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Do you qualify for compensation under the Jones Act?

Whether working on a ship was your dream or you fell into the seafaring life, you spend a good portion of your working life on the water. While you do what you can to avoid hazards that could cause you injury, it's possible your luck could run out one day.

If that happens, you won't qualify for workers' compensation benefits like Florida residents who work on land. Instead, you pursue compensation through either the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. How much time you spend on the water makes the determination.

Qualifying under the Jones Act

Simply put, if you spend at least 30 percent of your time on the water as one of the following, you could qualify to seek benefits for a work-related injury under the Jones Act:

  • Captains
  • Masters
  • Crew members
  • Officers

A "navigable vessel" is one that operates, floats on the water and moves. It must be able to do so on navigable waters. You could even consider a ship tied to a dock as in navigation, which would qualify you to pursue compensation under the Jones Act so long as you meet the above criteria.

Unsafe conditions that give rise to filing a claim

Even though your burden of proof is minimal, you still want to show the court that an unsafe condition on the ship contributed to or caused your injuries. Those conditions could include one or more of the following:

  • Oil or other slippery substances on the deck
  • Lack of training for those working aboard ship
  • Assault by someone you work with on the ship
  • Poorly maintained equipment
  • Not having the proper equipment

Your injury could be the effect of something as simple as another crewmember neglecting to put a sign up after mopping the deck. The wet deck would be slippery and could cause you to slip and fall. If you suffer serious injuries as a result, you could file a claim under the Jones Act.

Even though it is your right to file such a claim and the burden of proof is less than in a "normal" personal injury claim, it does not mean that the process will go smoothly. You could easily encounter unforeseen issues that could delay or derail your ability to obtain the compensation you need to cover your medical expenses and lost income, among other things.

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