Our Jones Act Lawyer at Doyle LLP will pursue your case with precision to get the maximum compensation you need now and in the future. Our decades of experience and millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts make us a great partner in helping you pursue your Jones Act claim for all the compensation you deserve.
The Jones Act is the US federal law that provides compensation for injured seamen on board ships and other offshore installations, such as jack-up rigs, drill ships, supply boats, tugboats, pipe-lay barges, derrick barges, or towboats. To apply for compensation, 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”. The requirements for a “vessel” are also detailed in the act. There are also requirements for the amount of time spent on the vessel to qualify for protection under the Jones Act.
The Jones Act was created in as a means to develop the domestic shipping industry. The strength of our domestic shipping industry is vital to our national security as it allows us to maintain our domestic waterways in times of international emergencies and provides protection from foreign influences. The government does not want our country to rely on foreign ships transporting critical supplies inside American borders. It covers domestic trade, that is trade from one American port to another American Port. Offshore oil rigs are also included in modern interpretations of the law. Nowadays employers under the Jones Act support almost half a million American jobs due to the protection given to domestic transportation for American seamen and offshore workers. This domestic industry is vital to our nation’s security. We have recently seen as in a national emergency such as the Coronavirus (Covid-19), it is difficult to count on foreign flags and manufacturers for the movement of goods in American waterways.
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To be covered by the Jones Act, a few legal definitions must be understood:
A general definition for the Jones Act is a federal statute that provides compensation and damages for injured seamen who work on a vessel in navigation for a significant amount of time. While this may seem very specific and exclusive, every word in the Jones Act has a wide array of meanings and generally covers most maritime workers including those on offshore drilling rigs. These definitions below will show how almost all seamen working at sea or on water inside the protected areas is covered with wide ranges of requirements.
Under the Jones Act a “seaman” is a maritime worker who spends a significant amount of time on a vessel or fleet of vessel and contributes to the overall mission of the vessel.
Traditionally a vessel has meant ordinary watercrafts such as ships, tugs, barges, cargo carriers. Due to a 2005 Supreme Court Ruling any craft on the water that is capable of being used for transportation on water even if it is not the main purpose is covered. This definition means most offshore oil rigs, dredges, jack-ups and semi submersibles are covered for injuries under the Jones Act. Jones Act Vessels also must be registered in the US and employ American citizens or legal aliens. These vessels are used for domestic trade and also extend
A vessel in navigation is afloat, in operation, capable of moving and on navigable waters. This doesn’t mean the vessel needs to be in motion. This means many offshore drilling platforms and barges are included for compensation under a Jones Act claim.
At least 30% of time on vessel or specific fleet of vessels. Almost every maritime worker meets this requirement as long as 30% of their work time is at sea. You do not have to be on the same boat for 30% of your work but could be working on different vessels for the same company.
Offshore rigs are covered under the Jones Act due to a 2005 Supreme Court ruling in the Stewart v. Dutra Construction case. This ruling covers all offshore drilling rigs on the US Continental Shelf even if they are outside territorial limits.
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. This ruling applied to a barge used in this 2005 ruling ultimately meant that offshore drilling rigs are covered under the Jones Act. Compensation for offshore workers is guaranteed under maritime law if a personal injury occurs for someone working on offshore oil rigs as a “seaman” defined under the Jones Act. That means the seaman spends at least 30% of his time in work on the vessel and the seaman’s work contributes to the overall mission of the vessel. Any crewmember on an oil rig generally meets this requirement as long as they spend a total of 30% of their work time on the rig or rigs of their company. The exception to this ruling is if the drilling is from a platform permanently fixed to the seabed and not capable of being moved. This is not the case for most offshore drilling rigs.
Seaman’s work adds to the accomplishment of the vessel’s mission. Generally, this covers any seaman or employee who works on a vessel, regardless of job function. All of the crew on a vessel help the ship accomplish its mission. This even extends to oil rigs. Even if the worker is not working to the actual functioning of the vessel, they are still probably contributing to the work of a vessel.
