You’re floating down the Mississippi River as part of your job. Your job is working on a barge or vessel of some sort. And then, the worst happens: an accident or something else occurs that causes you a serious injury.
The Jones Act sets out federal laws that cover all maritime workers and tourists injured offshore. Unlike in claims of workers’ compensation, which governs employment-related injuries on land, the injured person must prove that the employer or other ship owner was somehow negligent in causing the injury. For example, if offshore workers are hurt because of defective equipment on an oil rig, boat, barge, or other vessel, they can file a Jones Act claims against their employers.
Under the Jones Act, a plaintiff must prove he was a seamen, the defendant was negligent, and that negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
To recover under a Jones Act claim, a plaintiff has the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence, negligence on the part of his employer and that the act of negligence was a cause, however slight, of his injuries.
There are some general guidelines for what constitutes a seaman, however. The main rule is that, in order to qualify as a seaman, a worker must contribute to the function of the vessel. To put it another way, the worker must aid in the fulfillment of the vessel’s mission.
While the Jones Act is somewhat complicated, it favors injured seamen/parties covered under the act. In fact, it favors them so much that it even slightly changes the burden of proof required in a personal injury case. When it comes to civil cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proof, which is typically proving their case by a preponderance of the evidence. Preponderance of the evidence means the plaintiff must prove what they are saying happened more likely than not. In the case of Jones Act claims, this means that the injured seaman must prove the negligence of his or her employer or co-employee. However, because the Jones Act relies on a “featherweight” burden of proof, it can be easier to acquire damages in Jones Act cases than in other civil suits.
It also favors plaintiffs in the form of remedies for those hurt or killed in a claim arising under the Jones Act. The Jones Act allows for injured seamen to recover for past and future medical expenses, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, pre-judgment interest, and something called found, which is the value of room and board the seamen would have received had he/she remained at sea.
Around Missouri, many Jones Act claims arise out of accidents on barges or other commercial vessels. Because so much of this work involves shipping extremely heavy weights, heavy machinery is also required. When combined with the unpredictable waters of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, problems inevitably occur. Unfortunately, sometimes these problems can sometimes cause serious injury or even kill those on the barge or vessel.
Due to the complex nature of the Jones Act, it is incredibly important for those who have claims arising under it to seek out the highly skilled counsel required to get a successful outcome.