For most people, if they get injured at work, they immediately assume they need to file a workers’ compensation claim; however, did you know that if you’re injured working at sea, you need to file under a completely different law?
The Jones Act is a maritime law that regulates a variety of areas of marine shipping and transportation. It’s been in the news in recent years because of the debate around its impact on Puerto Rico’s economy, but we primarily focus on another aspect of the law: the protections it offers to seamen who are injured on the job.
If you or someone you know works at sea, here’s what you need to know.
What Employees Should Know About the Jones Act
Workers’ compensation is a protection most of us take for granted. However, if you’re injured working at sea, you aren’t eligible to file for workers’ compensation under state or federal law. That’s where The Jones Act comes in.
This law, passed in the midst of World War I, gives seamen the right to sue the ship’s owners, crew, and/or captain for damaged in the case of an on-the-job injury.
But like any law, the Jones Act has some nuances and complexities. Below are the important points that determine if you qualify.
1 – Who is Considered a Seaman
Working for a maritime shipping company doesn’t necessarily qualify you as a seaman according to the Jones Act. Here are the requirements:
- You need to spend a “significant amount” of your working time on the ship. In most cases, this means at least 30% of your working hours.
- You need to be working on a “vessel in navigation.” In terms of the Jones Act, this means the vessel must be afloat, operable, currently in operation, and on waters that can be sailed reasonably. It’s important to note that the boat can be in the water at the dock, but it can’t be dry-docked.
- You must “contribute to the work of the vessel.” This covers the vast majority of employees who are working on board a ship.
2 – Eligible Causes of the Injury
One intriguing aspect of the Jones Act is that it has a lower burden of proof than a typical workers’ compensation claim.
Under the law for workers’ compensation, the employee must prove that their employer’s negligence was the primary cause for their injury. The Jones Act, on the other hand, only requires that you prove your employer’s negligence contributed in some way to your injury.
3 – What You Need to File a Claim
As with other types of personal injury and workers’ compensation claims, you need all the documentation you can get. Be sure to seek medical care as promptly as possible. Gather evidence of your time spent on the ship, your injury, your lost wages, and anything else that may be even slightly relevant.
Plus, while a Jones Act claim can be filed up to three years after the injury, witnesses forget and documents disappear over time, so it’s best to file your claim as soon as possible.
How to File a Claim Under the Jones Act
The details above are just a small taste of the intricacies in the Jones Act, so it’s important to work with an attorney who is experienced in this specific law. The sooner you approach a lawyer, the better, because he/she can tell you what evidence to keep and attain.
If you believe you may have a Jones Act claim, contact our experienced maritime lawyers for a consultation.