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Contact an Experienced Jones Act Lawyer in Florida Today
If you are a seaman who suffered a serious injury while on the job, you may be entitled to financial compensation through the Jones Act. The Law Firm of Kevin A. Moore is here to help. Attorney Moore focuses on integrity, service and results in every case his firm handles. Contact his Florida law firm today for a free, confidential consultation.
Understanding the Jones Act and Your Legal Rights
If you are a crew member or ship employee who suffered a serious injury while on board the ship or at port, you may be entitled to compensation under a federal law known as the Jones Act. To get a better idea of your legal options, you should reach out to an experienced Jones Act attorney to discuss your case and what types of
financial restitution you may be entitled to.
What Exactly is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is outlined in Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. This is a federal law meant to protect the rights of injured seamen. You must be legally considered a “seaman” to qualify for compensation under the Jones Act. Under this federal law, crew members hurt on the job may pursue restitution for “maintenance” and “cure” which are basically your medical bills (including hospital bills, physical therapy) and lost wages.
How is Compensation is Obtained Through the Jones Act?
For a seaman to get financial damages under the Jones Act, they have the burden of proving they were legally
considered a “seaman.” Once you establish that you are a seaman and suffered an injury, the process of obtaining damages should become much easier. Why? Under the laws of The Jones Act you do not have the burden of
establishing negligence. This is a key distinction from Jones Act claims and state-based personal injury claims. For
personal injury claims, the injured party filing a lawsuit must show that the defendant was negligent. For a Jones Act claim, if you can establish that you were a seaman at the time of the injury, you do not have to prove that your employer was negligent.
How is Compensation is Obtained Through the Jones Act?
As mentioned above, injured seamen are entitled to pursue damages for “maintenance” and “cure.” Maintenance damages refer to reimbursement for your wages when a serious injury causes you to become physically unable to work. Your employer is obligated to pay your wages until you become well enough to return to work duty. If your injury was so severe that you may never able to return to work, you can pursue disability payments.
In addition to maintenance, you can pursue cure damages. These damages refer to the costs you incurred for medical care necessary to treat your injuries. Your employer must pay for all medical treatment that is determined to be reasonably related and medically necessary to get you back to as close to 100 percent as possible. If your employer refuses to pay your cure, or suddenly stops, you can pursue additional compensation for pain and
suffering, reimbursement of your attorney’s fees, and possibly punitive damages. These are a unique form of
damages designed to punish defendants whose actions are deemed reprehensible or outrageous.
Contact an Experienced Jones Act Lawyer in Tampa or Ft Lauderdale FL Today
If you are a crew member or cruise ship employee who suffered a serious injury, you may be entitled to financial compensation through the Jones Act. The Law Firm of Kevin A. Moore is here to help. Attorney Moore focuses his practice on exclusively on the job injuries. Contact his Florida law firm today for a free, confidential consultation.
Who Qualifies as a Seaman Under the Jones Act?
Qualifying as a “seaman” is crucial for getting compensation under the Jones Act. Why? Because if you are determined to be a seaman and suffered a work-related injury, you do not have to prove that your employer was negligent. This makes accessing benefits much easier. So, how do you qualify as a seaman?
Definition of a Seaman
A seaman is a person who spends a significant amount of their time working as a crewmember or a captain on a sea vessel that is “in navigation.” But keep in mind, the vessel does not actually have to be at sea in order for you to qualify as a seaman. The vessel simply must be able to move under its own power. In fact, a vessel “in navigation” can be tied up at a dock or mooring.
An example of a vessel not “in navigation” would be a newly built sea vessel still undergoing sea trials to make sure that it is capable of withstanding a trip at sea. This new vessel may even be in the ocean and sailing around, but it is not in commercial operation. If so, it is not a vessel “in navigation” and therefore injuries that occur to workers on that vessel may not fall under the Jones Act.
You Must Work for the Vessel
To be considered a seaman, you must “contribute” to the work of the vessel. Basically, your work must add, or benefit, to the sea vessel’s specific mission. Typically, this is not a difficult hurdle to meet for most workers. Though, the “contribute” requirement may be an issue for a member of the vessel owner’s administrative support staff who is not regularly working on the vessel.
You Must Spend a Specific Amount of Time Working on the Vessel
To qualify as a seaman, there must be evidence that you spent at least 30 percent of your employment time on a particular vessel or fleet of vessels. This requirement is often litigated since defense lawyers try to argue that the majority of an employee’s work was not on a vessel or fleet of vessels.
For example, let’s say you spend most of your time in an office managing a fleet of tankers. You may take a two-week trip on one of the tankers once per year. In this scenario, you would probably not qualify as a seaman. If, on the other hand, you spend less than half of your time in the office, and the majority of your time on a vessel, you will likely qualify as a seaman. The evidence that can be used to establish your time will likely include pay stubs, time sheets, job description, etc.
Understanding Seaman Rights
If you are spending at least 30 percent of your working day on a vessel and contributing to the vessel’s mission, you are likely to be categorized as a “seaman.” If you are a seaman and get hurt on the job, you may be able to access unique rights under maritime law. These unique rights include the following:
- Right to “maintenance”
- Right to “cure”
- Right to wages
- Right to sue an employer for unseaworthiness
Below is further context to these unique seaman rights.
Maintenance = Living Expenses
Your employer owes you “maintenance” until you are back to as close to 100 percent (also known as maximum medical improvement). The amount of maintenance owed is not uniform. It is determined by your living expenses, but is generally limited to $40 per day. It is also limited to your living expenses, and not the expenses of any family members, including your spouse.
Cure = Medical Bills
Cure benefits are available to reimburse you for reasonable medical expenses incurred to treat your injuries. Like maintenance, your employer must pay cure benefits regardless of fault and those payments must continue until you reach maximum medical improvement.
You have the right to see your own physician, so do not fall for the trap that some employers lay by claiming that you have to see an “approved” doctor. This is not true. Also, if your employer refuses to pay for your medical bills, the employer may be held liable for punitive damages. These are a unique form of damages meant to punish the wrongdoer. Punitive damages provide you with an additional amount of compensation designed to send a signal to the defendant, and others in their position, that their wrongful conduct will not be tolerated.
Claim for Injuries Suffered on an Unseaworthy Vessel
Owners of sea vessels owe a non-delegable duty to provide a “seaworthy” vessel on which you work. This is an absolute duty that cannot be waived. This “warranty of seaworthiness” establishes that all parts of the vessel must be reasonably fit for their intended use.
You may be able to file a claim for unseaworthiness if the evidence indicates that the vessel or equipment on the vessel is significantly damaged or unmaintained and that lack of maintenance proximately resulted in you suffering an injury. Examples on unseaworthiness include improperly trained crew members, improperly maintained decks and passageways, slippery surfaces, lack of proper equipment, and malfunctioning equipment. You do not need to prove that the owner caused or knew about the unseaworthy condition, only that the condition existed and proximately caused your injuries.
Contact an Experienced Jones Act Lawyer Today
If you are a seaman who suffered a serious injury while on the job, you may be entitled to financial compensation through the Jones Act and other federal laws. The Law Firm of Kevin A. Moore is here to help and offers you a free evaluation of your case and your rights.