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Jones Act

The Jones Act is the US federal law that provides compensation for injured workers onboard ships and other offshore installations, such as jack-up rigs, drillships, supply boats, tugboats, pipelay barges, derrick barges, or towboats. To apply, the worker must qualify as a “seaman”, which means that his work, even if it involves drilling for oil, contributes to the overall work of the “vessel”. There are also requirements for the amount of time spent on the vessel to qualify for protection under the Jones Act.

  • To be covered to be the Jones Act, a few legal definitions must be understood:
    • What is a Jones Act “seaman”?
    • Spends roughly at least 30% of his time in work on the vessel and
    • His work contributes to the overall mission of the vessel
    • What is a vessel?
      • Traditional definition
      • 2005 Supreme Court
        • Stewart v. Dutra Construction: A vessel used or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water, not that it be used primarily for that purpose. Does not need to be in motion when accident occurred.
      • 2012 Supreme Court Decision
        • Lozman v. City of Riviera Beach Florida: Floating home isn’t a vessel. The question is would a reasonable observer look at the craft and think it was designed for carrying people or things over water.
      • What is a significant amount of time?
        • At least 30% of time on vessel or specific fleet of vessels
      • What does in navigation mean?
        • Vessel is afloat, in operation, capable of moving and on navigable waters
        • Doesn’t need to be in motion
      • What does it mean to contribute to the work of a vessel?
        • Seaman’s work adds to the accomplishment of the vessel’s mission
      • An employer is responsible for payment of maintenance and cure, which is not a workers’ compensation program, until for any illness or injury sustained in the service of the vessel
        • Maintenance
          • Basic daily expenses (rent, food, transportation to and from doctor, utility bills, etc…)
        • Cure
          • Medical expenses while recovering or seeking treatment (medical bills and expenses…etc)

 

The responsibility arises regardless of whether any negligence caused the injury or illness.The responsibility continues until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement

Types of Claims

  • Negligence
    • This claim examines whether the employer has provided a reasonably safe place to work, including but not limited to a competent crew and proper equipment.
  • Unseaworthiness
    • This claim is based upon whether the hull, equipment and crew are not reasonable in design, maintenance and character to perform intended functions in the operation of the ship.
      • Just prove some aspect was unseaworthy and caused injury
    • Damages
      • The damages track the same typically allowed in personal injury cases, such as lost wages/earning capacity, medical bills, pain suffering, physical impairment, and mental anguish)
    • Jones Act v. LHWCA
      • Where act occurred?
      • Status as a crewmember
    • Jones act and OCSLA
      • Non Jones Act
      • Permanent and temporary offshore facilities
        • Oil rigs, floating drydocks, artificial islands, etc….

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