MARCH 24, 2011 by Bill Abbott
Working for a cruise line can mean some murky waters when it comes to injuries covered under the Jones Act. For a long while, employees of cruise lines signed an agreement that stated rules pertaining to arbitration of Jones Act claims. The rules stated that injured employees had to arbitrate their claims in foreign countries. Specifically:
- Royal Caribbean – country of residence or the Bahamas
- Carnival – Monaco, Panama City, London, or Manila
- Norwegian – country of residence or the Bahamas
- Celebrity – country of residence or Miami
A federal court ruled last year that cruise lines did not have the right to force a seaman to file a claim in a foreign country. The court ruled that crewmembers have the right to choose the location of the incident, the cruise line’s headquarters, or any location that the cruise line does business. Rather than being stuck to one or two choices for arbitration, injured parties now have options for help.
Cruise lines had the rules pertaining to arbitration to prevent crewmembers from seeking the help of qualified offshore attorneys. Choosing offshore attorneys that are not educated in the Jones Act often resulted in low award amounts. Since lawyers in foreign countries may not fully understand the Jones Act, many injured crewmembers were not receiving a just award. The court’s ruling levels the playing field. Now, crewmembers can find educated offshore attorneys that will assist them in getting their rightful compensation.
If you or someone you know works for a cruise line, know your rights under the Jones Act and this ruling. Should you suffer an injury, do not get snowballed into believing you must arbitrate in a foreign country. Contact the offshore attorneys you want and have your case arbitrated in the location of your choice. The power of arbitration no longer lays with the cruise lines – it lies with you and your offshore attorneys.