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The Jones Act and injuries at sea

You’re a young person who has always loved the sea, so when you got a summer job as a deckhand, it was a dream come true—until you were struck by a falling piece of poorly secured equipment. Thanks to a dislocated shoulder, you’re going to be unable to work for at least a month.

In most cases, when you are injured on the job, you are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, if you are working at sea or on a river, you are covered by a marine law known as the Jones Act.

Jobs covered by the Jones Act include (but are not limited to):

  • The captain and crew members of a ship
  • Drillers, deck engineers, offshore installation managers, and others employed on an offshore oil rig
  • Barge workers and tankermen
  • Supporting workers such as galley hands and cooks

The Jones Act differs from New York state workers’ compensation law in many ways. For one, your employer is legally required to cover the cost of your medical care until you recover completely. You can choose the doctors who treat you. You also receive a “maintenance” allowance, which is intended to cover your daily expenses while you are unable to work.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the Jones Act and workers’ compensation is that you can sue your employer for negligence-related damages, while state law prevents you from suing an employer who offers workers’ compensation benefits, even if their negligence caused your injuries. In other words, under the Jones Act, you could potentially receive thousands or even millions of dollars in a settlement while workers’ compensation laws prevent such a recovery.

Common causes of offshore injuries include:

  • Employer negligence. Although working on ships and oil rigs is a relatively risky profession, employers still have a duty to provide reasonably safe working conditions.
  • Captain and supervisor negligence. If a captain or supervisor gives directions or makes decisions that result in worker injury, then they can be held accountable.
  • Unsafe vessel. If a ship is not adequately maintained or lacks a sufficient number of trained crew members to keep operations safe, working conditions become dangerous for everyone on board.
  • Worker fatigue. When workers are compelled to work excessively long hours, they become exhausted and may not be able to react as quickly when a dangerous situation arise

If you have been injured while working at sea, then contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you assert your rights under the Jones Act. Your attorney will go over your case to confirm that your injuries were due to employer negligence or the poor condition of the vessel and proceed to hold them accountable on your behalf. Jayson Lutzky is an experienced personal injury lawyer. He offers free in-person initial consultations. Home and hospital visits may be available in the event of serious injury. Call 718-329-9500 to set up your free appointment or visit mynewyorkcitylawyer.com/accidents to learn more.

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