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Posts Tagged ‘Jones Act’

What Limitations Does the Jones Act Have?

In Jones Act History, Jones Act Law, Maritime on July 15, 2009 at 7:42 PM

While the Jones Act is great in its intentions it does not cover many issues that are surfacing around the world today with maritime law.  Since being put into federal law in 1920, the Jones Acts has undergone much scrutiny as times have changed and we see more people choosing a maritime life.

Initially, this act was designed to give rights to seamen who were serving their country and risking their lives to do so.  This was a law that was passed to protect seamen from shipmasters and other crew members.  While this is great in theory, we see it become outdated due to more people finding a maritime life outside of the military service.

This act was also designed for maritime people that would be out at sea for years.  This means they would never be stepping a foot on land.  This is the very essence of why this act was passed through Congress.  Life on land and life at sea are two completely different things.  People who are living at sea are susceptible to having many issues occur that endanger their lives.  Something needed to be done to make sure that, during these long ventures at sea; people were protected by the rule of law.

People had been asking for a reform for years and, during the 1980s, people were demanding the Supreme Court step in and clearly state who and what this act was covering.  Finally, in 1995, the Supreme Court made a ruling and modernized this – at the time – 75 year old bill.

The definition of a seaman had been reformatted to protect people who were also living on land as well as the sea.  The ruling, known as Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, stated that anyone who was contributing to the livelihood of a vessel would be protected under the Jones Act.  The other side of this coin covered any sea-person as long as they contain a connection with a vessel or group of vessels and maintains a substantial time of labor and duration.

This revise of the Jones Act still leaves a lot of unanswered questions and the only real way to know for sure is to seek consultation from a maritime lawyer.  So, you see, the drawbacks of the Jones Act are a product of the Supreme Court not making the necessary clarifications as to what means what in this ever changing world of maritime law.

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How Many Times Has the Jones Act Been Amended Since Its Creation?

In Jones Act History, Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on July 11, 2009 at 7:35 PM

Since the inception of the Jones Act in 1920 there has been a need for this federal law to be clarified more specifically.  This act does set guidelines for maritime law; however, since the recent advancements in modern day life, there has been a need to reform this law time and time again.

After this bill was passed there was much controversy over how to define seamen and who would be protected by its statutes.  In 1927 Congress tried to clear this controversy up through the passage of the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA).  This amendment still left dozens of unanswered questions.  However, it did work to realize sailors were no longer the primary loaders and un-loaders of ships and that dockworkers had taken over this responsibility.  Although this extension now excluded any crew members of vessels so there was still much to decide after this amendment.

This debate would always resurface and lawsuits would arise such as the South Chicago Coal & Dock Co. v. Bassett case which led to Congress passing the declaration of a seaman not being defined if their duties did not pertain to the ships navigation.  This amendment only left more confusion and was begging for another reform.

A court case in 1955, Gianfala v. Texas Co, saw the Supreme Court state the definition of a seaman would be determined by the jury.  The specification of a “seaman” came to include laborers on floating oil drilling platforms and dredges. There was still too much grey area in a very serious matter that was growing with each passing year and the result was an eruption of Jones Act litigation.  This also led to nearly 100,000 Jones Act lawsuits in a ten year period between 1975 and 1985.

In 1995 the Supreme Court would finally make a better conclusion as to the defining of a modern seaman.  But, after a long bout of people demanding a reform for the maritime law, this amendment was still was not enough.

There has been much debate over this matter and until the Supreme Court can clearly define what makes a sailor a sailor there will be controversy surrounding this maritime law.

Will I Be Covered by the Jones Act If I’m Working on a Moored Vessel?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on July 9, 2009 at 3:46 PM

The definition of what kinds of seagoing vessels are covered by the Jones Act has certainly been cause for confusion in the past. Court cases have continuously emerged over the course of the last several decades that have expanded and refined the definition of which workers are covered under the act and which are not. One example of the fine lines that the courts have drawn is moored vessels. If you happen to work on a moored vessel, you may find the following information very helpful if you are ever injured while performing the duties of your job.

The coverage of an employee working on such a vessel depends mostly on the degree to which the vessel is moored. As the definition has evolved, certain things such as floating oil platforms, which, while moored, are afloat and being worked on while at sea, have been determined to be covered under the Jones Act. So, if you’re working aboard a floating oil rig, a stationary barge, or other similar type of vessel, there is a good chance that you’re going to be able to receive benefits under the terms of the Jones Act in the event that you are injured while at work.

