Making your living out on the open water comes with many hazards, but choppy seas and bad weather aren't the only risks. When the company that owns the vessel you work on fails to maintain or operate it properly, you might sustain serious injuries that permanently threaten your livelihood.
Understanding how the Jones Act works might make it easier to recover without having to foot the bill all by yourself.
The Essence Of The Jones Act
There are no guarantees that the company you work for, if left to its own devices, would do the right thing and help you pay your medical bills or replace your lost wages.
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, provides allowances that secure your personal injury rights as a seaman. In short, if you're injured while performing your job duties because your employer acted negligently, then you or a representative of your choosing can initiate a civil claim against that employer. These laws also apply if a loved one died while working as a seaman.
Who Counts As A Seaman?
Of course, like any law, the Jones Act is complex, and different courts have put their own spin on it through interpretation. For instance, the provisions of the act only apply to those who classify as seamen. This is considered to mean any worker whose primary job tasks contribute to helping a vessel navigate or perform missions.
Most definitions, however, typically exclude contractors, dock workers and other temporary employees who only work on ships and boats while the vessels are in port.
Was Your Employer Negligent?
The law also says that the negligence of your employer must have at least partially contributed to your injury. Legal organizations like the Ohio State Bar Association note that this means that even if your actions placed you mostly at fault for an accident, you can still file a Jones Act claim against an employer whose carelessness played a lesser role.
The Bare Minimum
Even if you don't file a Jones Act claim, the law entitles you to receive medical treatment, care and recovery support, which are collectively known as "maintenance and cure." As long as you can establish that your injury took place on a vessel while you were a seaman, and that you didn't cause it by intentionally behaving badly, you have a chance at being compensated for your hardships.
Learn more about your particular rights under Alaska's laws by contacting a personal injury attorney skilled in maritime accident cases.