Can I File a Jones Act Claim Against the Ship Owner?
Federal law recognizes the inherent danger of working at sea and the risk of on-the-job injuries in the maritime industry. To keep a workforce of trained seamen, the law gives maritime workers valuable legal rights, including the right to sue a ship owner for negligence or the unseaworthiness of the vessel in a Jones Act claim. This act is more specific than common maritime law.
Even if you are outside of the U.S., if you work for an American company on an American vessel, you could be entitled to a Jones Act claim as long as you carry the title of "seaman."
What Is a Jones Act Claim & Who Can File?
The Jones Act is a statute from 1920 that was created to encourage growth of the shipping industry. It regulates shipping between American ports, allowing only American ships to deliver goods to ports in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere. Most importantly for seamen, it provides offshore workers with statutory rights that allow them to file claims against employers and vessel owners.
Generally speaking, this means you must have been assigned to a vessel or fleet in operation on a navigable waterway, and your duties must have contributed to the vessel's function. A seaman must spend at least 30% of his or her working service on the vessel. For instance, deckhands, engineers, cooks, and housekeeping stewards can all qualify as seamen under the law, as can many workers on offshore oil rigs.
If you are an offshore worker and were hurt on a vessel, and it is believed that negligence on behalf of the vessel's owner contributed in any way to your accident, then you are justified in filing a Jones Act claim. If you can obtain a fair settlement in a Jones Act case, this means that your lost wages will likely be compensated for, as well as things such as pain, medical care, and cost of living during the time of recovery.