Understanding Unseaworthiness and Negligence in the Jones Act
Seaman are not entitled to the same workers’ compensation that most land-based employees receive. If you are injured while working as a seaman, your injuries are covered under a federal law known as the Jones Act. In order to collect under the Jones Act, you must be able to prove that the owner of the vessel on which you were injured was negligent or that the vessel was unseaworthy.
Negligence Under Jones Act
In many legal actions, proving negligence can be very difficult. However, under the Jones Act, almost any unsafe condition can be considered negligent. A maritime employer is required under the act to provide you with a reasonably safe workplace. They must also use ordinary care to be sure that the vessel is in safe condition.
Some of the unsafe conditions that have been determined as negligent under the Jones Act include:
- Grease or oil on the deck
- Equipment that is not maintained properly
- Lack of proper equipment
- Lack of proper training
- Not requiring crew members to follow proper safety procedures
Under the Jones Act, you must only prove that the negligence played a part in your injury, even if it was a small part.
It may seem unusual to claim that a vessel is unseaworthy in order to claim compensation for a workplace injury. However, under maritime law, an unseaworthy vessel does not mean that it cannot sail or be navigated. Instead, the term refers to a vessel that is safe, with suitable appliances for you to perform your duties. Therefore, under the Jones Act, you do not need to prove that the vessel was in danger of sinking or was unable to be sailed in order to prove unseaworthiness. You need to show that a condition or aspect of the vessel, its crew or the equipment was not fit for its intended purpose and that it was the cause of your injury.
The owner of a vessel has an absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel and a seaworthy crew. If you are injured because a crew member, piece of equipment or the ship is not seaworthy, the owner of the ship is required to compensate you for our injury. It is important to note that it is not necessarily the responsibility of your employer to provide a seaworthy ship but the responsibility of the ship’s owner. Therefore, it is possible you could file claims against both your employer and the owner of the ship if they are not the same.
If you or a loved one has been injured while serving as a seaman, contact Lundy Law to learn what rights you have under the Jones Act. You can arrange for your initial, no obligation consultation by completing the simple form on our website or calling 1-800-Lundy Law.