The Jones Act is a federal law that provides potential remedies to injured seamen against their employers if they were injured while working in the service of their employer’s vessel. Under the Jones Act, the employer of a seaman may be liable for damages, including pain and suffering, if it fails to furnish an injured seaman with a safe place to work. Because the Jones Act does not define “seaman,” determining who is a Jones Act seaman can often be a complicated legal question.
Generally, a “seaman” is a member of a vessel’s crew who is exposed to the “perils of the sea” as part of his employment. Employers often fight Jones Act seaman status in litigation because seamen are considered protected “wards of the court” and potentially are entitled to types of compensation not available to other types of employees or workers.
For example, most workers are not entitled to pain and suffering damages from their employers. And, even if there is no fault or negligence, a Jones Act employer must provide “maintenance and cure” to a seaman who is hurt while in the service of the employer’s ship or vessel. Maintenance and cure provides benefits to an injured seaman much like health and accident insurance. There are penalties as well if an employer does not provide an injured seaman with maintenance and cure benefits. Gee has litigated the “Jones Act seaman” question many times and monitors the Jones Act case law as it is handed down so that he is knowledgeable of the most recent developments in the maritime law on the seaman status issue.
What types of watercrafts are considered Jones Act vessels is also an issue in which the law is frequently changing and currently expanding, such that individuals who may not have previously been considered Jones Act seamen may now be.
Contact us to learn more about the Jones Act, seaman status, maintenance and cure, and other remedies available to an injured seaman, including under the law of unseaworthiness.