Understanding your Rights as an Injured Seaman

Maritime employment is one of the largest industries in Louisiana. In fact, a 2015 study found that the maritime industry accounts for one in five jobs in the state.

When a maritime worker is injured on the job, he needs to know his legal rights. If his injury was caused by his employer’s negligence, then the worker may bring a claim under the Jones Act, a federal law passed by Congress in 1920 to protect injured seamen.

Who Qualifies as a Seaman?

A seaman is someone—man or woman—who performs a significant amount of work on an offshore vessel, such as drill ships, jack-ups, floating barges, diving vessels, cruise ships, tankers, cargo ships and fishing boats. Seamen include everyone from the most junior crewmember to the captain of the vessel. Note that you don’t have to do all of your work on the vessel to qualify as a seaman.

In some cases it’s difficult to determine whether a person qualifies as a seaman, which is why it’s important to contact an experienced maritime injury attorney who can help you build your case.

Who Can an Injured Seaman Sue?

An injured seaman may recover damages from his employer if he proves that someone—the employer, the captain, other crewmembers—acted negligently, and that this negligence was a cause of the injury. In other words, the employer is liable for the negligence of any of his employees.

What Actions Constitute Negligence?

Under the Jones Act, employers must provide seamen with a reasonably safe work environment and take care to maintain the vessel. If conditions on the vessel are unsafe, then the employer can be held liable for any resulting injuries. Examples of unsafe working conditions include:

  • Broken or improperly maintained equipment;
  • Steps and ladders without handrails;
  • Slippery work surfaces; and
  • Failure to provide workers with proper training or equipment.

For example, if a crewmember is mopping the deck and fails to put up a sign warning fellow crewmembers of the slippery surface and then someone slips and injures himself, the employer can be held liable under the Jones Act for those injuries.

How Do I Prove My Case?

The seaman has to prove that the employer’s negligence was a cause of his injuries. Note that it doesn’t have to be the only cause or even the main cause, but just a cause.

Statute of Limitations

You must file your Jones Act lawsuit within three years of the date of your injury.

What Damages Can I Recover?

An injured seaman is often entitled to receive compensation for lost earnings and lost earning capacity (i.e., the money the seaman would have received from his employer and any future employer had he not been injured), past and future medical expenses, and damages for pain and suffering. You might also be entitled to receive maintenance—daily compensation for necessities like food and shelter.

Contact Us Today

Patrick Yancey Law Firm specializes in representing persons injured in maritime law cases. Please contact us today for an initial consultation about your case.