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The Jones Act: when might a vessel be unsafe?

Many people in Louisiana work aboard vessels at sea. However, working on a ship presents certain dangers, and sometimes a seaman is injured on the job. The Jones Act allows injured seamen in certain circumstances to sue their employer, as they may not be covered by workers' compensation benefits. However, to receive Jones Act coverage, a mariner must spend a minimum of 30 percent of their time on-the-job on a "vessel in navigation," which is something that is on navigable waters, is able to move, is in working order and can float.

Under the Jones Act, employers of seaman need to make sure their employees are provided with a workplace that is reasonably safe. If the employer fails to uphold this duty, and a seaman is injured on the job, then the seaman can bring a lawsuit against his or her employer.

There are a number of ways in which a vessel may be unsafe for seamen. For example, if the crew did not receive proper training or is not provided with the proper tools to do their job, the vessel may be unsafe. In addition, if the equipment on the vessel is not properly maintained, this can also be an unsafe condition. Another way a vessel could be unsafe is if the vessel's deck is slick with oil or something else that is slippery. Even assault aboard a vessel could be considered an unsafe condition.

This is only a very brief overview of the Jones Act, and cannot provide legal guidance for any one person's individual case. Therefore, mariners who have been injured at work may want to consult with an attorney, to learn more about the Jones Act and how it applies to them.

Source: FindLaw, "The Jones Act and Merchant Marines," Accessed May 22, 2017

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