Jones Act Litigation & What You Need to Know
Nov. 28, 2022
Most maritime workers are aware of their right to file a lawsuit under the Jones Act when they get injured on the job. Under the Act, injured seamen can pursue lawsuits against their employers to seek compensation for their injuries and losses.
Unfortunately, navigating the process of filing lawsuits under the Jones Act can be just as hard as navigating through difficult waters. It is not uncommon for employers to fight back against Jones Act lawsuits filed by their workers. That is why you need to know your rights and what you can expect from Jones Act litigation when you suffer a seaman injury.
Our Jones Act litigation attorneys at Ellis & Thomas, PLLC represent maritime workers who suffer injuries during the course of their work in Houston and throughout the state of Texas, including Montgomery County, Harris County, Brazoria County, and Fort Bend County.
What Is the Jones Act?
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, there were over 4,400 maritime accidents that caused 658 fatalities and more than 2,600 injuries in 2021. People who suffer maritime injuries during the course of their job may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act.
Whether a worker qualifies for compensation under the Jones Act depends on a number of factors. Generally, seamen can file a maritime lawsuit under the Act to recover compensation if they can prove that their injury occurred due to negligence on the part of:
The vessel owner
The vessel operator
While the Jones Act guarantees the seaman’s right to file a maritime lawsuit if they are hurt at work because of negligence, the claim must meet several elements to obtain coverage under the Act. Consider speaking with an experienced Jones Act litigation attorney to assist you with your claim and help you determine whether you have a claim under the Act.
Who Is Protected by the Jones Act?
If you were injured at work as a maritime worker aboard a vessel, there are certain elements that must be met to obtain coverage under the Jones Act:
The “seaman” status. The Act provides coverage to seamen who have a substantial and permanent connection to the vessel in navigation, and their work must contribute to the work of the vessel. Generally, anyone who works aboard a boat, ship, cruise ship, barge, fishing boat, casino ship, charter boat, tug, or another type of vessel qualifies as a seaman. The same can be said about individuals who work on offshore drilling rigs.
Vessel in navigation. The second requirement to qualify for compensation under the Jones Act is that the vessel on board which a maritime worker is injured must be “in navigation.” Vessels are considered in navigation when floating on navigable waters (oceans, rivers, and inland lakes linked to navigable waters). However, to be covered by the Jones Act, the vessel does not necessarily need to be moving at the time of the maritime injury. The vessel must be capable of movement.
Spend a significant amount of time working on the vessel. A third – and probably the most misunderstood – requirement to obtain coverage under the Jones Act is that seamen must spend a “significant amount of time” working on the vessel. While what is considered “significant” is subjective, it usually means working on the vessel at least 30% of the time.
If you are still unsure whether you are protected by the Jones Act, consider consulting with an attorney who can explain your rights under the Act and advise you on your best course of action.
How Does the Jones Act Define ‘Negligence’?
You also need to understand what constitutes “negligence” when seeking compensation under the Jones Act. Employers must provide a reasonably safe working environment to their maritime workers. Under the Jones Act, employers owe their workers a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent maritime injuries. An employer is negligent if they fail to use reasonable care and, as a result, a worker gets injured.
When a maritime accident occurs, it is important to determine who can be held responsible for the accident. The employer may not be the only at-fault party, which is why an in-depth investigation may be necessary to determine whose negligence or carelessness caused or contributed to the accident.
When negligence is determined, you must also prove that the at-fault party’s negligent actions were a direct cause of your maritime injury.
Turn to Ellis & Thomas, PLLC for Help
If you are a maritime worker injured during the course of your work, you may be covered under the Jones Act. However, specific requirements must be met to be entitled to compensation under the Act. Our Jones Act litigation attorneys at Ellis & Thomas, PLLC can assess the merits of your claim and, if you qualify, help you pursue the compensation you deserve. Contact our office in Houston, Texas, to request a consultation.