Seamen who suffer personal injuries while at work do have a right to sue their employer under maritime laws such as the Jones Act. The Jones Act is the federal law giving injured seaman a cause of action in negligence.
Who Can Sue for Seaman’s Injuries?
The following persons fall within the definition of a seaman, and therefore can sue employers for causing personal injury:
- Anyone between captain and crewmember
- Part-time seamen working at least 30% of the time on the vessel
What Qualifies as a Seaman’s Workplace?
A "vessel in navigation" is a vessel that can be sailed or is capable of moving in navigable waters under its own power. Navigable waters are waters that can be used for international trade or interstate commerce. Examples of vessels that may NOT qualify under this definition include:
- So-called floating casinos
- New vessels floating under a trial period
- Oil platforms or floating drilling platforms
Who Can Be Sued for Negligence under the Jones Act?
A seaman can sue all of the following persons for injuries suffered at work:
- Owners of the vessel
- The captain of the ship
What Should Be the Seaman’s Negligence Claim?
Under the Jones Act, employers owe a legal duty to all seamen. Specifically, employers are required to provide a reasonably safe workplace, to maintain the vessel in a reasonably safe condition, and to exercise ordinary care towards all seamen.
Situations that may result in liability include:
- Instances of negligence or assault
- Poor training
- Lack of safety in operations
- Failing to provide safe, undamaged equipment
For negligence under the Jones Act, an employer’s breach of his duty of care, is considered the cause of the seaman’s injury even if the negligence only contributed a small amount to the injury. Therefore, an injured seaman will usually be able to prove that his employer’s negligence caused his injuries if the employer’s actions fell below a reasonable standard of care in any way.
How to Create a Successful Personal Injury Lawsuit under the Jones Act
In order to have a better chance at succeeding in a negligence claim under the Jones Act, a seaman must do the following:
- Report the injury as soon as possible.
- See a doctor who will develop your medical records; follow the doctor’s advice precisely, and do not miss any doctor’s appointments.
- Do not settle your case early before obtaining treatment and returning to work.
Contacting a Maritime Personal Injury Lawyer
If you’re a seaman and have suffered an injury while at work, your only choice may be to sue under maritime laws such as the Jones Act because you can’t qualify for workers’ compensation. Therefore, you should contact a qualified maritime personal injury lawyer who will assess your status as a seaman and help you obtain compensation for your injuries.