However, there are vessels which are not covered under this act. This includes those which have been permanently moored to the shore or the banks of any body of water. This includes structures like dry docks, wharves, and certain boat structures, which are no longer counted as vessels. This would also exclude any boats which are connected to the infrastructure systems of the city in which they are located, such as a boat which is receiving electricity, water, or telephone connections from the city they are docked in. So again, whether or not your vessel is moored is less important than the degree to which it is considered to actually be a vessel under the terms of the Jones Act, when determining whether or not you could receive Jones Act benefits if injured while at work.

What Are Considered Reasonable Requests Under the Jones Act?

In Jones Act Law, Maritime on July 4, 2009 at 7:40 PM

When you are employed as a seaman, you are protected in the event of an injury under federal law ruling and the Jones Act.  The right for a seaman that is injured during a period of employment is called “maintenance and cure”.  This basically defines medical benefits – known as cure – and living expenses – known as maintenance.

Being a seaman, the medical benefits you are entitled to cover hospitalization, physical therapy, doctors visits (or medical care), medication, and the facilitation of medical equipment.  If you are a seaman and are in need of any of these instances due to your employment as a seaman, your employer is required to cover these payments – end of story.

If unable to work as a result of an injury or work related health endangerment, a seaman is also entitled to payments for everyday living expenses which include:

– Grocery Bills

– Utility Bills

– Cosmetic and Toiletry Expenses

– Any Other Reasonable Expenses

The only reason any of this is possible is due, in part, to the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act of 1927.  This recognized that people were in need of a federal law to ensure seamen were protected in the same way as everyone else.  This was even more important because there are countless things that could go wrong while out at sea thus making employment at sea extremely dangerous even under the safest conditions.

Sadly, not every employer is going to adhere to the guidelines and practices of the Jones Act.  Due to there being so many uncovered issues with the maritime law, employers have the power to find loopholes in the act and the amendments.  When dealing with any maritime law, especially in affiliation with the Jones Act, you will always want to receive consultation and be represented by a maritime law professional.  An employer of seamen is required to support the legality of the Jones Act and, without proper representation; the employer could very well try to cheat you out of these compensations.

Am I Covered by the Jones Act as a Dockworker?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on July 2, 2009 at 3:37 PM

Understanding Maritime Law can be complicated at the best of times and, as there are many different types of laws which cover the injuries of those who work in and around the water, it can get extremely cloudy as to which laws cover which workers. Dockworkers are especially unclear as to which laws cover them. It is important to know which laws apply to you. Unfortunately, accidents do happen, but if you know what laws are in place to protect you, you can have a good idea of how best to proceed in the unfortunate event of any of these injuries taking place.

If a dock worker has heard about the Jones Act, they are often going to wonder if they are covered under this law. The Jones Act is a federal law which covers the workers and seamen who are employed by a seagoing vessel. The confusion could come from the fact that this law also applies to those employees even when they are not directly on the ship, such as when they are working on the dock. However, for people who are actually dockworkers, and not just seamen who happen to be working on the dock at the time of their injury, there is a separate law.

The law in place to protect dockworkers in the case of an injury is called the Longshoreman & Harbor Workers Compensation Act, commonly abbreviated as LHWCA. This law covers dock workers and enables them to make a claim in the event that they are injured or contract an illness as a result of their work, and also extends to employees of many off shore oil platforms (except for certain types of those which would instead be covered under the aforementioned Jones Act.) The LHWCA pays out benefits for a worker injured on the job in order to help to pay for his medical care and rehabilitation, as well as helping to make up for lost wages.

Will My Family Be Entitled to Adequate Benefits if I Am Injured or Killed While Working at Sea?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation, LHWCA, Maritime on June 26, 2009 at 7:46 PM

The Jones Act, with help from the Longshoremen’s and Harbors’ Workers Compensation Act, helps bring financial security to dependents of seamen who lose their life at sea.  This compensation extends to any dependants on that income and has been mandated to meet the needs of a seaman’s spouse, children, and family.  Due to the high risks and life threatening environment these workers find themselves in on a daily basis, you can see the need for some form of legal protection over these matters.

Knowing what your rights are and getting the most compensation in the tragic event of losing a loved one at sea is something everyone should be entitled to.  The federal law recognizes this, even if sometimes an employer doesn’t.  If you are dependent on someone that is risking their life every time they go to work, you need to know that, if something were to happen, you are going to be taken care of after the grieving is over.

The system is basically designed to give percentages of your weekly wages to qualifying, dependant family members.  The death benefits that surround maritime law are not the most amazing compensation; however, the employers are required to compensate until the family member in question can achieve financial independence, be remarried, or turn 18.  There is even a $3000 dollar funeral expense that is covered under maritime law.

A surviving spouse is eligible to receive half of the weekly wage earned by the seaman.  If there are children involved, then this compensation obviously increases.  This is worked out by compensating the surviving dependants with half of the seaman’s weekly wage.  If you have more than one child you are eligible to get 2/3s the weekly income.  This will be paid until the child, or children, turn 18.  There are specific circumstances that see this get extended, but is normally on a case by case basis.