Seaman working as American citizens who legal aliens offshore for an American company on a vessel for 30% of its time and contributing to its mission. Let an experienced maritime attorney such as Doyle LLP help you understand if you are covered under the Jones Act and able to seek damages generally greater than common worker’s compensation.
Separate from the Jones Act, an American maritime employer no matter the reason for the injury or illness is responsible for payment of maintenance and cure, which is not a workers’ compensation program. The responsibility arises regardless of whether any negligence caused the injury or illness. The responsibility continues until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement. These benefits can be collected regardless of a Jones Act claim.
Basic daily expenses (rent, food, transportation to and from doctor, utility bills, etc…). Maintenance comes in the form of a daily allowance meant to cover living expenses while unable to work due to injury or illness.
Medical expenses while recovering or seeking treatment (medical bills and expenses…etc). Cure covers the medical costs you encounter as a result of the illness or injury until maximum medical improvement.
The Jones Act requires that an employer providing reasonably safe equipment, personnel, and supervision. A Jones Act employer must build and enforce a reasonably safe place to work under all the circumstances, including a competent crew and proper equipment. Every maritime employer has a duty to ensure the working environment for seamen measures up to both industry and common sense standards. A Jones Act seaman is also responsible for taking reasonable steps to protect himself as well, although there may be circumstances where he is ordered to do something unsafe by his employer that would impact that obligation. The Jones Act protects those who work in the maritime field by providing protections to maritime workers no matter where they are working.
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. It can also include an “unfit” captain or crew, and it is a strict liability of the vessel owner. A failure to provide a vessel and crew fit for its intended purpose creates liability for all the damages related to the unseaworthy condition. Once that burden is met by the injured seaman, and the judge or jury makes a finding of an unseaworthy condition on the ship, rig, or other vessel, in any respect, the vessel owner remains responsible for the injuries causes.
Whether an injured or ill Jones Act employee shows a violation of the Jones Act, in negligence, or unseaworthiness, the injured Jones Act worker may recover the usual range of damages arising in a personal injury case. These would include lost wages in the past, loss of future earning, as well as past and future medical expenses, pain suffering, physical impairment, and mental anguish.
The general difference between the Jones Act and the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is whether the injured maritime worker is a “seaman” or if they work on docks, piers, terminals and other related areas onshore. The Jones Act covers a “seaman” who is a person employed on a vessel at least 30% of their time at work. The LHWCA covers the many supporting maritime jobs onshore and near navigable waters. The LHWCA acts like a general workers’ compensation benefits program for many jobs with a lack of ability to pursue further damages for a personal injury. The Jones Act provides compensation in the form of maintenance and cure, but the injured seaman and their family can also pursue additional damages for their personal injury, disability or death.
Injuries to workers not assigned to vessels, but instead to fixed platforms on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore the United States, generally fall under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. Federal law treats offshore installations, whether pumping stations, gathering stations, or pipeline monitoring platforms, as fixed islands that fall under federal law. If a worker is assigned to work on such a fixed installation, the LHWCA provides for a special type of workers’ compensation medical and income benefits administered by the United States Department of Labor.
At Doyle LLP we take pride in the dedication we put into earning your trust and building a strong attorney-client relationship. Jones Act claims require legal and maritime industry knowledge that takes decades of experience to master. We have a team of dedicated attorneys and legal assistants with the single goal to help you understand your maritime workers’ rights and get the compensation you deserve. We work with our clients every step of the way to help ease the burden after a serious injury or illness is sustained in the maritime industry. We know what your legal case means to you and your loved ones, and we fight for you every step of the way. Our experienced maritime firm will fight all the way to a verdict from a jury as we have successfully done many times before in Jones Act Claim cases. Our track record of millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts backs up our reputation as eager to fight for the clients we believe in.
The lawyers at Doyle LLP have vast experience in offshore claims and understand numerous federal maritime laws, such as the Jones Act law, that apply to offshore claims. Our Texas firm works every day to help clients across state lines and international borders in their maritime accident claims
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