Seamen working aboard seafaring vessels are entitled to maintenance and cure in the case of injury, but if the employer is negligent, they are entitled to further compensation. The Jones Act is similar to workers’ compensation for other types of workers. The Jones Act allows for compensation for seamen much as the Federal Employers Liability Act provides compensation for railroad workers.
The main difference between workers’ compensation and the Jones Act is negligence. For other types of employees, workers’ compensation is available in the event of an injury, no matter who was at fault for the injury. Jones Act negligence means that an injured seaman is entitled to compensation when the employer is negligent, or at fault for the accident.
What is Negligence?
The simple definition of negligence according to the Jones Act is the failure to use reasonable care. Reasonable care means taking the expected care for the safety and well-being of employees that any prudent person would. Being negligent means either doing something that a prudent person would not, or failing to do something a reasonably prudent person would do to protect themselves, employees, and anyone else aboard the vessel.
Negligence and Causation
Negligence does not always cause accidents and injuries. An employer may get away with negligent behavior and be lucky enough to avoid accidents. To prove negligence in the event of an accident or injury, you have to prove both that the employer acted negligently and that this negligence caused the accident. The negligence has to have played a part in the accident, even if it is only a small part or if there were other factors involved.
Examples of Jones Act Negligence
The definition of negligence is broad and leaves room for a number of actions or inactions on the part of an employer tasked with the responsibility of keeping a crew safe. For example, negligence could include a failure to provide adequate training for the crew. If crew members have not been properly trained to use equipment or have not been trained in safety procedures, this lack could easily lead to an accident that causes injuries.
The employer is also responsible for maintaining a vessel in a state that is safe for the crew. If the deck is cluttered with equipment or the equipment has not been maintained properly, this can lead to accidents. Not having the right equipment to do a job is another potential problem. The employer must also make sure that the vessel avoids storms or other kinds of weather to the best of his or her ability in order to keep the crew safe.
Confrontations between crew members could also fall under the category of negligence on the part of the employer. If you are assaulted by another employee, your employer could be negligible for allowing conditions on the vessel that led to conflict and violence.
A Low Burden of Proof
The good news for seaman injured on the job is that he or she has a low burden of proof when it comes to negligence. In many other types of negligence cases the plaintiff is expected to prove that the defendant was the major cause of an accident. In maritime injuries and accidents under the Jones Act, the seaman only needs to prove that negligence on the part of the employer played any role in causing the accident, even as little as one percent.
While burden of proof is low for a plaintiff in a Jones Act claim, it is still important to be prepared to make your case if you find yourself in this situation. A big part of this is having an experienced attorney on your side, fighting for your rights to compensation.