At Lamothe Law Firm, maritime personal injury claims represent a large portion of our trial practice. Although our attorneys are also admitted to practice in Mississippi and Texas, where coastal federal district and state county courts have some maritime cases, Lamothe Law Firm is home-based in New Orleans, which is the heart of maritime litigation in America. Frank Lamothe and Richard Martin have decades of experience in almost every area of maritime litigation, including trials and appeals.
Seamen’s Rights under The Jones Act
The Jones Act is a law enacted by Congress that provides protection to persons (“seamen”) who are members of the crew of a vessel. The Jones Act applies to inland river workers as well as offshore workers who work on a jack-up rig, semi-submersible, barge, drill ship, tug / towboat, crew boat , drill ship, dredge, floating crane, tanker, cargo ship, fishing vessel, chemical ship, research vessel, construction barge, lay barge, motorized platform, diving vessel, cruise ship, recreational boat or other floating / movable structures.
The Jones Act governs the liability of vessel operators and marine employers for the work-related injury or death of an employee. It is a federal cause of action, meaning that the United States Congress intended for all seaman’s injuries throughout the nation to be guided by the same liability standards of the Jones Act.
Although the Jones Act protects seamen, it is not the same as workers’ compensation. It does not require payment regardless of fault. In order for a crew member to recover under the Jones Act, he must prove some negligence or fault on the part of the vessel’s owners, operators, officers, and/or fellow employees or by reason of any defect in the vessel, its gear, tackle or equipment.
The Jones Act provides an injured seaman a remedy against his or her employers for injuries arising from negligent acts of the employer or co-workers during the course of employment on a ship or vessel. This means that the employer must do something unreasonable or fail to perform a reasonable act that would have prevented injury in order for the seaman to win his claim. An injured worker’s maritime claim under the Jones Act can also raise claims against a vessel’s owner that a dangerous condition existed on the vessel that made the vessel unseaworthy.
If you are a crewman on a boat or vessel and were injured while working, you will be entitled to sue your employer for injuries caused by your employer’s negligence under the Jones Act. Offshore drilling rigs, drill ships, barges and other motorized structures which are moveable and which float from hole to hole (semis and jack-ups) are considered vessels under the Jones Act.
If you are a member of the crew of such a vessel and were injured while in the furtherance of your employment, then your employer will also be responsible for paying your medical bills (called cure) and paying you a small daily allowance (called maintenance) during the time you are injured. In addition, you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer if your employer was negligent or if there was something wrong with the vessel which made it unfit for its intended purpose.
In a Jones Act lawsuit, you may seek to recover past and future economic loss, pain and suffering, mental anguish, disfigurement, loss of capacity to enjoy life, loss of the ability to perform household services and take care of yourself, and other damages recoverable under the maritime law.
Longshoremen Rights Under the LHWCA
The LHWCA allows qualified injured workers to receive federal workers’ compensation type benefits for their injuries without regard to fault. The compensation is more limited than that allowed under the Jones Act.
This means if you are injured on a fixed platform in the Gulf of Mexico, you have a right to Longshore compensation benefits regardless of fault.
Other workers covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act include longshore workers or other persons in longshore operations, and other harbor workers including ship repairers, shipbuilders, harbor construction workers and shipbreakers. Seamen covered under the Jones Act and other workers covered by their state workers’ compensation law are not covered under the LHWCA.
The payments for disabled employees are paid at a rate of 66 2/3% of the employee’s average weekly wage for as long as the disability from the injury continues. This rate is subject to weekly maximum and minimum rates. Compensation is also available for certain permanent impairments. Benefits paid to a surviving spouse are paid at 50% of the deceased’s average weekly wage, and an additional 16 2/3% is payable to any surviving children.
Time is of the essence when initiating a claim for benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. An injured employee must notify his or her employer of the injury or illness within 30 days of its occurrence, and a formal claim for benefits must be filed within one year of the date of the harm the worker has suffered.
These claims are handled through the United States Department Labor and are considered federal compensation claims.
For more information, please see “What Are My Rights?” on our maritime/offshore web page.