What is Negligence Under Maritime Law?
What is Negligence Under Maritime Law?
For a maritime worker in Louisiana – or any location across the Gulf Coast – your physical ability is critical to your livelihood. It is equally critical to make sure you are compensated for your injuries if you have been seriously hurt while working. Your health, future and your family need to be protected.
Land-based workers who are injured on the job are generally covered by workers’ compensation under Federal and Louisiana State Law. However, if you were injured while assigned to work on an employer’s vessel, you may qualify as a Jones Act seaman and be entitled to recovery under the Jones Act.
The Jones Act was enacted in 1920 by the United States Congress to grant seamen – foreign and domestic – a cause of action against employers for negligence. The Jones Act gives seamen who suffer a personal injury during employment the right to seek damages in a jury trial. Under the Jones Act, the employer has a duty to provide a seaman with a reasonably safe place to work. This duty is absolute.
If the negligence of the employer played any part in the injury to the seaman, no matter how much or how small, even if the negligent acts are in combination with other acts or in combination with some other cause, the employer is entirely liable. Injuries on ships can often be caused by the negligence of a fellow crewmen, but the employer is still responsible.
Seamen who have preexisting injuries are also not barred from claiming damages under the Jones Act. The employer and/or vessel owner are liable for an aggravation or increase of an injury due to negligence or unseaworthiness.
Under the Jones Act, there is no assumption of the risk defense for an employer or vessel owner. A seaman does not assume the risk of the Jones Act negligence of his employer. Under the Jones Act, a seaman’s damages may only be reduced by his comparative fault, if any.
Our skilled maritime injury lawyers represent injured or disabled workers. We don’t get paid unless you win. We’re very confident in our ability to get you the benefits you deserve.
Who is Covered by the Jones Act?
The Jones Act covers employees who work as a ‘seaman.’ Under the law, the term seaman has been defined as a person who performs a significant amount of their job on a vessel. It is not always simple to determine who qualifies as a ‘seaman’ for the Jones Act.
There are often disputes over this issue, but many types of workers qualify as seamen. Do not assume that you do not qualify for protection. If you were injured while working on a boat or a ship, speak to an experienced Jones Act attorney about your case. Generally, a seaman is a person – from crew member to captain – who performs a significant amount of his or her work on a vessel (any type of ship or boat). Part-time seamen must spend at least 30 percent of the time working on a vessel to qualify under the Jones Act.
What Does the Jones Act Do?
For maritime workers, the most important thing to understand about the Jones Act maritime law is that it provides a method for a ‘seaman’ to file a lawsuit against a negligent employer.
Under Louisiana law and throughout the United States, most injured workers are prevented from filing personal injury lawsuits against their employer — instead, they are required to pursue financial support through a workers’ compensation claim.
However, the Jones Act gives injured maritime workers the right to hold negligent employers liable, and the right to a jury trial.
What is negligence under the Jones Act?
Negligence is the failure to take due care or adequate safety precautions. The Jones Act requires all covered employers to ensure that:
- Maritime workers are provided reasonably safe conditions on the job; and
- Their vessels are maintained and kept in a reasonably safe condition.
If an employer fails to take proper safety measures and a worker suffers an injury, that employer can be held legally liable through a Jones Act injury claim. These cases are fact specific. If you or your loved one suffered an injury while working on a boat or a ship, speak to a Louisiana Jones Act Attorney immediately.
Call Jones Act Attorneys to Discuss Your Rights to Compensation
If you were injured while working on your employer’s dredge, barge, commercial fishing boat, tugboat or ship, you may have rights that are different and more valuable than the rights of an injured land-based worker.
Those injured while assigned to work on any vessel in navigable waters may qualify as a Jones Act seaman and may be entitled to recovery under the Merchant Marine Act, also known as the Jones Act, or General Maritime Law for unseaworthiness. The definition of vessel under the Jones Act is very broad. Vessels that are docked or anchored are still vessels under the Jones Act unless they are permanently taken out of service and not capable of navigation.
These Federal laws allow you to recover compensation for:
- Loss of Income
- Pain and Suffering
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity in the future
You may qualify for a significant award under these laws. Also, claims for Maintenance and Cure allow injured workers to recover out-of-pocket losses for medical expenses and living expenses until you reach the point of maximum medical improvement.
The Jones Act and maritime law can help workers injured aboard construction barges, tugboats, marine cranes, tankers, jack-up boats, dredges, drill ships, towboats, pile drivers and other vessels involved in the maritime industry.
Determining your legal rights and maximizing your recovery after an injury can be complicated. Your employer and their insurance company may try to reach a rapid settlement. Although their offer may sound good at the time, it’s important that you do not settle. We encourage you not to sign anything or share details about your injury until speaking with an experienced Jones Act attorney.
The statute of limitations for filing a claim under the Jones Act is three years from the date of the accident.
