Jones Act & Maritime Claims

Working aboard vessels at sea subjects crewmen to the constant risk of serious personal injury. If you were employed to work aboard a vessel as a seaman, crewman, or commercial fisherman, you are protected by a federal maritime law called the Jones Act, 46 USC 688. The Jones Act provides comprehensive coverage for crewmen who are injured or die through negligence of their employer.

Crewmen aboard ships, boats, barges, tug boats, commercial fishing vessels, cruise ships, tour boats, and tankers, in navigable waters at sea, in rivers, lakes, bays, and sounds, are entitled to compensation under the Jones Act, when they are injured or die through the negligence of their employer.

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Every claim for a maritime worker who is employed to work aboard a floating vessel should be reviewed for possible coverage under the Jones Act. If there is any question about whether or not you are a Jones Act seaman, you should contact an experienced Jones Act lawyer to determine what your rights and benefits may be. We also encourage you to review our frequently asked questions section for some common queries.

Thousands Of Successful Jones Act Claims

At Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC, our Jones Act attorneys have successfully handled thousands of Jones Act claims for our clients. We have recovered millions of dollars in compensatory damages for injured seamen. If you have been injured at sea, please contact us today for a free consultation.

Typical cases include those involving:

Commercial Fishing Vessels Injuries caused by cranes and winches
Tugs and Tow Boats Oil Rigs
Ferries Factory Trawlers
Fish Processors Container Ships
Crab Boats Cargo Ships
Dredges & Barges

The Jones Act lawyers of Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC have represented thousands of injured seamen making claims under the Jones Act. If you are injured at sea, you need an experienced maritime lawyer to represent you. At Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC, we have a proven track record of obtaining fair compensation for our clients. We have the resources and experience necessary to take on the big companies and their insurance companies. We pride ourselves in getting clients the medical care they need, and proving damages for pain and suffering and lost wages. Whether your case is big or small, our Jones Act lawyers may be able to help you. Our verdicts and settlements for injured seamen speak for themselves.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Covered Under The Jones Act?

Most crewmen aboard a vessel are covered by the Jones Act, from the captain and mate in the wheelhouse, to deckhands, wipers, housekeepers, engineers, fish processors, and cooks, working in other parts of the ship. The Jones Act does not discriminate - the lowest crewmen aboard the vessel have the same rights to protection as the captain of the ship.

Damages under the Jones Act may include damages for past and future lost wages, past and future medical expenses, vocational and occupational retraining, past and future pain and suffering, psychological suffering, and loss of consortium. Some serious injuries limit the number and types of jobs available to an injury victim. In this situation, seamen are entitled to damages for lost earning capacity. Additionally, if a seaman's injury will worsen with time, and cut short the seaman's career, he is entitled to future lost wages for this loss. In most situations, the Jones Act provides far greater compensation to an injured worker than State Workers Compensation Acts or the Longshore Harbor Worker Act.

What Are My Options?

An Alaska fish processor injured in Alaska state waters may have an option to proceed under the State Workers' Compensation Act or the Jones Act. Some vessel owners process all these cases as workers compensation claims. In most cases there are more favorable remedies available to an Alaska fish processor under the Jones Act than under the Alaska State Workers' Compensation system.

Because of the high risk of potential injury while working aboard ship, even relatively small injuries can be enough to prevent a crewman from returning to work at sea. Everyone has heard the saying, "One hand for the ship, and one hand for yourself." If your injury puts you or another crewman at risk for injury in an emergency situation, you may not be able to safely return to your previous employment. The attorneys of Stacey & Jacobsen, PLLC know what it's like to work at sea. We focus upon establishing the evidence you need to get fair compensation.

Who Qualifies To Be A Jones Act Seaman?

Workers who are employed to work aboard a vessel in navigable waters are Jones Act seamen. To be a seaman, the worker must be employed in a capacity that contributes to the mission of the vessel, its operation or maintenance, and do ship's work. This includes times while the vessel is at anchor, or preparing for future trips. A crewman need not aid the navigation of the vessel to qualify as a seaman. For example, a cook on a tug boat; an entertainer on a cruise ship; a fish processor on a fishing boat; a night watchman aboard a vessel that never goes to sea; and even a crewman who has worked just one day or takes just one trip on a vessel, all may qualify as a Jones Act seaman, and be entitled to compensation when they are injured. Ferry workers who commute to work and do not sleep and eat aboard the vessel are Jones Act employees.

Recent cases decided by the Supreme Court of the United States have provided guidance as to who qualifies for benefits under the Jones Act. If the duties for your employer require work aboard a vessel more than 30 percent of the time, you are likely a seaman. Also, when a worker has been recently reassigned from shore-side duties to shipboard duties, his reassignment may qualify him for coverage under the Jones Act. Furthermore, the Supreme Court has recently held that most floating platforms qualify as vessels for purposes of the Jones Act. The vessel need not have its own means of power or propulsion to qualify as a vessel. For example, a pile driving dredge may qualify as a vessel in purposes of determining whether or not a crewman is covered by the Jones Act.

