Jones Act was written to help injured seamen. Jones Act insurance covers this important act. Additionally, the Jones Act ensures that the U.S. keeps and maintains a fleet of ships staffed by U.S. crews and owned by U.S. companies.
Prior to the passing of the Jones Act in 1920 there were no written laws (statues) by Congress to ensure that injured U.S. seamen would be provided for if they were injured. For many years, injured seamen relied upon Maritime Law for their recovery. Maritime law or admiralty law is a mixture of common law, traditions and practices adopted by ancient seafaring nations, and incorporated into the American legal system over time.
Jones Act insurance provides coverage for the Jones Act. The Jones Act provides for two types of remedies for seamen. First, the employer is bound by law to compensate an injured seaman for: “Transportation, Wages, Maintenance and Cure“. “Transportation and Wages” are paid until the voyage is complete. “Maintenance” and “Cure” are paid until the seaman has reached his or her maximum medical cure.
If the injury was caused in any way by negligence on behalf of the employer, the injured seaman may also be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages. U.S. Maritime Law may also provide benefits for injuries or deaths if the vessel was found to be “unseaworthy”. A vessel is considered unseaworthiness if the vessel or its crew were not reasonably fit for their intended use and that the unseaworthiness caused or contributed to the injury. The courts have used very liberal labeling to define “unseaworthiness”, and typically unseaworthiness claims are not overly difficult to prove.
The Jones Act covers not only the members of a crew, but the masters of that crew as well (such as commercial divers ). That is, anyone who has a connection that is both substantial in nature and duration to a specific vessel, or to a fleet of vessels, and whose duties contribute to the function or mission of that vessel or fleet. Generally, anyone who spends more than 30% of their time on a vessel that is in navigation, will qualify as a Jones Act seaman. It is important to understand that the terms duration and nature, when talking about someone’s connection to a ship, are traditionally construed by the courts to be exceptionally broad when finding as to whether or not an employee qualifies for Jones Act coverage.
Also, due to the recent Chandris ,Inc vs Latsis case, additional elements or inquiries have been added:
(1) Does the worker owe his allegiance to the vessel, rather than simply to a shoreside employer?
(2) Is the work sea-based, or involve seagoing activity?
(3)(a) Is the worker’s assignment to a vessel limited to performance of a discrete task after which the worker’s connection to the vessel ends, or (b) Does the worker’s assignment include sailing with the vessel from port to port or location to location?
A seaman who is injured or becomes sick while in the service of a vessel has a right to recover, regardless of whether the seaman or the ship’s owner was negligent in the accident that caused the injury. In other words, even if the ship owner did not do anything wrong, the seaman can still recover maintenance and cure. Maintenance and cure must be paid even if the incident did not take place on board the vessel, so long as the seaman was still in the service of the ship. This is also the case if the injury or sickness is not the result of their employment. For instance, a seaman would still be entitled to maintenance and cure even if he slipped walking from the ship to a local fast food restaurant while the ship was docked.
A seaman is entitled to maintenance and cure until such time as the seaman is cured, or until everything has been done that can medically be done in the way of working toward a cure. This can include doctors, hospitalization, nursing, medicine, as well as board and lodging that is considered to be similar to what the seaman would have received if still on board the ship. The injured seaman is also entitled to the wages he would have earned throughout the duration of the contract.
Commercial diving may have substantial Jones Act exposure. If you have commercial divers or employees who work on or near a navigable waterway, it is important to utilize an insurance agent who has the experience necessary to evaluate your situation and secure the proper insurance coverages. Let Accessible Marine Insurance guide you through this critical evaluation.
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