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Understand Your Rights Under The Jones Act

Workers on commercial ships and vessels at sea that deliver goods on waterways are generally called “merchant marines.” As a merchant marine, you have a right to work in a reasonably safe environment at sea. When injuries occur while working at sea, a mariner or seaman cannot file a traditional workers’ compensation claim to pay for medical treatment or lost and future wages.

Among a myriad of provisions under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, or the Jones Act, as it is commonly known, seafarers have the right to file a lawsuit in federal district court or state court to recover damages from their employer for their injuries due to their employer’s negligence.

Your Boat Must Be Seaworthy

What does employer negligence look like? Employer negligence can include:

  • Not providing proper safety and working equipment to employees
  • Not maintaining the vessel and the equipment on it
  • Lack of proper crew or captain training
  • Neglecting slippery surfaces
  • Crew member assault

Even if you were partially at fault for your injury on a boat deck, you may still be able to file a lawsuit for compensation to pay for medical treatment for your injuries, rehabilitation, lost wages, future wages and other damages.

How Do I Know If My Injuries Qualify For Jones Act Provisions?

The Jones Act is a complicated set of laws with far-reaching protections for those working on privately owned commercial ships, boats, and other vessels that are operational, afloat, tethered to a dock and generally capable of moving on navigable waters.

If you spend at least 30% of your time as an employee on the vessel on the water, Jones Act provisions will enable you to file a claim against the shipping company or your employer if you are injured at sea while working as a:

  • Master
  • Captain
  • Officer
  • Crew member

The key to a successful claim is to:

  • Report your injury to your boss as soon as possible within seven days.
  • File an accident report with an official description of the accident and your injuries.
  • Get medical attention right away and keep your medical records.
  • Speak with an experienced maritime lawyer as soon as you are able.

Other regulations, such as the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act could be useful if your time on the water at work falls under 30%.

Contact Chouest & Smith Before Filing Suit

Maritime regulations have many nuances that only an experienced maritime lawyer is qualified to address when it comes to filing a lawsuit under the Jones Act for your injuries on a commercial vessel. Our attorneys have that experience. Call Chouest & Smith in Metairie at 504-389-5344 for a free consultation. If you prefer, send us an online inquiry to make arrangements for a meeting. We have been serving clients in throughout Louisiana and the Gulf Coast for more than 40 years.