What Is the Jones Act and When Does It Apply?
Our Jones Act Attorney Explains Compensation for Offshore Injuries
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is one of several maritime laws that provides protections for workers who suffer injuries at sea. This law entitles certain maritime workers and/or their families to benefits when employer negligence causes injuries or death at sea. Compensation under the Jones Act may provide for lost wages, medical bills and other expenses related to a work injury. Additionally, unlike workers’ compensation, there is no limit to the benefits that injured maritime workers can receive from their employers. However, this law is notoriously complex and difficult to navigate without the help of an experienced maritime attorney.
Employees may not understand the full extent of their rights under federal maritime law or which acts apply after an accident at sea. In these situations, an experienced Jones Act attorney is an important ally for injured workers. At Galloway Jefcoat, our attorneys understand the complexities of maritime law. In fact, firm co-founder Rusty Galloway worked on an offshore oil rig before becoming an attorney. We have helped thousands of injured oil workers and seamen in and around Lafayette, Lake Charles, Sulphur and Calcasieu Parish.
Can All Maritime Workers Receive Compensation Under the Jones Act?
The Jones Act, which provides certain benefits to injured maritime workers, only applies to workers who are “seamen.” However, the language of the Jones Act does not provide a clear definition of which workers qualify as seamen, though federal court decisions have helped define this term. Therefore, to qualify as a seaman, you must meet the following criteria:
- Your job duties take place on a vessel that operates on waterways used for commerce.
- The vessel you work on is “in navigation,” meaning afloat in navigable waters and/or capable of moving.
- You spend a significant portion of your time on the vessel. In addition, your job duties must further the purpose of the vessel.
The language of the Jones Act means that not all maritime workers can receive compensation under this law. For example, workers on certain types of offshore rigs may not qualify as seamen because some platforms are fixed objects that cannot move. On the other hand, some offshore platforms are capable of moving, meaning workers may qualify for Jones Act benefits.
Workers the Jones Act does not cover may sometimes seek compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. In cases involving wrongful death, family members may also qualify for benefits under the Death on High Seas Act.
What Type of Compensation Can I Receive Under the Jones Act?
You may file a Jones Act claim if your employer’s negligence caused or contributed to your injury in any way. This means you can recover compensation even in cases where your employer had a minor role in causing the injury. The burden of proof is on your employer, which must show that it did not contribute to your injuries.
Compensation from a successful claim may cover expenses that include:
- Lost wages, including past and future lost wages caused by your injury.
- Medical bills such as hospital bills, rehabilitation expenses and other medical costs. Therapy, prescription medications and nursing services may be covered.
- Pain and suffering caused by your injury. These are “noneconomic damages” that compensate you for physical pain and emotional distress that results from your accident.
In addition to Jones Act benefits, you may also receive maintenance and cure while recovering from your illness or injury. These benefits, which you may receive regardless of fault, can cover your necessary medical expenses, rent, utilities and food.
Injured at Sea? Call a Jones Act Attorney at Our Firm for a Free Consultation
If you were injured at sea and do not know whether the Jones Act applies to you, then a maritime lawyer from our firm can help. Compensation for maritime injuries can depend on many different factors, such as your job title, vessel and the type of accident. Depending on the circumstances, you may have other options to recover benefits even if the Jones Act does not cover you. It is important to speak with an attorney soon after your accident protect your right to compensation.
To discuss the details of your case with an experienced workplace accident lawyer, please call us at (337) 984-8020 or complete a case review form. A maritime attorney at our firm can explain your rights and legal options in a free initial consultation. We represent maritime workers throughout the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana from our offices in Lafayette.