Understanding the Jones Act and Your Legal Rights if Injured at Sea

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, popularly dubbed as the Jones Act, is a federal law that aims to protect the rights of seamen in cases of on-board accidents or death. Pursuant to the Jones Act, compensation can be claimed by a workman employed on a marine vessel when an injury is brought upon by the careless act of an employer or co-worker in the course of his or her employment. Vessel owners can likewise be liable if an injury takes place owing to the dangerous conditions on the ship. Our team of experienced Miami maritime lawyers understand the Jones Act and want to ensure any injured seaman, or a loved one, has the information they need to determine whether they have a viable claim under this federal law.

Federal courts have deciphered the term “sailor” to mean a person who is employed in a vessel or fleet that operates in waterways used for national or international commerce, or in other words, operates in navigable waters. As long as the person is engaged in some kind of work that is related with the vessel’s objective, the relative significance of the sailor’s expected set of job responsibilities is not critical in order to assert a claim under the Jones Act.

If you suffer an injury while working on a vessel, take the following action:

  • Report your injury to the captain in charge of your vessel at soon as possible.
  • Get emergency medical treatment from the registered doctor onboard.
  • Try and find out the name and contact details of some of the persons who have witnessed the accident, which may prove to be useful later in case of any litigation.
  • Identify any unsafe or dangerous condition present in the vessel which caused your injury, and click a few photos of the same if you happen to have a camera-enabled phone with you.
  • Get an appointment with a Miami maritime lawyer who can give you expert advice about your inherent rights and claim compensation on your behalf.

What the Jones Act Covers for Compensatory Damages

(a) Medical bills – Your employer/vessel proprietor may be responsible for paying for all hospital expenses related to the injury, including check-ups, surgeries, hospital stay, physical therapy, medicines, x-ray and MRI, as well as to and fro transportation to get to your appointments.

(b) Maintenance – Your employer/vessel proprietor must also pay for your “maintenance” during your injury, which is a reasonable sum calculated on the need to cover routine daily costs such as food and lodging. At times, the sum payable as future maintenance is already mentioned in the sailor’s employment contract. But often, the amount is negotiable.

(c) Unearned wages – Your employer/vessel proprietor must additionally pay for the wages that you would have earned under this term of business if you did not suffer from the injury. For example, if you suffer from a broken ankle while working on the deck on the 22nd of January and as a result cannot join work for the rest of the month, your employer is still liable to pay you your daily wages for 23rd to 31st January or till the time you join back on force.

(d) Right to sue – If you were injured due to a co-worker’s negligence or if the vessel was not in a seaworthy condition at the time of your accident, you can pursue restitution for pain and suffering, emotional trauma, or loss of consortium. Cases like these have the privilege to a trial by a judge or jury.

Speak to an Experienced Miami Maritime Lawyer Today

For over four decades, the experienced maritime attorneys Gerson & Schwartz, PA have represented clients seriously injured in port and while at sea. If you or a loved one has been in maritime accident injured while a crew member on a cargo ship, yacht, cruise ship, or sustained an off shore injury, our attorneys are here to help. Contact us today at info@gslawusa.com, or call us at 1-877-475-2905.

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