The most common examples of employer negligence that can lead to a Jones Act claim include failure to:
- Keep up with vessel maintenance
- Provide proper equipment to workers
- Ensure that each employee receives proper training
- Identify unsafe areas
- Resolve hostile work situations
- Provide reasonable care for crew members
Failing to fulfill each of these duties can lead to an unsafe work environment for employees. When workers suffer injuries under these circumstances, the Jones Act may allow them to hold a negligent employer responsible.
Employer Negligence Under the Jones Act
Negligence is a legal term that refers to someone’s failure to exercise a reasonable duty of care toward another party (Legal Information Institute (LII)). According to the Jones Act, employers in charge of shipping vessels are expected to provide safe work environments, equipment, and training for their workers.
An injured employee may be able to file a case for damages under the Jones Act when their employer does not maintain these standards. Explore common ways that an employer may fail to fulfill this duty below.
Neglecting Vessel Maintenance
When vessels are not properly maintained, from the ship’s outer decks to its internal equipment, it can lead to wear and tear that makes the area or equipment unsafe.
If a maritime worker suffers injuries due to improper or neglected maintenance, they may qualify to pursue a case against their employer. The basis of such a case may involve failure to:
- Repair or replace broken equipment
- Clean up spills on the deck, such as grease or oil
- Update areas of the ship as needed
Inadequate Employee Training and Lack of Proper Equipment
The sea can be a dangerous place to work. As such, shipping vessel positions require adequate training. Employees must also have access to the proper equipment in order to do their jobs well and safely. If they do not receive this training and equipment, workers may suffer injuries while attempting to perform their duties.
Determining the equipment and training that should be reasonably available for a maritime job can be an important facet of a Jones Act case. An attorney can investigate and consult with industry experts to build a case that supports your right to financial recovery.
Failing to Identify Unsafe Areas
Maintenance is necessary for all vessels, but when a ship is out at sea for an extended period, sometimes repairs must wait. If this is the case, employers should provide adequate warnings regarding unsafe areas, such as faulty flooring or equipment that no longer works or could be harmful.
Employers who do not warn maritime workers about unsafe areas, equipment, or other cause for alarm can be held liable for employee injuries. In some cases, this may be true even if the employer was unaware of the safety breach.
Leaving Hostile Work Situations Unresolved
A safe work environment refers to all aspects of the conditions an employee works in—including relationships with crew members. Hostile situations, such as those with other crew members, can lead to physical fights, assaults, and other altercations.
Employers have a duty to resolve these situations. This may involve ridding the vessel of any physically violent crew members if necessary. Failing to do so can be considered employer negligence.
Failing to Provide Reasonable Care for All Crew Members
If an employer provides reasonable care (safety regulations, training, etc.) for one crew member but fails to offer the same amount of care for another member, this could be considered negligence.
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The Importance of Understanding the Jones Act
The Jones Act regulates commercial maritime activity, which includes establishing workplace safety expectations and employer liability. Prior to the Jones Act, seamen and other maritime workers had no way to collect compensation or pursue employers for negligence in the event of a workplace injury.
Under 46 U.S. Code § 30104, maritime workers who suffer injuries due to negligence can qualify to take legal action against their employers. For those who pass away from their injuries, a personal representative may file.
It is important that workers understand the rights the Jones Act provides them in case they ever need to take legal action. This includes understanding the types of employer negligence that can lead to a Jones Act claim.
What Compensation Is Available Under the Jones Act?
Under the Jones Act, injured seamen have the opportunity to recover compensation for a variety of damages. The first entitlement injured seamen have is maintenance. Maintenance refers to an injury victim’s daily cost of living. Some examples of maintenance include:
- Utility bills
- Rent or mortgage payments
- Vehicle expenses
- Health insurance costs
- Necessary household items
- Internet bills
In addition to maintenance, under the Jones Act, injured seamen have the right to cure. Cure refers to compensation that will cover the cost of all of your medical expenses as they relate to your injuries. Some of the more common medical expenses that can be included as part of the cure portion of your compensation include:
- Physical therapy
- Prescription medications
- Medical equipment
- Surgical fees
- Hospital bills
- Transportation costs
- Ongoing treatment and care
- Diagnostic imaging fees
Furthermore, under the Jones Act, injured seamen also have the right to be compensated for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages have a fixed monetary value while non-economic damages do not.
However, both are valuable and should be taken into account accordingly when your attorney is calculating the value of your claim. Some of the more common economic and non-economic damages you could see as part of your Jones Act claim include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
- Skin scarring and disfigurement
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning capacity
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Reputational damage
- Property damages
- Loss of household services
It is also possible that the judge may elect to award you punitive damages. Punitive damages are only awarded in cases where the court finds the defendant’s actions to be grossly negligent, egregious, or abhorrent in some way. If you are awarded punitive damages, it is because the court wants to send a message and punish the liable party for their actions. This can go a long way in helping to prevent similar acts from occurring in the future.
How to Prove Your Right to Jones Act Damages
Under the Jones Act, if you hope to prove negligence, you will need to show that the vessel in question was not seaworthy. Unseaworthiness does not necessarily mean that a ship or vessel cannot sail, but rather that it is not safe for seamen. This means your attorney will not need to prove that the ship was not navigable, but rather that there were some conditions on the ship or vessel that made it unseaworthy.
For example, if the vessel owner failed to make necessary repairs, provide seamen with necessary equipment, or otherwise ensure that the vessel was in safe working conditions at all times, they can be held accountable and compelled to compensate you accordingly.
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How an Attorney Can Help With Your Jones Act Case
A successful Jones Act case must demonstrate that the employer’s negligence contributed to the incident that resulted in the worker’s injuries. To prove that the work environment on a vessel was unsafe, you will need to:
- Conduct an investigation of the incident and the circumstances leading up to it
- Compile evidence that shows how the work environment was unsafe and connects your injuries to employer negligence
- Understand how the Jones Act and other statutes affect your case
- Build a case that supports your right to compensation and fairly values your damages
- File the paperwork to initiate a lawsuit within the designated timeframe
- Represent yourself throughout the process and prepare for court appearances
This process can be a lot to take on. Let the team at Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers handle each of these steps for you and prepare your Jones Act case.
Get Help From a Jones Act Lawyer Today
Call our firm today for a free consultation to learn more about taking legal action under the Jones Act.