The Jones Act is a Federal Workers Compensation Law for employees who have accidents, injuries or in extreme situations death occur over water.
In most situations the employee sustains an injury on land. If the injured employee is not a government employee the specific state where the injury occurred will have a Workers Compensation statute that will control the injured workers rights and benefits. Many employees work for companies and work in areas where they are exposed to and work over water, such as rivers, lakes or the ocean and in those particular situations because they do not work specifically on land, the Jones Act provides financial and medical protection for those types of accidents and injuries to employees of companies operating over bodies of water.
If order to qualify for protection under the Jones Act, first, you have to establish that you in the course of your employment were, what is referred to and defined as a “seamen”, secondly, you have to be able to prove that your injury occurred over a navigable body of water and third, you have to be able to establish that your injury was caused by the work accident. These definitions of what is a seamen and navigable bodies of water are very important to understand and in general terms you are considered to be a seamen if your job title and/or position establishes that you are necessary and that your activities of work are necessary for the operations of whatever vessel you are working on when the injury occurs. With respect to a navigable body of water, it has to be a body of water that flows from one point to another, that does include inland rivers, lakes, certain parts of the ocean even though they are not specifically within the boundaries or borders of the United States.
A distinguishing factor of the Jones Act is that in order to receive and to be entitled to compensation an injured worker does have to prove what is commonly referred to as a scintilla of negligence against the employer. There is no question that maritime employees perform a vast array of very dangerous jobs and activities, so it’s not often times difficult to establish that the employer was negligent in some minor fashion that lead to or caused the injury. If you do sustain an injury and you meet the requirements under the Federal Jones Act, you as the injured worker have the right to bring suit against your employer to recover damages. The damages include: payment, what is referred to as maintenance pay for the time that you are off work. The employer and its insurance company are also responsible for payment of your medical expenses, these are often times combined and referred to as maintenance and care benefits. In addition, you can seek compensation for past and future economic loss, pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of capacity to enjoy life, loss of the ability to household services and take care of yourself and others damages recoverable under the maritime law. In order to bring lawsuit you will typically have to hire an attorney and these types of cases can and will be defended by the employer and/or the insurance company and their attorneys.
It is important to distinguish your rights and benefits under the Jones Act with a Federal Workers Compensation statute known as the Longshore Man and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, which does not specifically apply to individuals who are defined as seamen working on vessels on navigable water. The Longshore Man and Harbor Workers Compensation Act applies to those individuals who are in-between land based activities and jobs and those who would fully qualify as a Jones Act Employee.
If you have sustained any type of injury that you believe might be compensated or covered under the Federal Jones Act case, please feel free to contact the offices of Crowley & Prill for consultation on this matter and we will be happy to provide to you our advice and opinion to whether or not you have such a cause of action. It is important to note that you have a 3 year statute of limitations to bring a Federal Jones Act.