The Jones Act and Admiralty Law
What is the Jones Act and Admiralty law?
The Jones Act is a Federal Act of law modeled after the same laws (FELA) that protect railroad workers except it covers Seaman. A combination of statutory law (passed by Congress) and common law (developed by courts over the years) makes up what is known as ADMIRALTY LAW – which protects you the Seaman!!!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
· If you work for a US Company;
· A foreign company – who has a base of operations here and whose ships call here; or
· A company, foreign or US, who has ships that regularly call in US ports –
YOU MAY BE COVERED BY THE JONES ACT!
The Jones Act and Admiralty Law combined afford you many rights like:
· The right to damages;
· The right to medical care while you are ill;
· Damages for your spouse;
· Possibly punitive damages if your employer behaves badly and many more !!
·THE TIME TO BRING A CLAIM IS USUALLY 3 YEARS
· YOU CAN BRING YOUR CLAIM IN EITHER STATE OR FEDERAL COURT WITH SOME LIMITED EXCEPTIONS
The Jones Act:
Under the Jones Act you may sue your employer OR the ship’s owner for two distinct types of negligence. Negligence if your employer provides you with an unreasonably safe work environment OR if an employer provides you with poor medical treatment while you are ill. Like railroad workers you will only have to prove that YOUR EMPLOYER’S / SHIPOWNER’S negligence caused, or played any part, NO MATTER HOW SLIGHT, IN CAUSING YOUR INJURY. This is one of the LOWEST BURDENS OF PROOF under United States law.
Under General Maritime law developed in the United States over centuries you may sue a ship owner if his vessel is UNSEAWORTHY and injures you. This is a strict liability claim. You don’t need to prove the vessel owner knew, or should have known, about the problem that caused your injury, you only need to prove THERE WAS A PROBLEM and it CAUSED YOUR INJURY!!!
MAINTENANCE AND CURE
Perhaps the most confusing area of seaman’s law is Maintenance and Cure. Maintenance and Cure is the provision of medical care (CURE) and expenses (MAINTENANCE**) for a Seaman while he is sick and injured (whether caused by an accident or just poor health) provided by his employer / ship owner until he reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI) – the point where you can’t get any better. It is imperative to try and get treatment from your own doctor – who will be paid at comparable company rates to your employer’s doctors – so you have a doctor who looks out for your best interests. A Company doctor will almost always push you to MMI as quickly as possible to get you back to work IMMEDIATELY. DON’T LET IT HAPPEN TO YOU!
Remember if there are two (2) differing opinions on whether you are at MMI – you always get the benefit of the doubt under the law and your benefits should continue – get your own doctor!
** Maintenance is the provision of daily living expenses (ONLY FOR THE SEAMAN NOT HIS FAMILY) while you are sick or injured -like utility expenses, food, gasoline, water, electric, telephone and your mortgage / rent!
Under the Jones Act and Unseaworthiness you can recover general tort damages (including claims for your spouse, consortium claims) if there is some negligence / problem which causes your injury. Under Maintenance and Cure you can recover damages (even if there was no negligence or unseaworthiness on the part of your employer / ship owner) if you are ill and your employer FAILS TO PROVIDE YOU WITH MEDICAL CARE OR PROVIDES YOU WITH BAD MEDICAL CARE.
So even if you become sick through no fault of anyone else but your employer fails to provide you with Maintenance and Cure or BAD Maintenance and Cure you still have a cause of action. You may even be entitled to PUNITIVE DAMAGES – those are damages designed to DETER your employer’s bad conduct in the future.
CALL AN EXPERIENCED MARITIME LAWYER FOR HELP TODAY!
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