Jones Act

Sharing the Blame under the Jones Act

»Posted by on Oct 23, 2013 in Jones Act, Personal Injury | 0 comments

A maritime lawyer that specializes in the Jones Act can ensure that the proper compensation is awarded to seamen who suffer injuries in the performance of their duties. They are especially important when negligence is an issue, where non-economic damages (pain and suffering) can be awarded, because a Jones Act maritime lawyer will know when the damages awarded are commensurate to the extent of the injury and degree of culpability of the employer. However, according to, there are instances when proving the employer’s negligence is not enough to secure the whole of what the plaintiff believes he deserves.

Even when a personal injury claim is successful under the Jones Act, the court can decide that some of the responsibility lies with the plaintiff. This can have a significant effect on the awarding of damages, as in the case of Simeonoff v. M/V Saga (Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2001).

The plaintiff was able to prove to the district court that his injuries were a direct result of negligence and unseaworthiness on board that M/V Saga at the time of the accident. However, the court also considered his years of experience in operating the equipment (launcher) that caused his injuries. The court concluded that he was partially responsible for the accident for failing to use his experience and knowledge to prevent it, that he should have known better in fact, and pegged his culpability at 30%. As a result, the damages awarded to him were reduced by that much.

The plaintiff appealed the decision, and it was a good thing that he did. Under the Jones Act, a seaman cannot be held partially responsible for any mishap that occurs onboard in the performance of his duties where negligence of the employer is clearly proven. The appeals court therefore affirmed the damages awarded by the district court, but denied the reduction of 30%, which represented the plaintiff’s “share” of the blame.  Clearly, the personal injury lawyer or lawyers in this case knew what could and could not be allowed under the Jones Act, and this benefited the plaintiff greatly.

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The Case of the Defective Ratchet

»Posted by on Apr 25, 2013 in Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), Jones Act, Personal Injury | 1 comment

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, is primarily a statute of the US federal government to ensure that inland transport of cargo and people are carried out by American vessels manned by Americans. However, the Jones Act also provides for the protection of the civil rights of seamen from work-related injury and death, and is often cited in personal injury cases usually handled by a maritime lawyer conversant with the intricacies of maritime law.

Maritime work is inherently dangerous, which is why the Jones Act parallels the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) protecting railroad workers in many respects. However, the provisions of the Jones Act with respect to personal injury claims need to be navigated carefully for a successful claim, because interpretations of negligence and liability can be tricky depending on the circumstances of the case.

Take for example the claim in Perkins v. American Electric Power (Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2001) where a second mate sustained serious injury because of a defective ratchet supplied by AEP. The contention was that AEP was negligent in that it failed to ensure the safety of its crew by providing adequate tools and training to carry out their tasks without fear of injury. The plaintiff, James W. Perkins, lost the case in district court, but was granted a partial reversal on appeal.

The case illustrates that while the ratchet was clearly defective, the plaintiff failed to provide evidence that AEP knew about the defect and allowed its use anyway. Moreover, the work history of the plaintiff negated the allegation that he needed additional training to do the task that resulted in his injury. The saving grace was that AEP was found negligent under the doctrine of seaworthiness inherent under the Jones Act for not providing safety ropes or handrails that may have prevented the accident.

It is not enough to think you have a clear case of negligence to prove a personal injury claim under the Jones Act because proving negligence requires a myriad of conditions to be met. Expert knowledge and experience of a maritime lawyer is needed in handling the case to have a reasonable hope of success.

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