The Jones Act & Offshore Injuries

San Antonio, Texas Offshore Injury Attorney

If you were injured while working as a seaman, there are two ways you may be able to collect for your damages under the provisions of the Jones Act which was passed in 1920. It is the same law referred to as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. The first step for collecting under either theory is to prove you were a seaman at the time of your injury.

The Jones Act Applies Only to Seamen

The law itself says it applies only to seamen, but it does not contain a definition for what qualifies someone to be considered a seaman. Through the years, various decisions from the Supreme Court of the United States as well as from various federal circuit courts have provided a working definition. Workers will be classified as seamen if they meet the following criteria.

  • The person is a crew member of a vessel, or fleet of vessels, and the vessel or fleet operates in navigable waters. This means waterways that are used for, or capable of being used for, interstate or foreign commerce.
  • The work performed by the person is related to the purpose of the vessel.
  • The person spends at least 30 percent of their working time on the vessel.

Once you prove you were a seaman, you can then collect maintenance and cure from your employer as long as you can prove you were injured during the course of your employment. You may also sue your employer for negligence.

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Maintenance and Cure Damages

Maintenance and cure payments are intended to compensate seamen for injuries they received while working on a vessel. This is similar to workers’ compensation in that that the injured seaman does not have to prove the employer was negligent. The only proof necessary is that the injured person was a seaman and was injured while working on the vessel.

  • Maintenance is payment made to you for your necessary living expenses.  What is necessary is determined by a bare bones evaluation of your needs and generally pays only for costs such as your mortgage or rent, utilities, taxes, and food. It does not pay for things deemed not necessary, such as cable television, internet, or even your car.
  • Cure covers reasonable and necessary medical expenses as well as reasonable costs of transportation necessary for the seaman to get to the treatment location.

Filing a Claim for Negligence

You can file your claim against your employer, whether or not he or she is the owner of the vessel. You must prove that the owner, a coworker, an officer of the ship, or an operator, acted negligently and as a result, you were injured. In a regular personal injury action, you have a heavy burden to prove the defendant’s negligence was the cause of your injury. Under the Jones Act, even if the employer was only one percent responsible for your injury, you can still collect damages.

How an Offshore Injury Attorney Can Help

Pursuing a claim under the Jones Act is not easy. It requires the attorney working for you to have expertise and experience in maritime law.  At the San Antonio law office of Eric A. Ramos, we offer a free consultation so we can discuss your case with you. When reviewing your case, we may discover you have an additional claim under the unseaworthiness doctrine.

The deadline for filing a compensation claim under the Jones Act, or for compensation on the grounds of unseaworthiness, is generally three years from the date of your injury. Do not miss the deadline. Contact us online or at (210) 404-HURT (210) 404-4878.

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