Working on a boat comes with a set of risks that simply don’t exist for office workers. Operating a commercial boat can involve complex machinery and rigging, as well as the risks inherent to the activities on the boat, such as deep-sea fishing or diving, not to mention the unpredictability of passenger behavior.
When you’re injured while working on a boat, the regular rules of workers’ compensation might not apply. Getting the money you’re owed after a workplace injury isn’t as straightforward of a process. Injured workers are often required to file a claim similar to a personal injury lawsuit. Due to these complex laws, many Florida maritime workers hire experienced attorneys to file these claims on their behalf.
If you’ve been hurt while working as a maritime crew member, get the help of the knowledgeable and effective Florida maritime injury attorneys at Meldon Law when you decide to file a claim.
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a federal law that permits “seamen” to pursue a claim for money damages if they have been injured while serving as a maritime worker. These seamen may seek compensation if they were injured by:
- A negligent fellow seaman
- Negligent captains
- Carelessness on behalf of the owner of the vessel
- A vessel that is not seaworthy or is otherwise dangerous
One important fact to know about making a Jones Act claim is that injured maritime workers must report an injury to their captain, senior officer, or employer within seven days of their injury to qualify for benefits. That said, any work injury should be reported as soon as possible after it occurs.
Make sure that the captain or other recipient of the report of injury makes a record of the injury in the ship’s log. The captain should also file a Report of Marine Accident, Injury or Death. This form is required for any Jones Act claim.
The worker will also need to fill out an accident report form. This form will, among other things, ask the worker who was at fault for their injuries. It is very important to fill this form out carefully, including as much detail as possible about how the accident occurred. However, if the worker is on medication due to their injuries or is unsure of how to complete the form honestly without risking angering their employer, it is better to speak with an attorney before returning the form.
Who is covered by the Jones Act?
The Jones Act states that only a “seaman” may recover damages under that law. The question then becomes, who qualifies as a “seaman”? This term isn’t defined in the law. Over the course of the intervening 100 years since the law underlying the Jones Act was enacted, judges have fleshed out a definition for the term through court cases based on the Act. The definition of “seaman” is now:
- Any individual who is employed on a vessel in navigable waters, and
- Who is on the vessel for at least 30% of their working hours, and
- Whose job duties while on the vessel contribute to the vessel’s functioning or the accomplishment of its mission.
It is important to note that the vessel must be in navigable waters. In other words, if workers wish to qualify as seamen under the Jones Act, they cannot work aboard a vessel that is under construction on dry land. This definition can include captains, fishermen, cruise ship workers, dive boat crewpersons, engineers, and deckhands, as well as others who work on vessels. An attorney can help you determine whether you qualify for benefits under the Jones Act.
What kinds of work qualify workers to seek benefits under the Jones Act?
Work done at sea is unique under US law in that workers often have remedies that are not available to workers on dry land. Many laws cover different types of maritime workers, but the Jones Act is designed to provide coverage for workers on vessels such as:
- Fishing boats or shrimp boats
- Tug boats
- Riverboat casinos
- Cruise ships
- Chartered fishing boats
Death on the High Seas Act offers compensation for wrongful death while at sea
If your loved one was killed while working on a vessel outside of the territorial waters of the US, you might be entitled to file a claim under the Death on the High Seas Act. These claims provide for damages for economic benefits, funeral expenses, lost financial support, costs of child care, and other expenses. However, for claims that occurred closer to land, wrongful death victims might benefit more from filing a claim under the Jones Act. An experienced Florida Maritime Accident attorney can help you decide which type of claim would be best for you.
Get the Help That Is Right for You After a Florida Maritime Injury
Contact one of the Florida locations of Meldon Law for a free consultation if you or someone you love has been injured in a maritime accident.