The Jones Act is a federal law (100 years old this month!) that allows a “seaman” who has been injured or becomes ill during or related to work performed while aboard or associated with a “Vessel” to be able to sue his/her maritime employer, in order to seek monetary compensation from the employer for the injury or illness. To understand whether you qualify for such compensation, a few questions should be answered:
What is a Jones Act seaman?
A Jones Act seaman is an individual who has spent a significant amount of time working on a vessel that is “in navigation”. For the vessel to be “in navigation”, it must be afloat, in operation, capable of moving, and on navigable waters, or waters capable of interstate commerce (such as a river, lake between two states, the intercoastal, or an ocean). If the seaman is employed in connection with such vessel and has contributed to the work of the vessel, then he or she may be eligible for compensation under the Jones Act.
What sort of compensation is available?
A seaman who has become ill or injured during employment, whether or not through the fault of the employer, is entitled to:
- “Maintenance” (calculated based on the daily cost of the seaman’s living expenses ashore), from the time that he/she cannot perform usual work aboard the Vessel and running continuously until the seaman has reached “maximum medical recovery”;
- “Cure” (defined as all reasonable medical expenses to treat the illness or injury, and generally viewed in favor of such treatment), from the time that he/she cannot perform usual work aboard the Vessel and running continuously until the seaman has reached “maximum medical recovery”;
- Any not-yet earned wages, running generally until the end of the voyage or other definite period of employment;
- If the seaman’s injury or death was caused by the inability of the employer to create a safe work environment or use ordinary care to keep the seaman safe, then the seaman also may be eligible to recover further categories of damages, including loss of past and future income, extra medical care, and certain non-economic damages related to loss of enjoyment of activities of normal life;
- The seaman may also have a claim under the General Maritime Law against the Vessel’s owner (whether the same as the employer, or some other company) for “unseaworthiness” of the Vessel, if a condition of the Vessel caused or contributed to the seaman’s illness or injury; and
- Once the seaman has healed as much as medicine permits, he/she may have a claim for “Found”, which is the dollar value ashore of room and board at the level the seaman received while he/she lived aboard the Vessel.
- In the case of death of the seaman, his or her close relatives may recover payment for loss of a loved one, plus compensation for that seaman’s pain and suffering.
Am I eligible for compensation?
The Jones Act is a very employee-friendly law, which allows for a wide range of individuals to receive substantial damages and compensation for their injuries. If you have worked on a vessel and been injured during the course of employment, then you have a good chance of being eligible as a Jones Act seaman. You may want to speak with a professional and experienced maritime attorney right away to discuss your options. We at the Herd Law Firm, PLLC, would be pleased to speak with you about your situation.