Every seaman knows an accident is always a looming possibility, as they work in some of the most dangerous conditions possible. Ship crew regularly engage in heavy labor and do so on a platform that is constantly bobbing and shifting. Even experienced crew can sustain a severe injury with a single wrong move, and medical facilities are often hours away. As such, these professionals can lose their ability to work and provide for their families, even after a minor incident, so they need protection in case the worst happens. And ship crew do have protections, but it doesn’t come from the state, which does not incorporate these workers into state injury compensation programs. Instead, they are empowered through the Jones Act, which gives the ability to exercise unique legal rights in the event of injury.
WHAT CAN A SEAMAN DO IF AN ACCIDENT OCCURS?
If a worker is hurt to the point where they cannot continue their job, the days following an incident may be filled with stress. While a worker is entitled to maintenance and cure through the Jones Act, these benefits only persist as the worker is recovering. Once they reach maximal improvement, these benefits will cease. That could be a matter of hours, or a matter of weeks.
Once these benefits expire, a worker may have no recourse if they require continued medical treatment or can’t return to their job. It’s best to plan for this eventuality, especially if they were badly hurt in the incident.
The Jones Act gives a qualified seaman some measure of accident protection because through this federal statute, a worker can sue their employer for negligence. This is a right afforded to few others in the U.S., so ship crew are uniquely handled by the legal system. A negligence claim has the potential to secure a much higher settlement than what would be possible through a state compensation program, but a worker has to prove the negligence, not just assert it. Fortunately, the Jones Act takes the victim’s vulnerable position into account, and it makes it much easier for a hurt worker to execute a successful claim. Normally, a plaintiff has to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the principle cause of injury. During a Jones Act injury claim, the victim just has to demonstrate that their employer’s negligence was a notable factor.
In other words, a vessel owner or employer is held to a higher degree of liability. So, a worker may be hurt when they trip over another crew member’s tools. But if there was no space dedicated to storing tools, the hurt worker can claim that the employer was negligent in maintaining a safe workspace. This is just one example, but it demonstrates how a seaman can approach an accident injury claim.
A worker may feel hopeless as they recover from an incident and face recovery, but with the Jones Act and an experienced attorney, a ship worker can challenge a negligent employer.