Around one hundred years ago, ships were the main source of transportation and were the method to ship goods. Despite this reliance on seafaring vessels for hundreds of years, the United States had not yet implemented complete laws which protected sailors and vessel workers. Therefore, anytime a sailor was injured or tragically lost their life while engaged in their employment onboard a ship, they were often unable to receive workers’ compensation or any compensation for their injuries. Families of sailors who were dependent on this income were frequently left without a source of revenue after a devastating accident occurred while offshore. This situation was rectified through the passing of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, or the Jones Act.
The Jones Act
Prior to the Jones Act, a number of other Acts existed which governed the regulation of vessels but did not provide for recovery for seaman. Until this point, any time a sailor was injured, they were not entitled to receive any form of compensation to cover the medical expenses or any lost wages. However, once the Jones Act was put into place, any seaman was able to bring a claim against the vessel owner based on negligence which led to the accident. The Jones Act now protects seaman by offering them a legal avenue to pursue legal claims against their employers when injured due to the negligence of the vessel owner, captain, or crew.
Qualifying For the Jones Act
Seaman became a defined term in a recent Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court developed a three part test in its decision, holding that a seaman must meet the following definition:
- The individual must be assigned to work on a vessel which operates on a navigable waterway;
- The individual’s duties must contribute to the vessel’s function; and
- The individual must spend 30% or more of their time on the vessel.
If a person does not meet the standard seaman definition, they may not be able to recover under the Jones Act.
A vessel is also a defined term under the Jones Act and has also been defined by the Supreme Court to mean a watercraft capable of being used as a means of transportation on water. This includes barges, tugboats, cruise ships, containerships, and a variety of other vessels relating to off-shore operations.
Recovery Under the Jones Act
A seaman who was injured while in the course of their employment onboard a vessel may recover under the Jones Act through the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Future earnings
- Pain and suffering
An experienced maritime law attorney will be able to assist you in calculating out the full amount of the claim that you are entitled to receive.
The Malley Law Firm | Houston Maritime Law Attorney
If you or a loved one have been injured while on the high seas, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries. The Jones Act provides a method for any workers onboard seafaring vessels to recover compensation for injuries received while engaged in their employment. Contact our Texas offices today for your initial free consultation.