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What maritime workers need to know about the Jones Act

Every job comes with certain risks; some are just more dangerous than others. If you work on one of Florida's navigable vessels, then you already know you face certain dangers while you work on board a vessel. No matter how many safety precautions you take, you could still suffer a work-related injury.

Because of the nature of your work, you don't qualify for workers' compensation benefits, reserved for those who work on land. So, where are you supposed to turn for compensation? You can make a claim under the Jones Act if you qualify.

Do you qualify for compensation under the Jones Act?

In order to file a complaint under the Jones Act after an injury, you must meet certain qualifications. If you spend at least 30% of your work time on the water in one of the following capacities, you may be able to sue your employer for compensation:

  • Crew member
  • Captain
  • Master
  • Officer

The vessel you work on must be on navigable waters, operational, afloat and capable of moving. Even if the ship attaches to a dock, it could still fall under this definition.

What qualifies as a reason to sue under the Jones Act?

In order to prevail in a lawsuit against your employer, you have to prove some form of negligence that violates your right to a safe work environment, such as the following:

  • Poorly maintained equipment
  • The wrong equipment
  • Insufficient training
  • Slippery substances on walking surfaces
  • Assault by a fellow crew member

Unlike normal personal injury cases, you do not have to meet the same burden of proof. You only need to show that your employer was negligent, even only a little. For example, if you weren't watching where you were going and slipped and fell on the ship's deck, even though you may have played a role in your injury, as long as a slippery substance on the deck contributed to your injury, your case can move forward.

What should you do after an injury?

Get the medical attention you need as quickly as possible. The sooner one treats most injuries, the better the likelihood is of a full recovery. Like any other work-related injury, you need to report it to your employer right away and file a report regarding the accident accompanied by your official statement. If you cannot settle the claim with your employer, litigation may be necessary in order to receive the compensation you deserve.

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