Working offshore has a lot of benefits, including good pay, comfortable accommodations, and challenging work. Unfortunately, offshore jobs are among the riskiest around, and workplace injuries are common. If you have been injured while working offshore, a Huntsville, AL offshore accident lawyer from Morris Bart LLC can help you understand how to obtain compensation for the expenses and impacts you incurred as a result and can provide services aimed at a successful outcome for your claim.
What Is the Jones Act?
As explained by Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, the Jones Act – also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 — is a federal law that extends the benefits provided to federal workers through the Federal Employer’s Liability Act to seamen who have been injured during the course of their employment. This allows them to bring a federal lawsuit against their employers.
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What Are the Responsibilities of Employers on Vessels Covered By the Jones Act?
Employers on vessels that fall under the auspices of the Jones Act have a number of responsibilities toward their workers, including ensuring that all seamen have a seaworthy vessel and crew. A vessel that is unseaworthy does not necessarily mean it is at risk of sinking. What it means is that the vessel does not contain the tools needed to properly do the job at hand.
Likewise, an unseaworthy crew means that the crew has not been properly trained to complete the vessel’s mission.
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Types of Vessels Covered By the Jones Act
The Jones Act pertains to ships that are transporting cargo between U.S. ports. The vessel must have been built in the U.S. and must fly the U.S. flag. It must be owned and crewed at least 75 percent by American citizens.
Types of Injuries or Accidents that Give Rise to a Jones Act Claim
Almost any unsafe condition aboard a vessel can result in a Jones Act claim if someone becomes injured. Some examples of the types of incidents, accidents, and injuries that can lead to this type of claim include:
- Slip and fall accidents resulting from oil on the deck
- Equipment that fails due to lack of maintenance
- Failure of the employer to ensure that employees have the tools needed to safely do their jobs
- Lack of proper training
- Failure of the employer to require employees to follow safety policies and procedures
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Types of Compensation that Can be Sought in a Jones Act Claim
The Jones Act allows claimants to seek similar damages as those that could be obtained through a personal injury lawsuit. This includes economic damages, which refers to compensation for the expenses of your injury, such as medical expenses, permanent disability, and wage loss. Claimants can also seek non-economic damages, which involves compensating the claimant for the impacts of their injury, such as pain and suffering or emotional distress.
How Long You Have to File a Jones Act Claim
Jones Act claims can be filed in state or federal court. Generally, they must be filed within three years of the date the accident occurred.
How are Jones Act Claims Proven?
The Jones Act carries what is known as a featherweight burden of proof. The burden of proof in a criminal case is guilt beyond all reasonable doubt. In a civil personal injury claim, claimants must show by a “preponderance of evidence” that the accident more likely than not occurred just as they said it did.
In order to have a successful outcome to a Jones Act claim, the claimant and their attorney must be able to establish a clear link between the accident and the vessel owner’s responsibility to keep their employers safe. It doesn’t matter how small that link is or how insignificant the negligence was in the overall picture of what transpired.
To prove Jones Act claim, the following elements must be present:
- Seaman status: In order to file a Jones Act claim, the claimant must show that they were employed by a vessel owner or shipping company and spent at least 30% of their working hours aboard a covered vessel or in service to the mission of the vessel.
- Negligence: The claimant and their attorney must be able to show that negligence was a factor in the accident, and show whose negligence contributed to the injury.
- Causation: The claimant must be able to show that their injury was directly linked to the negligent actions of others.
What Is the Jones Act Claims Process?
The process of a Jones Act claim generally begins when the claimant reports their injury to their employer. The company then asks for an accident report, and the worker seeks medical treatment for their injury. The claimant then finds an experienced maritime lawyer who can assist them with their claim.
The lawyer investigates the case, obtaining evidence needed to prove the claim in court. They will also likely be undergoing settlement negotiations with the employer’s insurance provider in an attempt to garner fair compensation for their injuries outside the courtroom. In lieu of a fair settlement offer, the claim is then litigated, and a decision is made on compensation.
Do You Need an Attorney to File a Jones Act Claim?
Maritime law is exceedingly complex. While you are not required to hire an attorney to file a claim, having an attorney that is knowledgeable in maritime law can save you a lot of time, effort, and frustration during the process.
Many individuals who wish to seek compensation for a Huntsville, AL offshore accident through a Jones Act claim hesitate to speak with an attorney because they are afraid they can’t afford one. However, because of our contingent fee billing method, our clients do not owe us for our services until there is a positive outcome to their case.
Contact Our Lawyers for Help Today
For more information on the process of filing a Jones Act claim and the type of services Morris Bart LLC can provide to assist in this process, contact us for a free case evaluation.
Questions?Call (256) 666-3010
to find a Morris Bart office near you.