Associated With:
Super Lawyers
American Association for Justice
AV Preeminent
National lawyers
WSAJ Eagle 2023

Washington State Ferry Injuries and Jones Act Remedies: a Guide for Mariners and Passengers

Washington State operates the largest ferry system in the United States, providing vital transportation links for both passengers and vehicles across Puget Sound and the wider Salish Sea. While these ferry voyages can be safe and efficient, accidents and injuries occur, affecting both crew members and passengers. When such incidents happen, it's essential to understand the legal remedies available, particularly under the Jones Act, a pivotal piece of legislation for maritime workers.

Understanding the Jones Act

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, known as the Jones Act, is a federal law that provides protection to seamen injured in the course of their employment. This act allows qualifying sailors, who spend a significant portion of their employment time working on navigable waters, to seek compensation from their employers for injuries resulting from negligence.

Key Provisions of the Jones Act for Ferry Workers
  • Negligence Claims: Under the Jones Act, ferry workers can sue their employers for personal injury or death caused by negligence on the part of the employer or co-workers during the course of employment.
  • Maintenance and Cure: The law requires an employer to provide maintenance (living expenses) and cure (medical expenses) to an injured seaman, regardless of fault, until they reach maximum medical improvement. Maintenance rates are set by the collective bargaining agreement between the state of Washington and the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific.
  • Unseaworthiness Claims: Beyond negligence, the Jones Act also allows crew members to seek damages if an injury was caused by the unseaworthiness of the vessel.
For Passengers: What Legal Remedies Are Available?

While the Jones Act specifically protects maritime workers, passengers injured on Washington State ferries have recourse through other legal avenues, such as filing negligence claims directly against the ferry operator or state. These claims may be based on failures to maintain safe conditions, improper crew actions, or other forms of negligence leading to injury.

Steps to Take After an Injury
  1. Seek Medical Attention: Your health is paramount. Ensure you get the necessary medical treatment immediately.
  2. Report the Injury: Notify the ferry staff about the incident as soon as possible, ensuring it is documented.
  3. Collect Evidence: Take photographs of the scene, your injuries, and gather contact information from any witnesses.
  4. Consult an Attorney: Legal advice is crucial. An experienced maritime or personal injury lawyer can help navigate the complex legal landscape and determine the best course of action. Our maritime injury attorneys have decades of experience in bringing claims against the Washington State Ferries and are here to assist you. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Challenges and Considerations
  • Statute of Limitations: There are strict time limits for filing claims under the Jones Act and other maritime laws. Generally, a Jones Act claim must be filed within three years of the injury.
  • Determining Negligence: Establishing negligence or unseaworthiness can be complex and typically requires thorough investigation and expert testimony.
  • Navigating State and Federal Laws: For passengers, understanding the interplay between state laws and federal maritime laws is essential, as it can affect the legal strategy and potential recovery.

Injuries on Washington State ferries, can have significant consequences for those affected. For maritime workers, the Jones Act provides a critical means of seeking compensation for injuries due to employer negligence. Passengers, on the other hand, must rely on different legal principles to pursue claims for any harm suffered. Regardless of your status, if injured, it's essential to seek expert legal guidance to protect your rights and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve for your injuries and losses. Contact our experienced maritime personal injury attorneys today for a free consultation to better understand your claim.