The Jones Act and Admiralty lawyers of Domengeaux Wright Roy & Edwards will work on your behalf to make sure every negligent party compensates you for your injuries. Our lawyers are highly experienced in offshore injuries, commercial diving injuries and helping oil & gas industry workers in Louisiana, as well as across the globe.
Admiralty Law May Entitle You to Payments
Maritime law provides that you can be eligible to receive payment for Maintenance and Cure, even if fault cannot be proven. “Maintenance” refers to payments for the food and lodging you would have received from your employer if you had not been injured. “Cure” refers to all medical care and treatment, including hospitalization and medical care required as a result of the maritime injury.
Any seaman who is injured or becomes ill in the service of the vessel to the point that he or she cannot serve aboard the vessel is entitled to make a claim for maintenance and cure for the period of time the seaman cannot do a seaman’s work.
An employer cannot defend a maintenance and cure claim on grounds of the seaman’s negligence. However, it is important to note if the seaman is ill or injured as a result of willful misbehavior, willful concealment of his medical condition from his employer at the start of employment, or he rejects medical care offered by his employer, he may not be entitled to recover maintenance and cure.
The Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and Maritime Workers in Louisiana
If you work in the maritime industry but you were not at sea when you suffered an injury, you may be able to file a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). This is a federal statute that provides medical benefits and compensation for Louisiana longshore workers injured on wharves, piers, docks and shipping terminals.
The LHWCA provides for the payment of compensation, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation services to employees and workers disabled from injuries suffered on the job that occur in the navigable waters of the United States, or in adjoining areas used in the loading, unloading, repairing or building of a vessel.
The LHWCA also provides the payment of survivor benefits to dependents if a work injury causes, or contributes to, an employee’s death.
These benefits are typically paid by the self-insured employer or by a private insurance company on the employer’s behalf. An “injury” can include occupational diseases, hearing loss and illnesses arising out of employment.
Generally, a worker who is covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act is entitled to temporary benefits equal to two-thirds of his average weekly wages while being treated for his injury.
Which employees are covered by the LHWCA
The LHWCA covers employees in maritime occupations such as longshore workers, ship repair, shipbuilders, shipyard workers, and harbor construction workers. Injuries must occur on the navigable waters of the United States or in the adjoining areas, including piers, docks, terminals, wharves, and areas used in loading and unloading vessels. Non-maritime employees may also be covered if they perform their work on navigable waters and are injured there.
Additional Longshore Act Extensions
Congress extended the LHWCA to include other types of employment. These employees are covered by these extensions and are entitled to the same benefits, and their claims are handled the same way.
The extensions include:
Defense Base Act – Applying to employment at overseas military bases of the United States and employees of U.S. government contractors working outside of the U.S. in public work projects or national defense and military operations.
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act – Applying to employees working on the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States in the exploration and development of natural resources, such as offshore drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. An oil drilling platform is permanently anchored to the ocean floor, therefore it is not considered to be a vessel in navigation, and these workers are not protected under the Jones Act.
If your employer is the United States Government, your claim falls under the Public Vessels Act. If you’ve been injured during longshore work due to the negligence of another company that is not your employer – either in a shipyard, on a dock, pier or marina – then you may be eligible for additional benefits outside of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
An injury caused by a party other than the employer is called the “third-party” defendant. An injured longshoreman can file a lawsuit against that third party under General Maritime Law, either for negligence, product liability for a defective product, defective machinery or a part that caused the injury.
The admiralty law attorneys of Domengeaux Wright Roy & Edwards have been honored to represent many maritime workers for over six decades in Louisiana. These Americans work with commitment and face tremendous risks daily, and when injured, an employer should show the same dedication to ensure they are taken care of. We represent injured and disabled maritime workers who need help.
Our skilled maritime injury lawyers represent injured or disabled workers. We don’t get paid unless you win. We’re very confident in our ability to get you the benefits you deserve following a maritime accident or injury.
Our attorneys can handle every part of your maritime accident case while you focus on healing. Contact our experienced maritime attorneys for a free consultation. We handle all maritime accident cases on a contingency basis, which means you will not pay court costs and case expenses unless we win or settle your case. We are experienced personal injury attorneys who understand the needs of maritime clients and work with top experts to investigate and prepare cases when necessary.
Domengeaux Wright Roy & Edwards handles Jones Act, maritime injury and wrongful death claims for clients in Louisiana who are injured while working inland and offshore, whether in rivers, tributaries or in the Gulf of Mexico, including in Lafayette, Louisiana, Broussard, Louisiana, New Iberia, Louisiana, Lake Charles, Louisiana, New Orleans, Morgan City, Louisiana, Franklin, Louisiana, Scott, Louisiana, Abbeville, Louisiana and Youngsville, Louisiana.
Discuss Your Maritime Injury Case With an Experienced Maritime Lawyer