The Jones Act, passed by Congress in 1920, protects workers who were injured in a workplace accident. It is one of the few remaining laws that are favorable to the employee rather than the employer. Because worker’s compensation does not apply to injuries occurred offshore, injured seaman must file suit under the Jones Act. The Jones Act allows an injured worker to file suit directly against his or her employer and collect monetary damages for any negligence on the part of the employer or co-workers.
To qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, an employee must prove that his or her employer or co-workers were partially or wholly at fault for the injury. Fault can come in the form of negligence, unsafe work conditions, improper acts on part of a co-worker, or unsafe or improper work instructions. Under dangerous work conditions, it is often easy to show that a safer workplace could have avoided the injury.
As a fault based statute, The Jones Act also allows the employer to argue “comparative fault” on behalf of the employee. Comparative fault means that more than one party was responsible for the injury. What this means to the worker is that if the employer can successfully argue that the employee was partially responsible for his or her own injury, the employee’s compensation would be reduced by a comparable amount. For example, if the jury finds that the employee was responsible for 25% of the injury, the employee would only receive 75% of the awarded compensation. The rule of comparative fault is the incentive that causes most companies to immediately place as much blame as possible on the employee. For that reason, it is imperative that the employee clearly detail the how the accident happened as well as list any on all fault on behalf of the employer when giving the initial accident report. An injured employee should also list any dangerous or unsafe condition in the workplace that could have led to the accident.