When a Seaman is injured during the course of his employment, his/her injury is covered by a Federal Law known as The Jones Act. In order for an injured Seaman to be classified as a Seaman under the Jones Act, they must: (1) have duties that contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission and (2) have a connection to a vessel in navigation (or to an identifiable group of such vessels). A vessel is any watercraft practically capable of maritime transportation, regardless of its primary purpose or state of transit at a particular moment. Vessel status is oftentimes challenged by defendants because the definition of a vessel is extremely vague and ambiguous. It is important to have a South Florida Maritime Lawyer that can understand the difficulties of a Jones Act case to help with your claim.
Next, a Jones Act claimant must prove that they were injured in the course of his employment. What this essentially means is that the Seaman must be injured while working. This is usually a factual issue that must be fleshed out through discovery. I would look at the employment agreement first. Fishermen are usually paid a cut of the net catch proceeds and their work consists of time spent on the deck and time spent on their breaks.
After proving that the injury happened while working, the party responsible for the injury (either the employer or owner of the vessel) must have breached some standard of care. Under the Jones Act, Seaman and employer are required to exercise ordinary care under the circumstances. Simply put, both parties are supposed to act like other reasonable Seaman and marine employers in like circumstances. This aspect of a Jones Act case is exactly like other injury cases on land. Negligence is proportioned by a finder of fact (a jury) and the injured party’s compensation is proportioned accordingly. For example, a plaintiff wins $100,000 at trial and the jury apportions fault at 75% defendant and 25% plaintiff. The plaintiff wins a total of $75,000. It is important to contact an experienced Jones Act Attorney to be able to wade through these aspects of a Jones Act case to get you the compensation you deserve.
In addition to Jones Act remedies, injured seamen are entitled to receive maintenance, cure and wages in their injury cases. When a seaman is injured, regardless of fault, they are entitled to these remedies due to the unique hazards which follow seamen work. The obligation of maintenance and cure is so broad that even acts just shy of culpable misconduct of the seaman’s part will not relieve the ship owner’s responsibility to provide these services. Maintenance and cure requires the ship-owner to pay the seaman’s wages and hospital bills until the point of maximum cure. Maximum cure is the point when the seaman is all healed or to the point in time where no amount of medical care would heal the seaman further. Failure by the ship owner to pay this benefit may be grounds for punitive damages. An experienced Jones Act Attorney in South Florida can work with you to ensure you receive the maximum benefits you deserve and will fight for your rights if they refuse to pay.
Another remedy available to injured Seamen is a cause of action titled unseaworthiness. Unseaworthiness is a claim that the ship was unseaworthy for the task at hand and/or a warranty of fitness for duty. The warranty of seaworthiness applies to the hull of the ship, the ship’s cargo-handling machinery, hand tools aboard the ship, ropes and tackle, and in general, all sorts of equipment either belonging to the ship or brought aboard by others. Also, a ship may be unseaworthy if it lacks certain types of equipment, such as maps or lifesaving gear.
This is just the basics of the Jones Act and other claims available to injured Seamen and is not a treatise on the Jones Act. There are numerous intricacies regarding these causes of actions. It is essential that injured Seamen seek advice from a Jones Act Attorney in Florida to get the maximum compensation her or she is entitled to. This is especially true with injured cruise line employees. Most of the big cruise lines require suits to be filed in Federal Court in Miami. Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and Carnival cruise lines all require suits to be filed in Miami, so you would want to hire an experienced South Florida Maritime Attorney to handle your case.
The law of the sea is different than that of the law of the land. While accidents on land and on the water both require liability, there is causation and damages to be proven under the Jones Act in order to prevail in a lawsuit. This requires a different method of proving these essential elements and it takes an experienced maritime attorney to wade through the rough waters of a maritime claim. LaBovick, LaBovick & Diaz has an experienced team of South Florida Jones Act Lawyers to help you if you think you have a Jones Act claim. If you have been injured while working on the water, call today for a free consultation.