At Buttafuoco & Associates, we have extensive experience in maritime law, especially when it comes to working at sea. If you work on a vessel or in the employment of a fleet, you already know that maritime work can be a dangerous job. You might not know, however, that if you’re injured on the job at sea, you aren’t covered by traditional workers’ compensation laws in New Jersey. Nevertheless, there are special provisions granted to workers on ships and barges. A New Jersey personal injury attorney specializing in maritime law or admiralty law will know that the primary statute defining these rights is commonly known as The Jones Act.
What is “The Jones Act”?
Officially called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act was enacted to bolster the United States shipping industry. One of its primary provisions required that a vessel shipping goods from a U.S. port to another U.S. port must be a U.S. flagships, built in the U.S., and crewed by U.S. citizens. Also importantly, it defined various rights and protections of maritime workers, modeled after 1908 legislation that defined the rights of railway workers.
One of the key features of maritime law under the Jones Act is “maintenance and cure” benefits. These are akin to laws entitling workers to compensation for lost wages. “Maintenance” refers to the value of food and housing a maritime worker would receive while working on a ship or barge, and “cure” refers to the obligation to provide medical services to the injured seaman. This practice has been upheld by the Supreme Court in the years since, so an employer could face heavy fines for refusing to pay. This is one of the many clear statutes under the Jones Act defined by federal courts. At Buttafuoco & Associates, our experience with maritime case law is invaluable in helping you get the best possible outcome for your case.
Also under the Jones Act, the plaintiff’s burden of proof is much lower than in typical cases handled by personal injury attorneys in Northern New Jersey. Even if the worker contributed to the accident, the employer may still be at fault. The degree of the defendant’s responsibility compared to the employer’s responsibility impacts the size of the financial compensation. This is referred to as “comparative negligence”.
Does the Jones Act Apply to Me?
To file a lawsuit under the Jones Act, you must be a qualified seaman, which is a protected status under the law. This means you spend at least 30% of your time working aboard a vessel and that your job must contribute to the function of the vessel. As you might expect, this includes crew members and boat operators, but it also could include a wide variety of jobs at sea. On a cruise ship, for example, this might include chefs, performers, and waiters.
Unfortunately, recreational maritime accidents aren’t covered under the Jones Act, nor are contractors and temp workers. Nevertheless, you still have legal recourse. A personal injury lawyer serving Northern New Jersey will be able to guide you through the options and legal statutes that apply to your case.
To further discuss your questions, rights, or concerns in a maritime case, get in touch with Buttafuoco & Associates at 1-800-NOW-HURT today.