An injured seaman may sue his employer for damages under the Jones Act if the employer’s negligence contributed to the seaman’s injury. Under the Jones Act, the seaman is only required to prove that the employer’s negligence was a cause, however slight, of the seaman’s injury. Because of this “slight negligence” standard, a negligence claim under the Jones Act is easier to prove than an ordinary negligence claim. A negligence claim may arise if the employer provided an unsafe workplace or unsafe equipment, ordered work to be done in a dangerous way, failed to provide medical care to the seaman, or breached a safety statute.
If a seaman proves that his employer’s negligence contributed to his injury, the seaman may recover damages for his:
(1) lost income, including wages that the seaman was not paid because of the injury and future wages that he will not be able to earn because of the injury;
(2) medical expenses, including medical costs already incurred by the seaman because of the injury and medical costs that he will incur in the future because of the injury; and
(3) pain and suffering, including past and future pain and suffering resulting from the injury.
A seaman may recover damages for negligence under the Jones Act in addition to any unearned wages or maintenance and cure benefits he recovers. However, a seaman may not recover any damages under the Jones Act unless the employer was negligent or the vessel was unseaworthy.
Third Party Lawsuits
If a seaman’s injury was caused in part by a party other than his employer (such as the employee of an independent contractor who was working on the vessel), then the seaman may file a negligence action against the third party in addition to his Jones Act claims.