INJURED CREWMEMBER SEEKS JONES ACT REMEDIES

Last March, Shane Bledsoe was working aboard the M/V Ellie McRae when he suffered a serious injury to his groin. Since the injury, he has not been able to resume his normal duties for his employer C & E Boat Rentals.

According to pleadings filed in federal district court in New Orleans, Bledsoe accuses of C & E of negligence in failing to provide a reasonably safe place to work, failing to properly train and supervise him, and failing to take any steps to protect employees. He further asserts that C & E maintained an unseaworthy vessel and failed to provide adequate personnel and equipment for the job.

Bledsoe seeks money damages under the Jones Act, a law passed by Congress to protect injured crew members and maritime workers injured in the course of their employment. The Act is an extension of the Federal Employees Liability Act, a law that protects injured railroad workers.

In developing the Jones Act, Congress recognized the inherent dangers of working aboard ships and in shipping ports. As such, a seaman’s Jones Act rights are conditioned by the contractual agreement of employment for serving aboard a vessel, not where the injury occurred. This means the worker’s rights continue while onshore so long as the employee is acting within the course of employment. Therefore, if a crewmember is injured loading materials or cleaning windows while in port, he or she is essentially covered by the Jones Act even though the accident did not occur at sea.

The Act eliminates many defenses commonly asserted by employers, including assumption of the risk and contributory negligence. However, damages may be limited through comparative negligence. Injured crewmembers can seek damages for loss of wage earning capacity, physical disability, medical expenses, cure benefits, as well as attorney’s fees.

If you have been injured and have questions about your rights and options, an experienced attorney can advise you.

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