Jones Act Cases

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The Jones Act was enacted in 1920 as a protection to seaman who were injured or died as a result of the negligence of an owner, master, or fellow sailor of a vessel.

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What is the Jones Act?

According to the Jones Act “any sailor who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right to trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply…”  Under the Act, seamen are able to bring claims of unseaworthiness or negligence against ship owners.

Are You Considered a “Seaman”?

To be considered a Seaman, you must be:

Permanently connected with a vessel or fleet.

In navigation at the time of your accident.

Performing duties and working aboard the vessel.

Jones Act Compensation

Seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure under the Jones Act. An injured seaman might also be able to obtain compensation for lost wages, medical bills, diminished earning capacity, pain and suffering, permanent disability, and diminished quality of life.

If you or a loved one have suffered an injury as a seaman, we urge you to contact our experienced attorney right away. The Jones Act Lawyer at Cueria Law Firm, L.L.C., has successfully handled numerous Jones Act Cases obtaining million-dollar verdicts. Our firm will make sure you and your loved ones get the justice and compensation you deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions About Jones Act Cases:

What is Burden of Proof?

In a maritime injury case, the burden of proof is a requirement of the injured seaman and their attorney. We work with you to find evidence to prove your case. Based on the Jones Act, the injured employee has what is called a ‘featherweight’ burden of proof based regarding the cause of the injuries. When presenting your case to a jury or a judge, we must present evidence proving your injury was caused by the accident.

The amount of evidence needed to prove your case is minimal when compared to other types of cases. You only need a small portion of proof showing that your injury was caused by the accident to win the case.

Aside from requiring little evidence to prove your case, a Jones Act claim can be complicated. It helps to have an experienced and knowledgeable Jones Act Lawyer by your side to navigate the legal action you need to take to receive monetary compensation. Without an experienced attorney, you may fail to receive the compensation you so rightly deserve.

What Makes a Vessel Unseaworthy?

Various parts of Maritime law deal with issues regarding making a vessel seaworthy. Under these laws, the owners of sea vessels have to abide by a variety of regulations to ensure their boats are safe for their employees. If you are a victim of an accident at sea due to a vessel being unsafe, then your main concern should be getting compensation for your injuries. Working with a Jones act lawyer is the best way to find out whether or not you have a case worth pursuing. There are various things that can make a vessel unseaworthy and here are some of them.

Unsafe Tools and Equipment

Among the most common causes of accidents on seafaring vessels is unsafe tools and equipment. Before a vessel hits the high seas, the owner will have to ensure all of the equipment their employees will be using is ready to go. Maritime law makes it very clear who is at fault in accidents involving faulty tools and equipment. The best way to get the money owed for injuries involving unsafe equipment is working with attorneys familiar with the Jones Act law.

The Lack of Proper Safety Equipment

Things like hand railings and hard hats are designed to keep the workers on a ship safe. Neglecting to have railings around the various levels on a boat can create very unsafe work conditions. The Jones Act law dictates that owners of sea vessels have to provide their employees with access to the right safety equipment. Being involved in a slip and fall accident due to the lack of proper safety railing can lead to life changing injuries.

Trip Hazards on Deck

Most ships will have a number of materials lying around. Failing to properly store materials on the deck of a ship can cause slip and fall accidents. A ship should have things like raised decks and platforms where materials can be placed.

If a ship does not have the proper storage space for the items on deck, there will usually be a variety of accidents as a result. An experienced lawyer will be able to help determine who was at fault for a slip and fall accident and help you get paid for your injuries.

An Understaffed Ship

A lot of work goes into keeping a sea vessel running efficiently. When a vessel is understaffed, it can lead to problems caused by the crew being fatigued. If you feel you have been a victim of an accident due to the ship you work on being understaffed, then you will need to seek out some guidance from a legal professional. Finding out whether or not the case you have is worth investing time in to can help save you a lot of time and anguish.

Are Punitive Damages Available in Jones Act Cases?

Punitive Damages May Be Available in Jones Act Cases

Under maritime law, injured seamen may have negligence and unseaworthiness claims, but they are also entitled to the right to payment for maintenance, cure and unearned wages.

Basically, maintenance and cure is an obligation imposed upon a shipowner to provide for a seaman who becomes ill or injured during his service to the ship. This obligation arises from the employment relationship and exists regardless of the seaman’s fault or any negligence or unseaworthiness of the vessel. A seaman is not only entitled to be reimbursed medical expenses actually incurred but also received the proper treatment and care. The shipowner is also liable to compensatory damages.

