The Jones Act is federal worker’s compensation insurance legislation that was enacted back in the 1920s to cover injured maritime workers who were out on the high seas and working under admiralty law at the time of injury. This brought sea workers on a federal employment level with railroad workers under common law on the land. The legislation set the requirements for both employees and employers regarding compensation when maritime workers are injured on the job, but it left no employer exemption for liability with respect to extended non-economic general damage claims for ongoing pain and suffering due to the injury. Worker’s compensation for land-based workers exempts employers from this liability. Tug boat workers can qualify for a Jones Act injury in some instances.
Qualifying as a sea worker
Tug boat employees can be considered sea workers when their injury claims are being settled, but not all workers can qualify. There are specific elements of the test determining employee coverage, with the first being that the boat must be in navigation at the time or preparing for a trip. Any crew member who contributes to the operation of the boat is classified as a sea worker. In addition, duties can vary with respect to trips, and only those who are “in navigation” at least 30% of their work time can qualify for a Jones Act claim. This can leave room for a defense from an employer, which is not uncommon.
Inland waterway qualifications
There are also exemptions for workers injured in a maritime accident on some internal waterways when they navigate inland or travel in certain lakes. Lakes that are completely within a state’s boundaries do not qualify for Jones Act claim standing. Aside from navigating in oceans, some employees are also classified as sea workers when they labor in rivers and lakes that border multiple states.
How a maritime attorney might help
The potential for a general damage claim in association with Jones Act injury changes a case significantly. There must be a level of negligence on the part of the employer in most cases. The seriousness of the injury can also be central to an equitable settlement. An experienced maritime accident attorney may represent the claim to pursue maximum compensation.