seaman to win his claim. Claims brought under the Jones Act can also raise claims against a vessel's owner that a vessel was unseaworthy.
The Statute of Limitations in a Jones Act case is generally three (3) years from the date of the injury. There are exceptions to this general rule, however such as a seaman assigned to a vessel owned, operated, or contracted by the United States government. Actions against the vessel owner for unseaworthiness, must also be brought within three (3) years from the date of the seaman's injury.
One of the central questions in any maritime injury case is whether the injured party is a seaman, since only a seaman can recover under the Jones Act. A seaman is a member of the crew of a vessel or someone who is assigned to a vessel or a fleet of vessels. For example, those who work on tankers, freighters, jack-up rigs, semi-submersibles, towboats/tugs, supply boats, crew boats, barges, lay barges, and fishing vessels are members of the crew and are considered seamen. Those who are crewmembers on movable or jack-up drilling rigs are seamen. Longshoremen, pilots, and those who work on fixed platforms are not seamen, but have other maritime remedies available for injuries. Often there is a dispute as to seaman status and whether the seaman was working on a vessel when he was injured. It is very important to allow the maritime attorney to study the facts surrounding the accident and the "vessel" to help make the determination of seaman status. The essential requirements for seaman status are:
Barge repair workers who are injured receive compensation and medical benefits under the Longshore Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.