It is important to note that the jurisprudence has banned punitive damages for many years and only permitted recovery of attorney’s fees as long as the proper showing of egregious fault is made. Guevara v. Maritime Overseas Corp.

Thanks to a decision rendered by the Supreme Court of the United States on June, 2009, this jurisprudence was overruled and it was made clear that punitive damages are available in maintenance and cure claims if his employer/vessel owner has willfully failed to fulfill its maintenance and cure obligation. Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc., et al. v. Townsend. A Maritime Injury Lawyer would likely be familiar with this recent Supreme Court decision.

What is the Difference Between Negligence and Unseaworthiness?

Under general maritime law, a vessel owner has an absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel to its crew members. The shipowner is responsible for a vessel’s unseaworthiness regardless of negligence. A company or employer must ensure that the work environment is safe. Our New Orleans personal injury attorneys will review your case and look for examples of negligence or unseaworthiness within your case. This can include:


  • The employer failing to hire enough employees or provide proper training
  • The employer does not provide quality gear, protective clothing or the right equipment for the job at hand
  • Safety measures are not followed or enforced
  • The ship and/or its equipment is not properly maintained
  • Weather is unsafe, yet work carried on anyway


  • Decks, passageways, and gangways are not properly maintained
  • The vessel does not have an adequate crew
  • Lines, wires, and cables are loose or not stored properly
  • Hulls, bulkheads, and rails are defective
  • Lifeboats are not sufficient or emergency response gear malfunctions
  • Work methods are extreme or dangerous

Wrongful Death

Another area in which maritime laws apply is wrongful death at sea. At Cueria Law Firm, we have handled claims for a wrongful death at sea for family members of the deceased. Below are a few common accidents or issues that can result in a wrongful death while out in the open waters:

  • Crane accidents
  • Sinking or capsizing vessels
  • Fires or an explosion on board
  • Accidents involving the handling of cargo
  • Parting tow lines
  • Emergency medical attention not received in time

If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, illness or death at sea, we can help. Contact our Louisiana office today to learn more and to schedule a consultation.

What are the Most Common Risks for Seamen?

Offshore Injuries

If you are new to the maritime industry, you may be unaware as to how many injuries occur due to offshore employment. Each year, a high number of employees in the maritime industry are subject to an offshore industry. Employees of supply boats, crew boats, and tugboats become injured and are unable to work and earn a living due to the extent of the injury. At Cueria Law Firm, we have seen many cases where seamen are injured and unable to pay for medical bills due to losing their primary source of income based on the injury. 

There are several common injuries sustained while working in the maritime industry. It is not uncommon for an employee to be injured due to a slip and fall on the deck or to be hit with a large object due to the moving of cargo via cranes. The rough sea waters make it difficult to work on a vessel which only intensifies the level of danger. 

Seamen who work on vessels out on the open water are protected by the Jones Act when it comes to injury. Based on the legal aspects of the Jones Act, seamen can file a claim for compensation based on injuries they were subject to while employed. At Cueria Law Firm, we have represented several individuals who were injured on the job. When you or a loved one are hurt as a maritime worker, our New Orleans personal injury attorneys can help.

As a seaman, you have probably already experienced a few on the job hazards. The life of a seaman is very dangerous as the employment position is plagued with hazards that can lead to injury or even death. Learn the common accident hazards can help you to avoid injury in the future.

The most common injuries on the job include:

  • Falling into the water off the ship or rig
  • Falling from a structure on the ship onto the deck
  • Slips and falls on the deck
  • Injury while performing strenuous duties
  • Falling object strikes the body
  • Moving objects like cargo or mooring lines strike the body
  • Entangled in mooring lines
  • Steam or engine exhaust burns
  • Cold injury due to extreme temperatures
  • Shocked by electrical equipment
  • Poisoning from cargo
  • Poisoning from ship cleaning supplies
  • Poisoning from food or drinking water that is contaminated or spoiled
  • Injury due to explosion

These are just a few of the injury types that seamen are subject to when employed in a maritime position. It is important that all employees have proper training when working on a vessel as well as the owner supplying quality tools and equipment for the daily workload. When employees are not trained properly, and equipment is faulty, the risk of accident or injury only increases.

Vessel owners have a duty to create a safe and secure environment for employees. When the environment is not safe, employees are at risk of injury and even death. When a seaman is injured on the job, the Jones Act provides an outlet for compensation. If you or someone you love has been injured on the job, contact Cueria Law Firm today.

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