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What Compensation Can I Recover under the Jones Act?

The Jones Act, officially known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal statute that provides rights and protections to seamen who are injured while working at sea. The Act permits seamen to bring personal injury claims against their employers, a right not typically afforded under general maritime law.

Under the Jones Act, injured seamen can recover damages that include:

  1. Past and Future Medical Expenses: These expenses include costs for hospitalization, surgeries, physical therapy, medication, assistive devices, and any other medical expenses necessary to treat the injury.
  2. Lost Wages and Loss of Earning Capacity: If the injury prevents the seaman from working, they can recover for the wages they would have earned but for the injury. This also includes any reduction in the ability to earn wages in the future due to the injury.
  3. Past and Future Pain and Suffering: This includes compensation for physical pain, mental anguish, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, disability, disfigurement, and other non-economic losses that result from the injury.
  4. Maintenance and Cure: Under general maritime law, employers are obligated to provide "maintenance and cure" to injured seamen. "Maintenance" refers to daily living expenses, such as food and rent, while "cure" refers to medical expenses.
  5. Punitive Damages: In some cases, if the employer's conduct was especially egregious, the injured seaman may be entitled to punitive damages. These are designed to punish the wrongdoer and deter others from engaging in similar conduct.

The Jones Act applies to "seamen," which the courts have generally interpreted to mean workers who spend a significant amount of their work time on a vessel or fleet of vessels in navigable waters and who contribute to the vessel's function or mission.

The Jones Act and the general maritime law can be complex and navigating them often requires the assistance of a knowledgeable attorney. If you believe you have a claim under the Jones Act or general maritime law, it would be advisable to consult with a lawyer who specializes in this area.

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