The Jones Act
The Jones Act provides an injured seaman a remedy against employers for injuries arising from negligent acts of the employer or co-workers during the course of employment on a vessel. Claims brought under the Jones Act can also raise claims against a vessel’s owner that a vessel was unseaworthy. If a seaman dies, a wrongful death claim may be based on the Jones Act, general maritime law, or on a separate federal statute, the Death on the High Seas Act.
The Jones Act is a federal law that provides remedies to seamen who are injured while working on a vessel. The Jones Act extends the provisions of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), a statute that provides remedies for injured workers, to provide similar remedies for seamen. As a result, an injured seaman can recover damages from the employer when an employer or a co-worker’s negligence causes an injury. The Jones Act applies only to seamen, which are persons with an employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation and who contribute to the vessel’s function or mission; that is, persons who do the ship’s work. A person whose work is covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act may be treated as a Jones Act seaman in some cases. A lawyer can help figure out whether someone is a seaman for purposes of the act.
The Jones Act applies to negligence claims against a seaman’s employer when the employee is injured or killed during the course of employment.
Seamen may be protected by the Jones Act even if they are not working on a vessel. If a seaman is injured while working temporarily elsewhere, the Act may still apply. However, if the temporary assignment is not “in the service of the ship” when he was injured, the act may not apply.
Failing to provide a safe place to work can give rise to a Jones Act claim, if the unsafe place is the vessel or if it is another place under the employer’s control. An unseaworthiness claim also may be pursued if the employer is also the owner of the vessel, and the injury is caused by an unsafe condition on the vessel. An employer can also be liable if there is a violation of a safety statute which is the cause of the injury. An employer can also be liable for failing to provide adequate medical care.
The Jones Act also holds an employer liable for the negligence of other employees or individuals for which the employer is responsible, including the negligence of the seaman’s co-workers during the scope of their employment. An independent contractor can sometimes be viewed as an employee under the Jones Act.
The employer must attempt to rescue or search for a seaman if he jumps or falls overboard for as long as it is feasible that the seaman could be alive in the water. Failure to do so can result in liability under the Act.
An employer owes a seaman a higher duty of care under the Jones Act than an ordinary negligence case, and the employer can be liable if its breach of that duty, no matter how small, contributed in any way to causing the seaman’s injury. If a seaman contributed to causing his own injury, the employer’s liability may be reduced. Even if the seaman assumed the risk of injury by intentionally proceeding with a dangerous activity aware of the risks- this will not reduce the amount of compensation under the Act.
A Jones Act claim must generally be brought within three years of the injury. The claim can be filed as an admiralty claim either in federal court or state court, or as a “law” claim in federal court. A lawyer should decide where to file the claim as this choice can affect the amount of the recovery.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides workers’ compensation benefits for maritime workers who are not seamen. The benefits the statute provides, like a state workers’ compensation scheme, do not depend on finding that the employer was at fault. These benefits include disability payments and rehabilitation services. The act also provides benefits to survivors when a maritime worker dies from work-related injuries.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is a comprehensive workers’ compensation scheme for maritime workers who are injured on navigable waters. The law fills a gap that exists between the Jones Act, which protects seamen, and state workers’ compensation, which cover injuries occurring within a particular state, but not usually on navigable water. The compensation system is administered by the Federal Department of Labor, and injured workers who qualify for coverage are entitled to disability benefits. Under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act the right to receive benefits does not depend on a finding that the employer was at fault for the worker’s injuries much like state Workers’ Comp law.
The scope of the Act: Who is covered?
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act covers injuries that occur during maritime employment on navigable waters of the United States. Maritime employment includes loading/unloading vessels, repairing vessels and building a vessel. The term refers to navigable waters as places beyond where a boat could float – navigable water can include places on land that adjoin water. A worker who is injured on a pier, wharf, dry dock, or terminal, can be compensated under the Act. Areas near a pier or wharf can also be included in navigable waters such as areas for loading, unloading, repairing, or building vessels.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides medical and disability benefits as well as rehabilitation services. The medical services must relate to the injury or illness sustained on the job. Occupational disease that “arises naturally” from marine employment are also included such as a welder who worked in a shipyard who develops a chronic illness as a result of handling asbestos at work. The Act also provides wrongful death benefits to survivors of a worker who is killed on the job.
Rules for claiming the benefits
An employee who is injured on the job has just 30 days to give the employer notice of the injury. When the employee develops a disabling condition or illness that is work related, notice also must be provided. A formal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act claim for benefits must be filed with the Department of Labor within one year from the date of injury. An employer can dispute the claim or begin voluntary payment within fourteen days of the accident. If an employer disputes the claim there is a conciliation procedure designed to help the parties come to an agreement about how the dispute should be resolved. If the parties cannot resolve the problem, an administrative law judge (ALJ) working for the Department will conduct a hearing and render a decision.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act also allows an injured worker to sue persons or entities, other than the employer or a co-worker, whom the worker believes to be at fault for his or her injuries. When a worker is injured on a vessel, for instance, there may be a claim of negligence against the vessel and its owner; however, the worker is not permitted to allege a claim of unseaworthiness, because that claim is reserved to seamen.
If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, call Coplan & Crane Ltd., at 1-800-394-6002 or submit an online questionnaire. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call right away to ensure that you do not waive your right to possible compensation.