Law Office of James M. Hoffmann Articles What Is the Jones Act and How Does It Relate to Work Injuries?

What Is the Jones Act and How Does It Relate to Work Injuries?

By James Hoffmann  Sep. 11, 2019 11:13a

Working on a boat at sea is different than your average job. Maritime workers have special training to be able to stay safe while navigating, and their working conditions are a bit more special. This is why maritime workers are covered by federal statutes dedicated to them especially.

To better understand how workers compensation could be obtained by a boat skipper, we need to follow the details in the Jones Act, a workers compensation federal act which deals with work injuries sustained by maritime workers.

Workers compensation for maritime workers depends a lot on which category the worker falls into: if he is a seaman or if he only carries out his job in the vicinity of boats and vessels. Skippers (or captains) are the ones in charge of any boat which is considered in navigation. They are generally considered to be seamen.

Workers Compensation for Seamen

If a skipper gets injured while on his boat, he will typically be able to claim compensation from his employer through the Jones Act. He will likely have three courses of action, which all are based on proving that the employer did not provide a safe and properly equipped work environment.

The first course of action would be to prove that the employer was negligent with his duties, which led to injury to the crew.

Secondly, the skipper can sue the employer on the basis of “unseaworthiness”, a term which indicates the proper design, maintenance, and equipment of a navigating ship.

Third, and most interestingly, an injured skipper can sue for what is called “maintenance and cure”, no matter whose fault it was for the incident. While recovering from his injuries, a skipper may receive compensation to pay for rent, utilities, mortgage, accommodation or food. The principle is to receive the necessary means to subside. The cure represents all medical expenses an injured skipper has until being fully recovered from his injuries.

As shown, a skipper is protected by federal law in case he gets injured on the boat he is operating. A court will be presented with the case and the process is quite similar to any workers comp claim: there must be proof of liability and extent of damage, the victim must visit the doctor and get the proper treatment, etc. However, because the conditions are often special, it is wise to discuss your case with an attorney who has experience in these cases.

Working under such distinctive rules and conditions is a great responsibility for maritime workers, especially skippers, to know the law and be able to claim their rights if injured. Vessel captains are generally protected by the Jones Act if they are injured on the job, but hiring an attorney who is familiar with maritime law helps a lot with the success of the claim.

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