According to 1 U.S.C. §1, a “vessel” is any form of watercraft or artificial structure that is used or can be used for transportation on water. A Jones Act vessel may be a conventional watercraft or a floating vessel that does not have its own source of power.
Types of Jones Act Vessels
In addition to the general definition of vessel contained in the U.S. Code, the Jones Act defines several more specific types of vessels, including:
- Fishing, fish processing, and fish tender vessels
- Freight vessels
- Oceanographic research vessels
- Great Lakes barges
- Mobile offshore drilling units
- Motor vessels
- Nautical school vessels
- Offshore supply vessels
- Oil spill response vessels
Defining Seamen for the Purposes of the Jones Act
The Jones Act also only covers seamen, which are people with employment-related connections with specific ships or shipping companies. These employees must spend at least 30% of work hours with the ship or fleet of ships. The duties of seamen must include directly contributing to the functions of the ship and the assigned tasks that the ship must accomplish.
The Jones Act and Vessels in Navigation
The Jones Act applies only to vessels that are in navigation. However, the vessels need not be in motion to be in navigation. Instead, the vessels need only be floating on water, operable, able to travel unassisted by other vessels, and in navigable waters suitable for domestic or international trade purposes.
The Jones Act and Injured Workers
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters. The Jones Act generally requires that ships transporting goods between U.S. ports be built and registered in the U.S. The ships also must be owned by U.S. companies with at least 75% ownership by American citizens, and U.S. citizens must constitute at least 75% of the crew on these ships.
The Jones Act also addresses the legal responsibilities of employers whose employees suffer injuries while working on vessels. Any U.S. citizen working as a seaman who suffers from an injury or illness due to negligence while on a vessel in navigable waters has legal recourse against their employers. The negligence of the vessel owner, operator, or another employee may support a Jones Act claim.
Injury victims can make a claim for specific losses resulting from their injuries under a Jones Act claim. These claims are similar to workers’ compensation claims that most employees can bring for on-the-job injuries. However, Jones Act settlements often are larger than workers’ compensation settlements, as the Jones Act allows more types of compensation that the injury victims can recover than state workers’ compensation laws generally permit.
Compensation in Jones Act Cases
Compensation in Jones Act cases differs according to the losses that you suffer as a result of the negligence. A Jones Act settlement may include the following forms of compensation:
- Lost wages and loss of future earning capacity
- Physical pain and suffering
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement
- Reasonable and necessary costs of medical treatment, hospitalization, and rehabilitation
- Maintenance or living expenses until you have reached the level of maximum medical improvement for your injuries or illness
If evidence shows that the vessel on which you were injured or fell ill was unseaworthy, then you may be eligible for additional compensation. Vessels may be unseaworthy for various reasons, such as an inadequate number of crew members, lack of safety equipment, and unsafe living areas. Plus, if your employer wrongfully refused to pay you for medical treatment and living expenses, you may be able to seek punitive damages.
Compensation is also available for surviving family members of workers who suffer fatal injuries while working on a vessel under the Jones Act. As maritime injuries often are severe and medical help is not close by, fatalities are an all-too-common part of maritime accidents.
Contact Our Attorneys Today for Legal Advice About Your Jones Act Case
We can help you determine whether your injury occurred while you were aboard a vessel under the Jones Act, whether you qualify as a seaman, and whether the vessel was in navigation at the time of your accident.
Call Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers at (337) 777-7777 today and learn more about whether you are eligible for relief for your injuries under the Jones Act.