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Jones Act & Unseaworthiness

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Jones Act Unseaworthiness

Crewmember Rights

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, frequently called the Jones Act, establishes rights for seafarers and protects those injured in workplace accidents. The Jones Act is similar to a worker’s compensation claim for seafarers, except a Jones Act negligence claim provides you a wider array of recovery options following your injury if you prove your employer was at fault.

Proving Your Status as a “Seaman”

To recover under the Jones Act, you must first prove that you were a “seaman.”

To prove seaman status, you must show:

  • You had a connection to a vessel (or an identifiable group of vessels) in navigation;
  • The duration and nature of your connection to the vessel was substantial enough to regularly expose you to the sea’s perils; and
  • The capacity to which you were employed, or the duties performed, contributed to the vessel’s regular operation or to accomplishing its mission.

“In navigation” means voyaging, at anchor, berthed, or at dockside ready for voyage. A “substantial connection” to a vessel means it must be more than merely sporadic, temporary, or incidental, and you must be regularly exposed to the special hazards and disadvantages of a seaman’s work.

The Jones Act provides these rights to seamen:

  • The right to a reasonably safe work environment
  • The right to additional compensation if the vessel or crew is negligent
  • A “featherweight” causation standard in negligence
  • Vicarious liability for malpractice of employer-provided medical providers
  • The right to file a civil lawsuit
  • The right to maintenance and cure
  • Punitive damages for willful denial of maintenance and cure

You need an experienced maritime trial attorney to pursue your Jones Act remedies. The Statute of Limitations to file a lawsuit under the Jones Act is three years.

Many of these rights are powerful tools to get you compensation after you have suffered a severe injury, but the special rules are hard to navigate for a regular lawyer. The maritime lawyers at Mase Seitz Briggs know how to pursue these claims and will get you the maximum compensation.

What Is Unseaworthiness?

If you or a loved one was seriously injured working on board a vessel, you may have a claim for “unseaworthiness” against the shipowner. One important difference between a Jones Act negligence claim and an unseaworthiness claim is that, under the Jones Act, the connection between the negligence and the injury need only be slight. This is often referred to as the “featherweight causation standard,” which makes it easier for crew members to prevail.

Choosing which standard to bring a claim under is a crucial decision. This is why you need a team of highly skilled and experienced maritime trial lawyers to represent you if you are a crew member and suffered an injury while employed, whether on the ship or ashore.

General maritime law requires shipowners to provide seaworthy vessels to their crew. If the shipowner breaches this duty, they may be liable for your injuries and damages.

To be seaworthy, a vessel must be:

  • Reasonably fit for its intended use;
  • Equipped with the right gear, equipment, and appurtenances;
  • Staffed with a competent crew; and
  • Reasonably safe to work and live on

If a vessel does not provide these things, it could be deemed unseaworthy. Unseaworthiness claims may result from:

  • Unsafe methods of work
  • Poorly trained or staffed crew
  • Defective equipment
  • Poor maintenance
  • Equipment failures
  • Dangerous conditions on board

Unlike a negligence claim, a claim for unseaworthiness is based in “strict liability.” Strict liability means that if your injury was caused by an unseaworthy condition on board the vessel, you may be able to recover against the shipowner even if it was not negligent. 

Similar to land-based personal injury law, the factual scenarios that can give rise to a negligence or unseaworthiness claim are virtually limitless. The creative, experienced, and aggressive maritime trial lawyers at Mase Seitz Briggs in Miami, Florida, will help you recover for injuries that occurred in the course of maritime employment, or you will not pay.

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(305) 377-3770
Mase Seitz Briggs
2601 South Bayshore Drive
Suite 800
Miami, FL 33133

Phone: 305-487-8863
Toll Free: 1-844-904-1749
Fax: 305-377-0080
1200 N Federal Hwy
Suite 200
Boca Raton, FL 33432

Phone: 561-210-8516
Fax: 561-210-8301
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