FEBRUARY 28, 2011 by Bill Abbott
The Jones Act is a federal law that allows workers who are classified as “seaman” to recover damages if they are injured while working on a vessel. As a general rule, Jones Act claims can only be brought by a seaman against his or her maritime employer. However, the courts have ruled that an employer does not need to own or operate the vessel on which his or her employee serves in order to be held liable for a seaman’s injury. Guidry v. South Louisiana Contractors, 614 F.2d 447 (5th Cir. 1980).
Seamen who are injured as a result of the negligent acts of a co-worker are not entitled to bring a Jones Act claim against the co-worker. Maritime workers and seaman are generally considered to be agents of their employer. Therefore, in cases were one seaman injures another, the responsible party for Jones Act claims is still the maritime employer, unless criminal acts are involved.
Seamen may be able to bring additional claims, aside from Jones Act claims, against parties who are not their employer. For example, if two vessels collide in navigable waters and the collision causes injuries to a seaman or maritime worker, the seaman may be able to bring a claim under principles of general maritime law against each of the vessels involved in the collision in addition to the claims that he may have against his employer.