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September 8, 2011

Jones Act: Did you know?

ship.jpgUnder traditional maritime law, a seaman had no cause of action against his employer for injuries caused by the negligence of a fellow seaman. The Osceola, 189 U.W. 158 (1903). This harsh rule changed in 1920, when Congress passed the Jones Act, 46 USC App. Section 688, creating a negligence action for seamen against their employers.

Text of Jones Act on personal injuries and death:

Any seaman who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right of trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply; and in case of the death of any seaman as a result of any such personal injury the personal representative of such seaman may maintain an action for damages at law with the right of trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States conferring or regulating the right of action for death in the case of railway employees shall be applicable. Jurisdiction in such actions shall be under the court of the district in which the defendant employer resides or in which his principal office is located.

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March 25, 2011

Maritime Accident/Personal Injury Law: Maintenance and Unearned Wages

Many people mistakenly believe that maintenance and unearned wages for injured seamen are the same benefit. They are not.

Seamen injured while working on the high seas are entitled to no-fault benefits, in other words, benefits regardless of why the accident happened. Among those benefits are Maintenance & Cure, and unearned wages.

Maintenance is to compensate the seaman for the value of quarters and meals furnished aboard the vessel. The benefit commences on the date the seaman leaves the ship, not the date of the injury, and ends in most instances when the seaman has reached maximum medical cure.

In contrast, unearned wages are the equivalent of wages and are due just as a normal paycheck comes due. The benefit is payable to the end of the mutually-agreed period of the voyage or until the seaman becomes fit for duty. The big issue often is what defines the voyage. The amount can include bonuses, tips, accumulated shore leave, "comp time," and similar employment benefits.

The issues involved in maritime personal injury cases are complex. Injured seamen should consult with experienced lawyers to learn their rights.

Contact our office today to arrange a free, confidential consultation to discuss your case.

Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals - the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.

March 15, 2011

Compensation to Seamen (Jones Act & Admiralty) for Personal Injuries

The U.S. Congress has not adopted a workers' compensation statute applicable to seamen. This contrasts with federal workers' compensation statutes created for federal workers (FECA) and longshore and harbor workers (LHWCA).

The differences between the remedies available under the federal statutes and those available to injured seamen are many and substantial. This blog briefly summarizes the remedies available to seamen who become sick or injured during their employment aboard vessels engaged in navigation on navigable waters.

Injured seamen have the potential for remedies under three different systems. The first is maintenance and cure. In terms of available remedies, this system most closely resembles state and federal workers' compensation systems. Maintenance is lost wages and cure is medical care. The benefits are supposed to be provided without regard to fault and last until the injured seaman has reached maximum medical cure or maximum medical improvement. Maintenance and cure benefits are paid by the employer.

The second system provides for compensation against the vessel owner under general maritime law. This is a negligence-based system. Vessel owners owe seamen a duty of providing a seaworthy vessel. To be compensated under this system, seamen must prove that an unseaworthy condition played a substantial part in bringing about or actually causing the injury, and that the injury was either a direct result or a reasonable probable consequence of the unseaworthiness.

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March 11, 2011

Comparisons Between FELA (Railroad Workers)/Jones Act (Seamen) and Florida Workers' Compensation

Neither railway workers nor seamen injured on the job are covered by any state workers' compensation system. However, they are not left unprotected. Both are covered by systems that in many respects surpass anything available under any state workers' compensation system.

Railway workers are covered by the Federal Employees' Liabilities Act (FELA), while seamen accidents are governed by the Jones Act. The two bodies of law are nearly identical in substance and form.

In contrast, there are significant differences between FELA/Jones Act and state workers' compensation systems.

State workers' compensation systems are no-fault systems, meaning that injured employees need not show that their injuries were caused through some fault of the employer. As long as the accident happened in the course and scope of the employment, the injured worker should be covered. Railway workers and seamen must prove negligence on the part of the employer.

Negligence can sometimes be difficult to prove. However, because of the inherent dangers involved in railway and maritime work, the common law (case derived law) has evolved to make the standard of proof lower than it is in other types of negligence cases. In other words, it is somewhat less difficult to prove negligence in railway and seamen accidents than it is in other types of cases.

There is also a difference in the type and quality of benefits available between the two systems.

Most, if not all, state workers' compensation systems bar compensation for pain and suffering. Lawmakers have decided that this is a fair tradeoff for not having to prove negligence. FELA and the Jones Act do not bar compensation for pain and suffering.

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