What you need to know about the Jones Act work injury claims in Georgia
Seamen injured during the course of their regular employment are allowed to sue their employer for damages under the federal law known as the “Jones Act.” Unlike workers’ compensation (which is a no-fault system), an injured seaman must establish that the crew and/or owner of the vessel acted in a negligent manner and caused their injury.
Injured seamen are not permitted to file traditional workers’ compensation claims against their employers, and they are not entitled to receive this type of payment under federal or state law. The remedy available in such scenarios stems from the Jones Act.
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Who is covered by the Jones Act?
Dating back to the 1920s, the legislation was passed as a means to provide remedies for seamen who sustain harm during the course of their employment on a variety of vessels including ships, movable rigs, tankers, fishing boats, research vessels, and more.
Seamen are workers who serve on ships or boats. Given the fact that these workers tend to be at sea for lengthy periods, their schedules are often quite irregular. It should be noted, however, that if a seaman’s job is only done partially aboard a vessel, they may not be entitled to seek compensation from the Jones Act. Those working part-time need to be working on a vessel for at least 30 percent of the time to fall under the definition of a seaman for purposes of the Jones Act.
What constitutes negligence under the Jones Act?
Employers can be found liable for negligent acts or omissions on the part of their agents, officers or employees. They must provide seamen a reasonable environment in which to work and must exercise ordinary care to maintain their vessel in a safe condition.
Liability can attach for allowing conditions such as:
- Broken or malfunctioning equipment
- Oil accumulations on deck
- Improper training
- Lack of necessary equipment
- Unsafe work practices
How to prove fault in Jones Act cases
Seamen who seek financial compensation under the Jones Act must meet a higher standard than typical injured workers have to under no-fault workers’ compensation. However, this standard is a lesser burden of proof than in typical negligence-based cases.
The injured Jones Act worker must demonstrate that the negligence at issue was a proximate cause of the harm sustained and that it had some role—even a small one—in provoking the injury of which they allege. Under this definition, it is often possible for seamen to prevail in cases predicated on Jones Act protections.
What compensation is available to injured crew members?
Damages available in Jones Act cases are essentially the same as in a typical personal injury action in that they include payment for medical bills, emotional distress, rehabilitation expenses, physical pain and suffering and reduced earning capacity. It may sometimes also be possible for an injured seaman to receive interest on the damages ultimately awarded.
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Jones Act vs. workers’ compensation
The remedies available in a Jones Act claim are considerably more substantial than those offered in a traditional workers’ compensation scenario, as the latter structure does not provide payment beyond that required to cover medical expenses and wage replacement. As such, the option of filing a Jones Act lawsuit should be contemplated by any injured workers who are victimized by employer negligence aboard a ship.
On the flip side, Jones Act claimants have the burden of proving that their employer acted negligently in order to recover compensation. This differs from the no-fault system of workers’ compensation, where injured workers are guaranteed certain benefits regardless of who was responsible for the work-related accident.
Time limitations on
Jones Act claims
It is important for potential claimants under the Jones Act to understand that they must initiate legal action within 3 years of the incident in question in order to preserve their right to seek compensation. This also differs from workers’ compensation in Georgia, where injured workers only have 1 year to file a claim.
How to file a Jones Act
work injury claim
In terms of how and where a Jones Act claim should be filed, injured crew members may file their claim either in federal or state court. They may also choose to file in either the state where they reside or the state in which the injury was sustained.
For claimants who hail from Georgia, it could be wise to file within the state itself given the high degree of familiarity its courts have with the Jones Act and maritime law cases, given the close proximity to the coast and seafaring professions.
When to consult with a workers’ comp lawyer
Maritime law and the Jones Act are distinctive areas of practice with which not every attorney is fully familiar. As such, when serious harm occurs while working aboard a water-going vessel, injured seamen are well-advised to consult with professionals who possess a strong record of handling this specific type of case.
The legal team at Gerber & Holder stands ready to review the facts of each client’s case and provide the guidance necessary for injured crew members to make informed decisions about their legal options.