Maritime law, particularly the Jones Act, provides offshore workers and vessel crew persons a means by which to file claims against employers for injuries sustained on the job. The Jones Act applies to most persons employed offshore on vessels, barges, jackup and semi-submersible drilling rigs, crew and supply vessels and most all vessels servicing the offshore oil exploration industry, including aircraft. Evaluating maritime law and Jones Act cases is considerably different from the process used in ordinary negligence and accident cases because of the laws involved. Determining if there is a case after an injury should be decided by lawyers with substantial training and experience in Admiralty and maritime law. The Jones Act was enacted by Congress for the protection of seamen. What constitutes a seaman has been the subject of many lawsuits. Generally, it has been established that seamen status for the purpose of filing claims under the Jones Act will be given to those persons working on a rig or vessels in furtherance of the vessel’s mission. This application may apply even while the vessel is dockside and thus seaman status depends on the person’s relationship to the vessel as a crew member and the vessel’s mission in navigable waters, including the inland waterways of the United States.To determine seaman status, a crew member must have a connection with the vessel or rig while it is in service of the vessel’s mission and the crew member must contribute, in some way, to the accomplishment of the mission. Competent counsel is required to evaluate the total circumstances of a crew member’s employment to determine if there is sufficient relationship to the vessel or rig and whether or not the vessel itself qualifies.The employer of a Jones Act seaman must provide a safe work environment. Failure to do so often gives rise to claims for unseaworthiness if a crew member is injured as a result of the failure. Federal law may also hold the employer liable for injuries to a crew member due to negligence of coworkers. The duty of care required of an employer to a crew member under the Jones Act is much greater than the duty required of other employers in typical negligence and accident cases. Consequently, an employer may be held liable for injuries to a seaman even if the employer was only partly responsible for the cause of the injury. Federal law preempts state laws, and thus the statute of limitations for claims under the Jones Act must be brought within three years from the date of the injury, even if state law where the accident may have occurred provides for a greater or lesser time limit. Claims may be brought in state or federal courts and the decision rest with the injured seaman. Each case being different, the decision of where to file can affect the outcome of your case, and therefore the selection of a lawyer well versed in maritime law and the local area is important. Monetary awards for pain, suffering, permanent disabilities, death, present and future medical requirements and retraining for other employment may be recovered by injured offshore workers. Normally, an injured seaman will have only one opportunity to make a claim and recover. Consequently, the selection of legal counsel should be made carefully and only after a full inquiry into the lawyer’s credentials and past record of success.
Posted in: Maritime & Jones Act
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