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What protections do injured seamen have?

Federal law provides important protections for injured seaman. Louisiana workers injured in an offshore accident may wonder what protections are available to them. Under federal law, injured seaman and family members of seamen who have been killed in the course of work enjoy legal protections. The Jones Act provides legal options for personal injury and wrongful death claims brought by an injured seamen or injured seaman's family against their employer.

The Jones Act is a federal law that allows injured seaman to bring a claim for damages against their employer if the employer's negligence contributed to the injury or harm suffered by the seaman. Injured seaman may be able to recover compensation for damages including medical expenses and future medical care costs; lost earning capacity; the value of room and board had the seaman been able to remain at sea; pain and suffering damages; and additional types of damages.

There are certain elements that must be satisfied as part of a Jones Act claim. The party bringing the claim must qualify as a seaman. Though the court determines this, in general, if the injured worker contributes to the function of the vessel, they will be considered a seaman. Consistently, longshoremen and dock workers are not considered seamen for purpose of the Jones Act. The court commonly looks to the worker's duties and time spent on the vessel to determine if they will be considered a seaman for Jones Act purposes.

In addition, the injury must take place on a navigable vessel. While the definition of vessel is broad, fixed oil rigs usually do not qualify, however, submersible oil rigs likely do qualify under Jones Act protections. Jones Act provisions can be somewhat complicated but tremendously important which is why it is important to understand their applicability to your particular situation if you are an injured seaman or family member of a seaman who was killed in the course of their work.

Source: Injury.findlaw.com, "Jones Act Overview," Accessed Sept. 13, 2016

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