The Jones Act and Negligence: Protecting Maritime Workers’ Rights

by | Oct 4, 2023 | Maritime Accident, Maritime Injury, Maritime Law, Offshore Accident, The Jones Act

The maritime industry plays a pivotal role in global trade, transporting goods and people across the world’s waters. This industry also provides more than two million jobs. Unfortunately, the maritime industry is dangerous, and often, workers are not covered by the same protections as land-based employees. To safeguard the rights and wellbeing of maritime workers, the Jones Act was enacted.

The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a crucial piece of legislation that governs maritime commerce and protects the rights of maritime workers. In the article below, the Jones Act maritime lawyers at Kherkher Garcia explore the Act, negligence, and how it helps protect injured maritime workers.

Understanding the Jones Act

The Jones Act is a piece of legislation that impacts the maritime industry in the United States. Its primary aim is to provide legal protection and support for seafarers who are injured while performing their duties at sea. This act is a vital component of maritime law, as it addresses the unique challenges and dangers that maritime workers face.

One of the key provisions of the Jones Act is the ability for seafarers to bring claims against their employers for injuries resulting from negligence. Negligence, in this context, refers to:

 The failure of an employer to provide a safe working environment or to take reasonable precautions to prevent accidents.

Under the Jones Act, injured maritime workers have the right to seek compensation for their injuries if negligence on the part of their employer is proven.

Negligence and the Jones Act

Negligence cases under the Jones Act can be complex, as they require the injured party to demonstrate that their employer’s negligence directly contributed to their injuries. To establish a negligence claim under the Jones Act, the following elements must generally be proven:

  1. Duty: The injured worker must show that their employer owed them a duty of care. This duty includes providing a safe working environment, proper training, and adequate equipment.
  2. Breach of Duty: The injured worker must demonstrate that their employer breached this duty of care by failing to take reasonable precautions to prevent accidents or injuries.
  3. Causation: It must be proven that the breach of duty directly caused or contributed to the worker’s injuries. This connection between the breach of duty and the injuries suffered is crucial in negligence claims.
  4. Damages: Finally, the injured worker must provide evidence of the damages they suffered as a result of the negligence, which may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related costs.

Negligence under the Jones Act can encompass a wide range of scenarios, from slip and fall accidents due to a slippery deck to injuries resulting from improper maintenance of equipment. It is essential for maritime workers to understand their rights and the protections offered by the Jones Act in cases of negligence.

The Duty of Care

A fundamental aspect of negligence claims under the Jones Act is the duty of care that employers owe to their employees. Employers must ensure that their vessels are seaworthy, which means they are in good condition and fit for their intended purpose. Regular maintenance, inspections, and repairs are essential to meet this duty.

Additionally, employers are responsible for providing proper training and safety equipment to their crew members. This includes ensuring that workers are well-trained in safety protocols, have access to life-saving equipment, and are aware of potential hazards on board.

Failure to meet these obligations can result in serious accidents and injuries, making employers liable for negligence under the Jones Act. It is crucial for employers to prioritize safety and take proactive measures to prevent accidents and protect their workers.

Burden of Proof

Proving negligence under the Jones Act can be challenging, as the burden of proof rests with the injured party. Maritime workers must gather evidence to support their claims, including witness testimonies, documentation of safety violations, medical records, and any other relevant information.

In many cases, it is advisable for injured maritime workers to seek legal counsel experienced in Jones Act claims to navigate the legal complexities and build a strong case for negligence. An attorney can help gather evidence, interview witnesses, and negotiate with the employer’s legal team to reach a fair settlement or proceed to trial if necessary.

Common Injuries in the Maritime Industry

The maritime industry is demanding and hazardous, leading to various types of injuries. Common injuries reported in maritime injury claims include:

  • Slips, Trips, and Falls: Due to the wet and slippery conditions on ships and docks, slips, trips, and falls are common.
  • Struck-by or Caught-between Accidents: Workers can be struck by moving equipment or cargo, or they may become caught between objects, leading to serious injuries or fatalities.
  • Electrical Shocks and Burns: Electrical systems are prevalent on ships, and accidents involving electrical shocks or burns can occur, often due to faulty equipment or improper maintenance.
  • Drowning and Water-Related Injuries: The risk of falling overboard or being involved in water-related accidents is inherent in the maritime industry. Drowning and injuries from these incidents can be fatal.
  • Machinery and Equipment Accidents: Workers may operate heavy machinery and equipment on ships, and accidents involving these tools can result in crush injuries, amputations, or fatalities.
  • Fire and Explosion Incidents: Fires and explosions can occur due to the presence of flammable materials, fuel, or machinery, leading to burn injuries and fatalities.
  • Chemical Exposures: Maritime workers may be exposed to hazardous chemicals, leading to chemical burns, respiratory problems, or other health issues.
  • Repetitive Stress Injuries: Repetitive motions and long hours can lead to injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome or other repetitive stress injuries.
  • Cold-related Injuries: Workers operating in cold environments, especially in polar regions, may suffer from hypothermia, frostbite, or other cold-related injuries.
  • Heat-related Injuries: In hot and humid climates, workers can experience heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

To mitigate these risks, maritime companies and organizations often implement safety training, equipment maintenance protocols, and safety regulations to protect their workers and the environment.

Compensation for Injured Maritime Workers

Maritime workers who successfully establish negligence under the Jones Act can be eligible for various forms of compensation, including:

  • Medical Expenses: Coverage for medical treatment, surgeries, hospital stays, and ongoing medical care related to the injuries.
  • Lost Wages: Compensation for lost income, including past and future earnings, while recovering from injuries.
  • Pain and Suffering: Damages for the physical and emotional suffering endured as a result of the injuries.
  • Rehabilitation Costs: Support for rehabilitation and physical therapy necessary for recovery.
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Compensation for the loss of enjoyment of life’s activities due to the injuries.
  • Wrongful Death: In the unfortunate event of a maritime worker’s death resulting from negligence, the family may be eligible for wrongful death benefits.

Was Your Maritime Injury Caused by Negligence?

Negligence claims under the Jones Act can be complex, but they provide injured maritime workers with the opportunity to seek compensation for their injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. It is essential for maritime workers to be aware of their rights under the Jones Act and to seek legal counsel to ensure fair compensation.

If you have been injured while working in the maritime industry, Kherkher Garcia can help you determine if negligence was the cause. If so, our maritime injury lawyers will help you build a case and pursue compensation for your injuries and losses. We have recovered billions of dollars on behalf of our clients, and we will fight to get you the compensation you deserve.

For a free consultation, call us at 713-333-1030, or fill out our online 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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