At Cueria Law Firm, our Louisiana Jones Act lawyer has vast experience in handling cases involving maritime injuries. When it comes to working in the maritime industry, the employment positions come with a high-risk of injury or death. Large equipment and heavy loads are dealt with on a large vessel which can be dangerous within itself, not to mention the difficult conditions on the water that can lead to even more risk. When you suffer an injury while working as a seaman, it is important to know your legal rights and understand if the Jones Act applies to your case.
A cause of action under the Jones Act arises when one of the Jones Act employer’s duties to his seaman employee is breached and the employer’s breach of duty plays a role, however slight, in causing the seaman’s injury. If you’ve been hurt on a vessel working as a deckhand or other crewmember, it is best to contact an experienced personal injury attorney.
What is the Jones Act?
Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, known today as the “Jones Act,” is the federal statute which establishes support and standards for the shipping industry and for vessel maintenance and safety in the ports of the United States. General regulations are included in the Jones Act along with provisions for employees. With protection under admiralty law, a U.S. citizen working in the maritime industry who is injured due to the negligence of a vessel or company, can file a claim based on the Jones Act.
The goal of the Act was to ensure that seamen receive just compensation for injuries that occur out on open water. Furthermore, the Jones Act encompasses the obligations for companies that own vessels and employ seaman; the liability shared between captains, deckhands, and other crewmembers; as well as, the causes of action for injuries and death that occur on the high seas and the procedure for reporting such injuries and deaths.
A violation of the Act can occur when a Jones Act vessel does not comply with necessary safety standards, or through negligence, causes injury to an employee.Under the Jones Act, if an employer fails to provide or maintain a seaworthy vessel, take preventative steps to prevent injuries, or provide maintenance and cure when a employee is injured, the employer has breached their duty of care under the Jones Act and the seaman injured is entitled to recovery.
Seamen Rights Under the Jones Act Include:
- Right to a safe work environment
- Right to a legal claim based on injury caused by negligence
- Right to compensation related to the illness or injury (i.e. maintenance and cure)
- Right to compensation if the vessel is found to be unseaworthy including crew
- Right to punitive damages if payment of maintenance and cure is wrongfully refused
Who is a Jones Act “seaman” and what types of employees have Jones Act claims?
In order to recover for their injuries, or maintenance and cure while recovering, an employee must be determined to have met the statute’s definition of a “seaman.” Generally, a seaman can be anyone who significantly works aboard a vessel. Additional requirements include that the vessel must be “in navigation,” the seaman must “contribute to the work of the vessel,” and the seaman must meet the “30% Rule” where part-time seamen spend at least 30% of their time working on a vessel in order to qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act. Employees who are considered “seamen” and qualify for a Jones Act claim can include captains, deckhands, engineers, divers and drillers, anchors, stewards, cooks, fishermen, and other crew members.
In Chandris Inc. v. Latsis, a two-part test was established to determine whether an employee qualified as a Jones Act seaman:
(1) whether the employee’s duties “contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission,” and
(2) whether the employee has “a connection to a vessel in navigation (or to an identifiable group of such vessels) that is substantial in terms of both its duration and nature.”
What is the standard for negligence under the Jones Act?
Negligence under the Jones Act is the failure to use ordinary care under the circumstances; the doing of some act that a reasonably prudent person would not do; or the failure to do something that a reasonably prudent person would do under the same or similar circumstances. This negligence standard goes hand-in-glove with the employer’s basic duty under the Jones Act to exercise reasonable care to provide the seaman with a safe place to work.
In these cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that his injury was caused by the negligence of his Jones Act employer. A seaman is entitled to recover under the Jones Act if his employer’s negligence is the cause, in whole or part, of his injury. This causation burden of proof is “featherweight.” The standard of causation in Jones Act cases is not demanding. The seaman needs only to present “slight evidence” that his employer’s negligence caused his injuries.
The team of lawyers at the Cueria Law Firm, LLC has decades of experience handling personal injury and maritime cases, including deckhand accidents and Jones Act claims. Call our law firm today at (504) 525-5211 for a free consultation on your case.