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Who's eligible to file an injury claim under the Jones Act?

The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, has many different functions.

Perhaps one of the most important aspects is that it provides mariners or seamen with an avenue through which they can sue their employers if they are injured at sea. This provision is important, especially since existing maritime law doesn't allow these individuals to qualify to receive workers' compensation coverage.

Those covered by the Jones Act include virtually any privately employed mariners working in a commercial setting such as the exporting or importing of goods. Individuals working in different types of positions also qualify including officers, masters, crew members and captains.

In order to be afforded protections under the law, the injured individual must dedicate at least 30 percent of work hours aboard a "vessel in navigation." This means that it should be fully functioning and capable to being taken out and operated in navigable waters or, at the very least, be able to float alongside a dock.

Workers who fail to meet the 30 percent "vessel in navigation" threshold rule are authorized to file injury lawsuits against their employers under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

In the case of the Jones Act, the federal government requires all employers to provide a safe environment in which their employees can work.

If an employer improperly maintains its equipment including leaving behind slippery substances or oil on the deck of the ship, then this can cause a seamen to slip and fall. An injured worker is authorized under this law to hold one's employer liable for any injuries that the individual suffers as a result.

It's even possible for an employee to sue one's employer for mistakes that a vessel's captain may make.

Employers can also be sued for liability if can be proven that they inadequately trained either the crew or captain, or the security was lax enough that it gave one crew member ample opportunity to assault another. If they failed to provide their crew with the necessary safety equipment and this caused an injury, then they can be sued for negligence as well.

If you've been injured at sea while working aboard a commercial vessel, a Louisiana Jones Act attorney can advise you of your right to file an injury lawsuit.

Source: FindLaw, "The Jones Act and merchant marines," accessed June 15, 2018

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