Crew Injury Claims
The Jones Act includes a provision that gives aquatic vessel crew members who were injured on the job the right to sue their employer (or co-workers) for personal injury damages. Unlike more traditional workers who are employed on land, seamen are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under federal law.
Individuals who work on the following are considered crew members or seamen:
- Cruise ships
- Jack-up rigs
- Towboats / Tugs
- Supply boats
- Crew boats
- Lay barges
- Fishing vessels
Anyone who is “a master or member of a crew of any vessel in navigation” is considered a crewman. This includes cruise ship workers, the captain and officers – generally, any employee who spends 30% or more of their work time on an aquatic vessel. Injured crew members have the right to bring negligence claims against their employers or co-workers under the Jones Act. One of the most distinguishing differences between the Jones Act and traditional workers’ compensation standards is the fact that the Jones Act does not provide for payment regardless of fault. Instead, a seaman must prove negligence on the part of the employer, vessel operators or fellow crewmen in order to obtain monetary compensation.
If you have experienced injury due to employer or co-worker negligence while working aboard a vessel, you may qualify for compensation based on the Jones Act. Here are just a few examples of ships against whom injury claims can be brought by the attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank:
- Carnival Cruise
- Celebration Cruise Line
- Celebrity Cruises
- Disney Cruises
- Holland America Cruises
- MSC Cruises
- Norwegian Cruise Line
- Oceania Cruises
- Princess Cruises
- Royal Caribbean International
It is the responsibility of every employer to provide their workers with safe equipment, in a safe working environment. Every crew member knows that they work every day in a high-risk, dangerous setting that’s prone to on-the-job injuries. Maritime workers face many perils that are difficult for the average land worker to understand. Oftentimes, when a crew member is injured, it may take days before they can receive proper medical attention.
So let’s dive a little deeper into the Jones Act and get a better understanding of the federal law and some of its intricacies. First of all, the Jones Act is very employee-friendly. Rightfully so, it places more responsibility on the employer to ensure that the maritime worker’s environment is relatively secure and that the equipment they are required to work with is also well-functioning and safe. The employer can be held liable for all kinds of unsafe conditions on their vessel, such as improper training, malfunctioning equipment, grease or other slippery materials on the deck, or even assault by another co-worker.
Cruise ships can be a haven for dangerous working conditions when the owners, managers and other crew members are negligent in their duties. Recently, Carnival Cruise Lines has had cases pending against them from a former crew member alleging Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness. Transocean has also been in recent news due to Jones Act infractions. One thing to keep in mind, as stated earlier, is that the law specifically states that the vessel must be “in navigation.” Although this sounds like the vessel must have been moving at the time of the incident, that’s not exactly accurate. “In navigation” is a legal term that basically means that the vessel is capable of moving – it could have been afloat or even tied at a dock, in order for a maritime employee to file a claim under the Jones Act.
Another somewhat confusing part of the law has to deal with vessels being in “navigable waters.” This term just means that the waters are capable of being used for interstate or foreign commerce – such as the ocean and all waterways that are directly connected to the ocean. Finally, there is a statute of limitations – a lawsuit under the Jones Act must be filed within three years of the injury date.
So, what type of compensation are crew members entitled to under the Jones Act? Well, under the act, an injured maritime worker is entitled to recover damages for lost earnings (including potential lost earning capacity), medical expenses (including past, present and future), as well as pain, suffering and mental anguish (again, including past, present and future). The exact amount of damages an injured seaman can claim is a difficult task – one best left up to an experienced Jones Act attorney. The Miami personal injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank are experts in the Jones Act and our main objective is to maximize the value of your total compensation by looking at every valid legal claim that can be brought against a person or employer under the Jones Act. For more information, or if you require representation contact us at 305-448-8585 or toll-free at 877-448-8585.