A maritime accident attorney has the experience in a unique set of injury cases, and this knowledge can be valuable to workers on seagoing vessels. People who work on vessels have protection under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a powerful federal statute that modifies the legal process for some injury claims, and lawyers who work with seamen must be well versed in it. Under the Jones Act, vessel owners and operators are held to stricter forms of liability, so there are many situations in which an injured seaman may file a claim.
HOW CAN A MARITIME ACCIDENT ATTORNEY HELP AN INJURED SEAMAN?
The Jones Act offers a few provisions to injured seamen, and these provisions can be used to build a case. A lawyer specialized in this area will be able to take advantage of the additional liability vessel owners and operators have. In effect, an injured worker will be able to file a larger claim and will be more likely to win a favorable settlement. A specialized lawyer will also be familiar with the unique circumstances the Jones Act creates for injured seamen and will be able to adjust the case accordingly.
For example, a vessel owner or employer may be exempt from liability in some special cases, such as when a defect in the cargo is responsible for workers injuries or while trying to save goods or lives at sea.
WHAT PARTICULAR PROVISIONS DOES THE JONES ACT EXTEND TO INJURED SEAMEN?
To receive protection under the Jones Act, a worker must be considered a qualifying seaman, which is someone who spends at least 30 percent of their working time on a navigating vessel. An injured worker will likely have to prove they are a qualifying seaman during a Jones Act injury suit. A maritime accident attorney can help demonstrate this in addition to overseeing the settlement and trial phases of the case.
The most important provision the Jones Act offers is the right to sue a vessel owner, operator or employer for negligence. Vessel owners must ensure their ships are seaworthy and safe, and must staff their vessels with knowledgeable, capable crew. The vessel owner or worker’s employer will be liable for any injuries if violations of any of these requirements occur. In general, it doesn’t matter who was negligent at the time of the injury, as long as another party’s negligence was at least partly responsible for any damages. This means that an injured worker can file a suit if harm comes to them by unsafe conditions on the ship, careless crew, or reckless ship navigation.
Injured workers are also entitled to maintenance and cure, granted by the vessel owner. Maintenance and cure represents the worker’s room, board, daily living expenses and medical treatment. The vessel owner must provide these to the worker while they convalesce and until they are transferred to a medical facility. Failing to provide either of these also constitutes negligence.