Claims for Insured Offshore Workers Under the Jones Act

The Jones Act protects maritime workers and ensures that they are able to receive fair compensation for work-related injuries. According to the Transportation Institute, The Jones Act is part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 and is named for its sponsor, Senator Wesley R. Jones of Washington State. Many people unfamiliar with the law wonder “what is the purpose of the Jones Act?” The law was enacted to build and protect a strong shipping industry and also protect seamen who are injured while working on vessels, ports, or oil rigs. To find out whether you can recover compensation by filing a claim under the Jones Act, call us today to discuss your case with our Maritime, Offshore Injury attorney, Christopher Van Cleave.

The State of Mississippi

Mississippi ranks number six among all 50 states for per capita jobs in the maritime industry. In fact, the domestic maritime industry pumps over $3 billion into the state’s economy each year. This includes nearly $730 million in income for workers (driven by 13,460 maritime jobs).

What the Jones Act Means for Workers

The Jones Act protects sailors and other maritime workers from mistreatment on the job and from undue levels of danger. The Act requires maritime employers to maintain safe working conditions, to provide health care to their employees, to ensure that vessels are equipped with an adequate number of well-maintained lifeboats and other safety equipment, and to provide adequate employee training. Maritime Employers are further required to ensure that employees have appropriate qualifications to take on their positions. Some examples of unsafe conditions that may lead to a Jones Act employer being liable to compensate its employee for an on the job injurie include:

  • Inadequate training
  • Improperly maintained work equipment
  • Inadequate safety protocols
  • Trip Hazards
  • Grease or oil on the deck
  • Cluttered deck surfaces
  • Failure to provide employees with protective safety equipment
  • Negligent hiring of coworkers

Inherent Dangers of Maritime Work

Working on the water comes with uniquely dangerous risk factors, including:

  • Erratic Work Schedules – Maritime work runs around the clock, and maritime workers have to be ready when duty calls. Sometimes, getting a good night’s sleep on the water is a distant dream. Unfortunately, however, exhaustion is often closely associated with dangerous accidents.
  • Extreme Conditions – When you work in the maritime industry, you not only face extreme temperatures and temperamental waters but must also navigate dangers such as high winds, storms, and other vessels. Further, many boats incorporate workspaces on high, open platforms or in cramped, humid conditions – each of which can lead to dangerous conditions and severe injuries.
  • Slip and Fall Accidents –From their slick walking surfaces and sometimes cluttered decks to the buffeting they take from the rolling water, vessels have a high incident rate of slip or trip and fall accidents, which can lead to broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, spinal injuries, and even drowning.
  • Fires and other Electrical Hazards – Vessels’ engine rooms require considerable engineering skill and careful maintenance to ensure that the vessel functions safely. Improper maintenance or repair can lead to dangerous fires and/or electrical shorts that can injure workers and also damage the vessel.
  • Boats That Are Not Seaworthy – Vessels that are not seaworthy are dangerous for the seaman who work on them. “Unseaworthiness” is an important concept in Maritime law. It does not mean that the vessel cannot sail or navigate. A vessel may be held to be “unseaworthy”, and its owner or operator held liable for injuries contributed to by that condition, when the vessel does not provide a seaman with safe and suitable tools with which to perform his work, or provide him with a safe place to work (for example because of a greasy or cluttered deck). It is not necessary to prove that the entire vessel is unseaworthy, but only that the conditions surrounding a particular seaman’s work were not seaworthy.
  • Stress-Related Illnesses – The stress of working on a boat – with its inherent risks, cramped quarters, protracted isolation from loved ones, erratic schedules, and sometimes-chaotic conditions – can lead to serious emotional consequences, including PTSD.
  • Dangerous Chemicals – The fact is that ships and barges often carry dangerous chemicals, and employers have a duty to provide adequate safety measures to protect their employees from toxic exposure. When they do not, and dangerous chemicals cause injuries, workers may be able to file a claim under the Jones Act to recover compensation.

Employees Have a Low Burden to Prove Employers are Liable Under the Jones Act

  • To prove ordinary negligence in most cases, such as in car wrecks, the injured person must prove the defendant’s negligent conduct was the main cause of injury.
  • Under the Jones Act, the burden of proof is much lower. An insured seaman does not have to prove that the employer’s negligence was the main cause of injury – but only that it was a contributing cause. That is, if the worker can prove that the employer’s negligence played even a small part in causing the injury, even just one percent (1%), the employer may be held liable for damages under the Jones Act.

The Jones Act Repeal

There have been recent moves to suspend or repeal the Jones act, as some argue that doing so would stimulate the U.S. economy by introducing international competition and resulting in the reduction of the cost of transport and goods to consumers.  However, without the protections and domestic requirements of the Jones Act, the U.S. would open itself to the risk of foreign ships and mariners taking over critical U.S. economic infrastructure. To date, these efforts have been unsuccessful, ensuring that our maritime workers are protected.

You Need an Experienced Biloxi Maritime Attorney on Your Side

Jones Act Claims are different from standard State Law personal injury or workers’ compensation claims, and can be complicated. If your employer’s negligence leaves you injured in your position as a maritime worker, Christopher C. Van Cleave at Van Cleave Law in Biloxi is a dedicated maritime/offshore injury attorney who is ready to assist with every aspect of your claim from beginning to end. Mr. Van Cleave takes great pride in helping clients regain their physical, financial, and emotional footing via favorable case resolutions. We’re here to help, so please don’t hesitate to call us at (228) 432-7826 to schedule your free initial consultation today.