The statute of limitations on a Jones Act claim is generally three years from the date of the injury or qualifying event, per U.S. Code 46 § 30106. The Jones Act is a federal law that governs shipping regulations between U.S. ports, as the Legal Information Institute explains.
While the law was first established to help regulate ships transporting United States commerce, it was expanded to include and protect maritime workers’ rights. These rights include the right to workers’ compensation, as federal workers’ compensation rights did not previously cover maritime workers, and the right to pursue employer negligence claims.
Seamen and other maritime workers who want to file a Jones Act claim should understand both the deadline to ensure they file their claim on time, as well as the eligibility requirements for filing a claim.
What Could Happen If You Try to File Your Claim After the Deadline
You typically cannot file a Jones Act claim outside the deadline of three years. However, individual circumstances may lead to a few exceptions to this law. These include if you were unaware of your injuries when they occurred.
In this case, the deadline would begin from the date you discovered your injuries. If you attempt to file a claim outside this time frame or after the deadline expires, the claim could be rejected.
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Factors That Can Affect Your Eligibility to File
In addition to meeting the time limit for filing a Jones Act claim, you must also meet other eligibility requirements. Maritime workers who meet the following qualifying factors may be able to file a claim under the Jones Act:
Being a Seaman
Not all maritime workers are considered “seamen” in legal terms. To be legally considered a seaman by the Jones Act’s definition, you must:
- Contribute to work aboard a shipping vessel
- Be in connection with the vessel during its operation
- Work aboard the vessel at least part-time or 30% of the time
While seamen must work a certain amount of time on a vessel to earn the seaman status, this is a subjective component of the definition. In other words, the time requirement may be adjusted based on individual circumstances.
The Jones Act Applies to Various Bodies of Water, Vessel Types
Accident victims can seek legal action against a shipowner for injuries they sustain while on any vessel on navigable waterways. This includes international waters – oceans of the coastal U.S. (such as the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico). It can also apply to incidents that occur on rivers, such as the Colorado River and Mississippi River, lakes, including the Great Lakes, and smaller bodies of water.
Workers aboard various vessels that travel any of the waterways mentioned above could seek an injury claim under the Jones Act. Oil rigs, cruise ships, fishing boats, tour boats, and ferry boats are examples of vessel types that could be involved in these claims.
Experiencing Employer Negligence
To file a claim for employer negligence, a seaman must have experienced dangerous working conditions or other related incidents, such as:
- Unsafe working conditions, such as improperly maintained equipment, faulty flooring, etc.
- A hostile work environment
- Lack of proper equipment or training to complete their job
- Serious injuries that require medical treatment and time off from work
Employer negligence can also involve requiring seamen to work over their allotted hours or failing to ensure workers receive proper orders or supervision while on the job.
Getting Injured While on a Vessel
As with any other work-related injury claim, accident victims can file a Jones Act claim only for injuries or incidents that occurred while working aboard the vessel.
Seamen may not file a claim if they experience injuries outside of work or if the injuries are not work-related. Work-related damages they could file for include:
- Medical expenses for care, including future medical care
- Past and future loss of wages directly linked to your injury
- Future earning ability if your injury results in a permanent disability or makes you unable to work
- Physical and mental pain and suffering and other non-financial damages, such as loss of enjoyment of life
- Other accident-related expenses
An attorney can review your maritime accident and advise you of other damages you could recover.
Reasons to File Within the Statute of Limitations
Filing any legal claim takes time, which is why it is always a good idea to begin the process of filing your claim as soon as possible. This helps ensure you do not miss the statute of limitations while waiting for your claim to be approved.
Two other major reasons for filing your Jones Act claim within the statute of limitations include the following:
Seamen Cannot Access Workers’ Compensation
The Jones Act claim is your only option for gaining workers’ compensation if you become injured while at work and need to miss time from your maritime job.
Seamen are not covered under federal or state workers’ compensation benefits because these benefits apply only to those who work on land. Injured seamen must file a Jones Act claim to get workers’ compensation-related benefits.
Seeking Recourse for Employer Negligence or Personal Injuries
Before the Jones Act, seamen who suffered because of employer negligence had no options for filing a claim to hold their employer accountable.
Filing a Jones Act claim—and ensuring that you file within the statute of limitations – can help you pursue a negligent employer for your protection and that of your fellow crew members.
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We Will Prove Your Employer’s Negligence
Your lawyer must perform a critical task to show how your employer’s carelessness, recklessness, or negligence directly caused or contributed to your work-related injuries. Even if you contributed to your accident or injury somehow, any negligence on your employer’s part could count against them.
The burden of proof is different from a standard personal injury case, which requires proving negligence. However, you must still prove your employer’s negligence. Here are some steps you should take that could help your case:
- If you are injured on the job, immediately let your employer know about your injuries and decision to seek prompt medical care. Getting emergency care can later show how serious your injuries are and support your claim or lawsuit. If you wait too long to file, your employer could say your injuries were not serious enough for compensation.
- You should also gather all evidence that supports your case, including witness testimony if possible. This includes photos and video footage of your injury, the site where it happened, and the time and date of your injury.
- Consider talking with a legal professional about your situation as soon as possible. An attorney can advise you of your rights and what options you have to recover compensation. Your attorney will also need time to build your case. The sooner you reach out, the sooner they can start working on your behalf. We can help people hurt on fishing boats or oil rigs, for instance.
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A Lawyer Can Make Sure You Meet the Deadline for Filing Your Jones Act Claim
A maritime injury lawyer from Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers can ensure that you abide by the statute of limitations when filing your Jones Act claim.
We can help by reviewing your claim to ensure it includes all of the required proper documentation and other essential details when you submit it the first time. We can also review your claim to ensure it is not rejected for something small, like failing to submit the claim in writing to the government. We will file your claim on time and within Louisiana’s statute of limitations, giving you one less deadline to worry about.
You can learn all the ways a lawyer from our firm can help with your maritime injury claim and find out how the law applies specifically to your situation. Laborde Earles Injury Lawyers is ready to help you today in the Lafayette area. Call (337) 777-7777 for a free, no-obligation case review.
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