Under The Jones Act, seamen are entitled to protection from negligence and un-seaworthy vessels. A seaman is a member of the crew of a vessel (boat, ship, or other floating or motorized structure). A seaman must contribute to the function of the vessel, the accomplishment of the vessel’s mission or the vessel’s maintenance. Seamen would include: officers, engineers, deck department workers and other members of a ship’s crew. Included as seamen are: oil rig tool-pushers, drillers, rough necks, cooks, and other workers on jack-up oil rigs, semi-submersible rigs and drill ships. Prior to the Jones Act, passed in 1920, injured seamen were entitled to workers compensation and medical care but were barred from suing vessel owners for negligence.
Admiralty lawsuits can include back, neck, or shoulder injuries due to heavy lifting and cargo handling. Admiralty lawsuits can arise from broken bones, paralysis, and amputations due to un-seaworthy conditions on board a vessel. Also covered would be burns caused by explosions on oil rigs or ships, electrocution injuries, drowning or deaths due to defective equipment on tugboats, oil rigs, ships, or harbor facilities.
Unlike land-based workers, many employees who are injured on ships, barges, and other maritime craft are not covered by worker’s compensation laws. They are, however, protected by the other aforementioned unique laws, which can only apply to them, and not to other people.
When a seaman dies as a result of an employer’s negligence or because of an unworthy vessel, the worker’s family can file for benefits under The Death on High Seas Act. The Death on High Seas Act was first passed in 1920. Any Death on High Seas lawsuit must commence within three years from the death of the seaman.
Admiralty and maritime lawsuits can also be applied to cruise ship passengers.