What Type of Attorney Should I Seek to File My Claim?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on June 11, 2009 at 6:36 PM

When someone is injured at sea, they have the right to make a claim in order to receive benefits to help them compensate for the cost of their injury. Injuries that happen at sea are handled in a slightly different manner than injuries which happen while working for a regular company on dry land. If you are injured while working on an American vessel, you are in fact covered by the national law, “The Jones Act” which is designed to protect the safety and the livelihoods of American Seamen.

The Jones Act, a federal law which applies to all American vessels, is an incredibly convoluted and complicated portion of the law. It can at times be even considerably more complicated than the laws and claims which are covered under standard workers compensation laws. This is why a regular workers’ comp lawyer is generally not who you want to hire in order to make a Jones Act claim. Instead you should hire a lawyer who specializes in the Jones Act, or in maritime law, as they are going to be better prepared in order to ensure that you receive a fair compensation for your injuries.

Seeking a Jones Act attorney will give you the best chance possible to receive a fair payout for your injury. Payouts under the Jones Act can potentially be much higher than those which are paid under a regular workers compensation claim. However, the convoluted nature of these laws can make it very difficult for you to make a successful claim without the help of a qualified specialist attorney. If you are injured while at sea, please do yourself a favor and immediately seek out the assistance of a Jones Act attorney. It’s preferable if you can find one that can prove their experience with a proven track record of successful claims.

How Does the Jones Act Protect Me?

In Jones Act Law on May 18, 2009 at 2:00 PM

Many individuals support their families with the money that they make working on the rivers, lakes, oceans, and bays within our country. Obviously, a job on any waterway can be a dangerous one. It doesn’t matter if you are a captain, deckhand, fisherman, or cook – a job on a boat has its downfalls. Slippery decks cause several injuries; however, negligence of other crew members is one of the more common causes of injury on the water.

There is a reason for every law and the Jones Act is no different. Had it not been for the courts refusing to recognize the rights of maritime workers and dig further into the cases that they attempted to file against negligent employers, the Jones Act would not exist.

Think about it. How many vessel owners think that they can get “one more trip” out of their boat before they have to make that repair? The Jones Act protects maritime workers from employers like this. It was created in order to allow injured maritime workers the opportunity to file suit against their employer when an injury has been sustained due to negligence on behalf of a crew member, captain, or vessel owner (employer) himself. The Jones Act also enables family members of deceased maritime workers to file suit if it is suspected that negligence was involved in, and ultimately caused, the death of their loved one.

The Jones Act does have some similarities when compared to Workers’ Compensation laws; however, there are very specific differences between the two. For instance, the Jones Act governs maritime workers only. In fact, with the Jones Act, workers are usually entitled to much more than what Workers’ Comp laws would provide to an injured worker. With the Jones Act, maritime workers are able to be compensated for their injury, their time off of work, and their medical bills – even future medical bills that occur due to this single injury. Of course, speaking with an attorney who specializes in this area would be your wisest decision if you are an injured maritime worker.

Rescued American Ship Captain Arrives in Kenya

In Hijacking, Hostage, Jones Act Law, Pirates on April 16, 2009 at 9:57 AM

The Voice of America reports on Richard Phillip arriving in Kenya after being rescued by the U.S. Navy. Three Navy sharpshooters shot three of his captures just before his rescue.

As the Pirate attacks escalate in the region the Jones Act and it’s applicable laws we no doubt ably again be reviewed by our Justice System. It is interesting that these laws of the early 20th Century are still as necessary today for acts of Piracy as they certainly must have been during their penning.

We are curious to see if the Jones Act in it’s current form will be able to properly defend the rights of these seamen in international territories working for US based companies. It is our opinion that not only will it hold it’s own but in fact with further strengthen legal ramifications across all aspects of the shipping and maritime industries.

A place to start – the Jones Act

In FELA, Jones Act Law, Maritime on April 12, 2009 at 2:03 PM

This space will be used to assist those that have been injured while working in harbors and on our Earth’s oceans.  As the senior partner for Ogletree Abbott Law Firm in Houston, Texas I have led the cause in fighting for the rights of injured Maritime Workers across the United States.

I wish to use this blog to pass legal advice to those searching for an answer in their own legal strife but must first “pay the bills”.  Two years ago I published the book “Jones Act & Maritime Law for Injured Workers“.  The completion of this work inspired me to build a website dedicated to helping those hurt in such accidents.  People do not fully understand what the Jones Act entails and I encourage you to read the Wikipedia article that descibes each law that the “Act” commonly refers to.  If you wish to learn more please see shipguide.com for further writings by myself on the subject.