The Jones Act, formally known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a crucial piece of legislation that provides protection and legal remedies to seamen who sustain injuries while working aboard vessels in U.S. navigable waters. Filing a Jones Act claim can be a complex process, but it is essential for seamen to understand their rights and how to navigate this system when injuries occur.

In the comprehensive guide below, the maritime injury lawyers at Kherkher Garcia, LLP walk you through the steps involved in filing a Jones Act claim, ensuring you have the knowledge and resources needed to protect your interests. As always, if you have questions, please do not hesitate to call us at 713-333-1030.

Understanding the Jones Act

Before filing a Jones Act claim, it is important to understand how the process works. Working with a maritime injury lawyer is a great way to ensure this process goes smoothly. The guide below will provide helpful information in the meantime.

Who Qualifies as a Seaman?

Before filing a Jones Act claim, it’s important to determine if you qualify as a seaman under the Act. In general, a seaman is someone who spends a significant amount of time working on a vessel or fleet that is in navigation on navigable waters. This can include crew members of ships, barges, tugboats, fishing vessels, and other types of vessels.

Types of Injuries Covered

The Jones Act covers a wide range of injuries sustained by seamen while on the job, including injuries from:

  • Accidents
  • Repetitive motion
  • Hazardous conditions
  • Illnesses
  • Defective equipment
  • Inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE)

Essentially, the Jones Act covers nearly any injury or illness that occurs while working at sea. It is essential to note that the Jones Act provides a broader scope of protection compared to workers’ compensation laws.

Steps to File a Jones Act Claim

In order to protect your rights and improve the chances of a successful claim, there are several steps you can take when filing a Jones Act claim:

Seek Immediate Medical Attention

If you have sustained an injury or illness while working on a vessel, your health should be your top priority. Seek medical attention as soon as possible, even for seemingly minor injuries. It is crucial for your Jones Act claim to document your injuries and treatment.

Report the Injury to Your Employer

Under the Jones Act, you are required to report your injury to your employer or the vessel owner promptly. This notification should be in writing and include details about how the injury occurred and any unsafe conditions you observed on the vessel.

Preserve Evidence

Preserve all evidence related to your injury. This includes photographs of the accident scene, the vessel, your injuries, and any equipment involved. Collect contact information for witnesses who may be able to provide statements later.

Consult with a Lawyer

Hiring an experienced maritime injury lawyer who specializes in Jones Act claims is crucial. They can help you navigate the complex legal process, assess the value of your claim, and ensure your rights are protected.

Determine Negligence

To succeed in a Jones Act claim, you must establish that your injury resulted from your employer’s or the vessel owner’s negligence. Your lawyer will help gather evidence and witnesses to support your case.

File the Lawsuit

If negotiations with your employer or their insurance company do not result in a fair settlement, your lawyer will file a lawsuit on your behalf. This lawsuit typically needs to be filed within three years from the date of the injury, so prompt action is essential.

Keep Detailed Records

Throughout the process, maintain a detailed record of all medical bills, lost wages, and expenses related to your injury. Proper documentation is essential for calculating the compensation you are entitled to.

Maintain Open Communication

Maintain open and honest communication with your lawyer. They will guide you through each step of the process and keep you informed about the progress of your case.

The Jones Act Claims Process

Once a lawsuit is filed, there are several processes that the case will move through. These processes include:


During the legal process, both parties engage in discovery. This involves exchanging information, documents, and witness testimonies related to the case. Your lawyer will prepare you for any depositions or interviews that may be required. Discovery can take weeks or even months to complete depending on the complexity of your case. Be patient during this time, as it is a crucial part of the Jones Act claim process.

Settlement Negotiations

In many cases, Jones Act claims are resolved through settlement negotiations. Your lawyer will work to secure a fair settlement that covers your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Settlement negotiations may involve offers and counter-offers, and may include multiple parties, depending on who is liable for your injuries.


If a settlement cannot be reached, your case may go to trial. At trial, both sides will present their evidence and arguments, and a judge and/or jury will determine the outcome of your case. Working with a skilled maritime injury lawyer ensures that you have a legal advocate on your side who will fight for the best outcome possible.

Compensation in Jones Act Claims

Under the Jones Act, injured seamen can seek compensation for various damages, including:

  • Past and Future Medical Expenses: Injured seamen can recover compensation for all reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to their injuries. This includes doctor’s visits, surgeries, hospital stays, rehabilitation, prescription medications, and any other medical treatments required.
  • Lost Wages and Earning Capacity: Jones Act claims allow seamen to seek compensation for the income they have lost due to their injuries. This includes wages that were not earned during the recovery period. Additionally, if the injury affects their ability to work in the future, they can seek compensation for the loss of future earning capacity.
  • Pain and Suffering: Seamen can recover damages for the physical pain and emotional suffering they have endured due to their injuries. This can include compensation for both past and future pain and suffering.
  • Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress: Seamen may be eligible for damages if their injuries have resulted in mental anguish, emotional distress, or psychological trauma.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: If the injuries have significantly diminished the seaman’s ability to enjoy their life as they did before the accident, they can seek compensation for this loss.
  • Vocational Rehabilitation: If the injuries prevent the seaman from returning to their previous job, they may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation services to help them transition into a new career. The cost of such services can be included in the damages.

In cases of extreme negligence or willful misconduct on the part of the employer or vessel owner, punitive damages may be awarded to punish the responsible party and deter similar behavior in the future. However, punitive damages are relatively rare in Jones Act claims.

Comparative Negligence

It is essential to understand that compensation in a Jones Act claim can be affected by comparative negligence. If it is determined that you were partly responsible for your injury, your compensation may be reduced accordingly.

Get Help with Your Maritime Injury Case

Filing a Jones Act claim can be a complex and challenging process. It is essential for seamen who have suffered injuries while working at sea to understand their rights and options. The Jones Act provides important protections and compensation for injured seamen, ensuring that they receive the support they need to recover and move forward with their lives.

If you are suffering from a maritime injury or illness, the lawyers at Kherkher Garcia can help. Our team has more than 30 years of experience helping injured victims. We have obtained verdicts or settlements in more than 900 cases. When it comes to Jones Act claims, we know how to get the results that you need!

Get started with a free consultation. Call us at 713-333-1030, or complete our contact form.

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Steve Kherkher

Steve Kherkher

Founding Partner and Trial Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Injury Trial Lawyer and Founding Firm Partner Steve Kherkher. Steve has been a practicing injury lawyer for more than 30 years. He has won $300 Million+ in Settlements and Verdicts for his clients. He is a force to be reckoned with in the courtroom and the trial lawyer you want on your side if you or a loved one have been catastrophically injured.

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