The law surrounding maritime injuries lies at the crossroads of personal injury and maritime law. The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act, protects the rights of seamen with a substantial connection to a particular ship. Such seamen are protected by what is known as the "doctrine of seaworthiness."
What Does The Jones Act Mean?
A ship worker who suffers personal injury or wrongful death at sea can seek compensation from his employer. The Jones Act provides:
"Any sailor who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right to trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply..."
In layman's terms, this means that a ship owner who fails to exercise reasonable care to keep the ship safe, can be held liable for resulting personal injuries or wrongful death. The degree of care that is required of ship owners varies with the degree of risk presented by the particular ship and its operations, the sea conditions and the weather.
What Makes A Ship Unseaworthy?
A ship can be found to be unseaworthy under any number of circumstances. Failure to secure objects on the ship before setting off and allowing other dangerous conditions on board can all result in liability for personal injuries suffered by a passenger. Failure to keep appropriate safety and first aid equipment on board is considered negligent in most cases if that failure results in injuries or exacerbates injuries caused by something else.
Maintaining an unqualified or incompetent crew can also be a violation of the standard of care under the Jones Act, if an unqualified crewman contributes to personal injuries caused by another.
Thorough Investigation Is Essential
Jones Act injury cases are very fact specific. Prompt and thorough evidence gathering is critical to the successful prosecution of a maritime injury claim. Prior incidents involving a particular condition or employee can be powerful evidence of negligence for a similar subsequent incident results in personal injuries. The appropriate standard of care for an employer can also be affected by internal documents like collective bargaining agreements and employee manuals.
Even a particular practice that has been conducted on a ship for many years without incident can be considered negligent if it does not meet the standard of care.
File Promptly To Beat The Statute Of Limitations
If you have been injured at sea, it is very important to consult with a Jones Act lawyer or someone with experience in personal injury maritime law. There are strict timelines for filing litigation. A seaman has three years from the date that the seaman should have discovered that his injury was caused by negligence of the ship owner or operator. Any injury, even if minor, can be sufficient to start the clock running on the statute of limitations.
Even beyond the statute of limitations, delay can result in lost evidence and lost witnesses.
If you have suffered personal injuries on a maritime vessel, contact a Portland Jones Act lawyer immediately.
Contact A Portland Maritime Law And Jones Act Litigation Attorney
Contact Sarah Nelson, P.C., to schedule a free and confidential consultation about your Oregon maritime law and Jones Act case at no cost or obligation. You may call us at 503-928-8053. You may also contact us online to start talking with an Oregon maritime law and Jones Act litigation lawyer.