The maritime industry can be a challenging and hazardous field to work in. Workers are exposed to many dangers, such as falling objects, transportation accidents, fires, and explosions, which increase their risk of accidents and injuries.

Unlike land-based workers, maritime workers cannot seek compensation through workers’ compensation benefits. Instead, they are protected under the Jones Act, which allows them to pursue compensation based on their employer’s liability.

It is important that every vessel owner who has employees working on their vessel understand the Jones Act and how they can protect themselves from liability if a seaman is injured while working for the vessel owner. 

Understanding the Jones Act

The Jones Act, also called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal law that regulates maritime operations in the United States. It provides legal protections and compensation rights to seamen who develop an illness or get injured on the job. A seaman can qualify as a Jones Act seaman if the following apply:

  • The individual must be considered a seaman (someone actively engaged in any capacity on board a deck or vessel).
  • The seaman must have developed an illness or suffered an injury during their employment.
  • The seaman’s illness or injury must result from negligence by the vessel owner or another employee of the vessel.

What Compensation Can Someone Receive Under the Jones Act?

Under the Jones Act, seamen injured or who become ill while working are entitled to compensation for their injuries. This law provides a legal remedy for maritime workers to claim compensation for negligence from vessel owners or the at-fault crew member.

Employers and vessel owners are responsible for maintaining their vessel’s safety and maintaining the machinery on their vessels. When a seaman is due to the fault of the vessel owner, the vessel owner is responsible for the accident, regardless of their contribution level. The types of compensation a seaman can receive under the Jones Act include:

  • Maintenance and cure
  • Lost wages
  • Medical expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Disability and impairment
  • Punitive damages

Importance of Obtaining Insurance

As with any employer/employee relationship, having adequate insurance is imperative and can save you from paying a seaman’s damages out of pocket.  However, obtaining insurance is easier said than done.  Not all insurance companies will cover vessel owners and sometimes the vessel owner must confirm with their insurance company that their insurance would cover them if a seaman qualifies under the Jones Act.  

It is important to seek the guidance of a Maritime and Admiralty Lawyer to ensure that you are communicating with your insurance company properly to confirm that if a Jones Act claim is filed against you, that you are properly insured.  

The Importance of Hiring a Maritime and Admiralty Lawyer

Hiring a Wilmington maritime and admiralty lawyer is essential for a vessel owner when a seamen is injured while working for the vessel owner. Maritime and admiralty lawyers have deep knowledge and experience in maritime law and other areas concerning maintenance and safety for maritime workers, accidents and injuries in waterways, unseaworthy vessels, contracts involving vessels, and insurance claims. The benefits of hiring a maritime and admiralty lawyer include the following:

  • An attorney understands your status as a vessel owner and can help determine if the injured or ill seaman qualifies under the Jones Act.
  • A maritime and admiralty lawyer understands the compliance and regulatory issues and can help you understand how they apply to you as the vessel owner.
  • An attorney will help you understand and identify applicable laws of causation and liability.
  • A maritime lawyer can help you navigate the complex legal processes of insurance claims.

Contact Rountree Losee Today

If you own a vessel and someone was injured while working on your vessel in Wilmington, North Carolina, a maritime attorney from Rountree Losee can help you determine the extent of your liability and if your case is one that would qualify under the Jones Act. Contact us at (910) 763-3404 or visit our website to schedule a consultation.