Workers who do not go to sea with the vessel and are only temporarily aboard the vessel to do repairs, offload cargo, or perform other acts, are most likely covered under the Longshore Harbor Worker's Act. When these Longshore Harbor Worker-type employees are injured aboard a vessel owned by a party other than their employer, they may have third party action against the vessel owner. If the vessel is owned by their employer they may also have a cause of action for negligence against their employer under Sec. 905 (b) of the Longshore Act.

What Constitutes Negligence For The Purposes Of The Jones Act?

A seaman's employer owes the seaman a duty to use reasonable care to prevent the seaman from being injured. Because shipboard work presents constant risk of injury to a seaman aboard ship, the employer must use a high degree of care to prevent his injury. When an employer fails to use the reasonable care for the safety of his crew, the failure constitutes negligence. The reality is that most seamen work on a constantly moving platform, and their work involves working with heavy equipment, cargo, and gear. Unless safety precautions are followed at all times, the crewmen can be quickly and permanently injured.

A seaman's employer must employ all reasonable means to prevent foreseeable injuries from happening. They must properly train their crewmen, and provide them reasonably safe equipment and gear. The employer owes each of his crewmen a safe place to work. Under the Jones Act, a seaman is entitled to recover damages where he is injured from the negligence of a fellow crewman. Typical claims of negligence include:

Negligence of a fellow crewmanWorking in severe weather
Failure to guard machineryLack of safety equipment
Faulty or defective equipmentFailure to comply with safety regulations
Lack of safety trainingOverloading
Working excessive hoursExcessive lifting
Failure to provide medical treatmentFailure to make needed repairs
Unsafe acts or proceduresFailure to properly train or supervise crew
Navigational and operational errorsEmphasis on speed over safety
Improper use of tools and equipmentLack of vessel stability
Failure to provide a safe place to workDefective steps and ladders
Unsafe working surfacesUnsafe rigging
Improper stowage of cargoNegligent offload procedures
Improper or under manning of the vesselDefective lines and cables
Unsafe gangwaysFailure to timely evacuate injured crewmen
Assaults by other crewmenSexual assault and harassment

Under the Jones Act, the vessel owner/employer must pay compensation to his crewmen when his negligence is a cause of the crewman's injury. Slight negligence is enough to establish legal causation under the Jones Act. There may be multiple causes of an injury to a seaman, but when the vessel owner or employer's negligence contributes even slightly to the seaman's injury, they must pay the seaman compensation.

If the negligence of the employer aggravates a preexisting medical condition in a seaman, under the Jones Act the employer is liable for the increase in damages. Working at sea is hard work. Many crewmen have degenerative conditions in their necks or backs, or have suffered prior injuries. Under the Jones Act, the employer is responsible for aggravation of any preexisting degenerative condition, or the worsening of any previous injury or medical condition. The employer must pay compensation for damages suffered by a seaman as a result of the employer negligence.

What If I Am Injured On Shore, Or On A Boat That Is Not My Employer's?

The Jones Act provides coverage to injured seamen even when they are injured ashore, provided that they are injured through the employer's negligence. Many crewmen are injured on docks and wharves, and still are able to be compensated under the Jones Act. If the seaman is in the scope of his employment, doing duties that aid the vessel, the seaman is still covered by the Jones Act. Similarly, crewmen who are assigned to work aboard another employer's vessel may also successfully bring claims where proper safety precautions could have prevented their injury. The seaman who is injured on a third party's boat may also bring a direct action against the third party vessel.

What Is Unseaworthiness?

Unseaworthiness is an additional claim available to Jones Act seamen. The owner of a vessel owes each member of the crew the warranty of unseaworthiness. To be seaworthy, a vessel must be reasonably fit for its intended purpose. The key difference between Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness is that a claim for Jones Act negligence may only be brought against the crewman's employer, and the claim for unseaworthiness can only be brought against the owner of the vessel.

Unseaworthy imposes strict liability upon a vessel owner, and the vessel owner need not have prior knowledge of the defective condition. For example, where a piece of vessel equipment fails under normal and expected use, the vessel is unseaworthy. A temporary condition, such as fish slime during an offload, may render a vessel unseaworthy. Failure to have a properly equipped vessel, or an undermanned vessel, is classic cases of unseaworthiness.

Trust Our Experience

Experienced maritime lawyers carefully analyze the facts of each shipboard accident case, to develop combined theories of unseaworthiness and Jones Act negligence. Call our Seattle office at 866-974-9633 to get more answers about your Jones Act and maritime claims.