The Jones Act and injuries caused by ships

When Louisiana workers suffer serious personal injuries as a result of an accident caused by a ship or other vessel, their claims are governed by the Jones Act, which is a federal component of maritime and admiralty law, rather than under the state’s personal injury laws. Available claims and damages must thus be sought through the nation’s maritime law, which has different procedures and laws than other types of personal injury cases.

Under the Jones Act, it does not matter if the injury suffered occurred on the water or if it occurred on land. If a navigable vessel was involved, maritime and admiralty law governs. The claim must first be presented to the company that owns or operates the vessel, and a civil lawsuit may not be filed until six months after the claim has been presented to the company in writing.

Owners and operators of vessels will be liable to workers who suffered personal injuries due to their actions if they failed to comply with the act’s mandates or when the injury was caused by a known problem with the ship’s steaming machinery or with the ship’s hull. Victims are able to bring suit against the ship’s engineer, master, pilot or mate for personal injury due to negligence or willful action. If a seaman dies in such an accident, his or her estate representative may bring the action on the decedent’s behalf.

Maritime cases have very specific claim filing requirements and applicable burdens of proof for prosecuting a personal injury claim. People who have suffered serious personal injury should familiarize themselves with the requirements as outlined by the Jones Act. In some cases of workplace injuries at sea, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act may apply.

Source: U.S. Government Printing Office, “46 U.S.C.”, accessed on Jan. 16, 2015

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