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 which ships could transport United States commerce, it was expanded to include and protect maritime workers’ rights.
These rights include the right to workers’ compensation, as maritime workers were not previously covered by federal workers’ compensation rights, 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 statute of limitations 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 Statute of Limitations Deadline
You typically cannot file a Jones Act claim outside the statute of limitations 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 statute of limitations would begin from the date you discovered your injuries. If you attempt to file a claim outside the statute of limitations, 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.
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 to complete their job
- Serious injuries that require medical treatment and time off from work
Getting Injured While on a Vessel
As with any other work-related injury claim, a Jones Act claim can be filed only for injuries or incidents that occurred while working aboard the vessel.
Seamen may not be able to file a claim if they experienced injuries outside of work or if the injuries are not work-related.
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. To get workers’ compensation-related benefits, injured seamen must file a Jones Act claim.
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.
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 make sure it is not rejected for something small, like failing to submit the claim in writing to the government.
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.