The U.S. Congress adopted the Merchant Marine Act in June 1920, formerly 46 U.S.C. § 688 and codified it in 2006 as 46 U.S.C. § 30104. The Act formalized the rights of seamen.
It allows injured sailors (crew members) to make claims and collect from their employers for the negligence of the ship owner, the captain, or fellow members of the crew. It operates simply by extending similar legislation already in place that allowed for recoveries by railroad workers and providing that this legislation also applies to sailors. Its operative provision is found at 46 U.S.C. § 688(a), which provides:
"Any sailor who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law. with the right to trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply..."
This allows seamen out of Port Canaveral to bring actions against ship owners based on claims of unseaworthiness or negligence. These are rights not afforded by common international maritime law.
The United States Supreme Court, in the case of Chandris, Inc., v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347, 115 S.Ct. 2172 (1995). has set a benchmark for determining the status of any employee as a "Jones Act" seaman. Any work er who spends less than 30 percent of his time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters is presumed not to be a seaman under the Jones Act.An action under the Act may be brought either in a U.S. federal court or in a state court. The seaman/plaintiff is entitled to a jury trial,a right which is not afforded in maritime law absent a statute authorizing it.
Section 2 of Article III of the United States Constitution gives original jurisdction in admiralty matters to the federal courts. The federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction over most admiralty and maritime claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1333. Under this statute. federal district courts are granted original jurisdiction over admiralty actions "saving to suitors," a right to file suit for most of these actions in state court.
Despite the savings to suitors clause, certain Port Canaveral actions are only permitted to be filed in admiralty in federal court. Those include all in rem maritime actions . This includes suits seeking forfeiture of ships to enforce maritime mortgages and liens, petitions to limit a shipowner's liability to the value of a ship after a major accident, and actions seeking to partition ownership of a ship. However. the vast majority of maritime actions. such as suits for damage to cargo. injuries to seamen, collisions between vessels. wake damage. and maritime pollution cases may be brought in either federal court or state court by virtue of the savings to suitors clause.
In federal courts in the United States. there is generally no right to a jury trial in admiralty cases. However, Congress has created some limited rights of jury trial in seamen's personal injury actions brought under the The Jones Act where a jury trial is otherwise permitted. In state courts. the right to trial by jury is determined by the law of the state where the case is brought. Consequently, admiralty cases brought in state courts can be tried before a jury. This is true in Florida and specifically Brevard County Courts.
A Brevard County state court hearing an admiralty or maritime case from Port Canaveral is required to apply the admiralty and maritime law, even if it conflicts with the law of the state, under a doctrine known as the "reverse-Erie doctrine." The Eriedoctrine,derived from Erie Railroad CO. v. Tompkins, directs that federal courts hearing state actions must apply state law. The "reverse-Erie doctrine" directs that state courts hearing admiralty cases must apply federal admiralty law. This distinction is critical in some cases.
For instance, U.S. maritime law recognizes the concept of joint and several liability among tort-feasor, while many states do not. Under joint and several liability, where two or more people create a single injury or loss, all are equally liable, even if they only contributed a small amount. A state court hearing an admiralty case would be required to apply the doctrine of joint and several liability even if state law does not contemplate the concept.
One of the unique aspects of maritime law is the ability of a shipowner to limit its liability to the value of a ship after a major accident. An example of the use of the Limitation Act is the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912. Even though the Titanic had never been to the United States, upon her sinking the owners rushed into the federal courts in New York to file a limitation of liability proceeding. The Limitation Act provides that if an accident happens due to a circumstance which is beyond the "privity and knowledge" of the ship's owners. the owners can limit their liability to the value of the ship after it sinks.
The theory behind the Act was that a shipowner who properly equipped and crewed a ship shouldn't be liable for something that happens when the ship is out of his control. Modern ships are seldom out of the control of their shoreside owners,but the Act remains a viable protection to them.
The Limitation Act doesn't just apply to large ships out of Port Canaveral. It can be used to insulate a motorboat owner from liability when he loans his boat to another who then has an accident. Even jet ski owners have been able to successfully utilize the Limitation Act to insulate themselves from liability.
Port Canaveral Seamen injured aboard ship have three possible sources of compensation: the principle of maintenance and cure, the doctrine of unseaworthiness, and the Jones Act.The principle of maintenance and cure requires a shipowner to both pay for an injured seaman's medical treatment until maximum medical recovery (MMR) is obtained and provide basic living expenses untilcompletion of the voyage, even if the seaman is no longer aboard ship.The seaman is entitled to maintenance and cure as of right, unless he was injured due to his own willfulgross negligence. It is similar in some ways to workers· compensation. The doctrine of unseaworthiness makes a shipowner liable if a seaman is injured because the ship, or any appliance of the ship, is "unseaworthy," meaning defective in some way. The Jones Act allows a sailor,or one in privity to him, to sue the shipowner in tort for personal injury or wrongful death, with trial by jury . The Jones Act incorporates the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA),which governs injuries to railway workers, and is similar to the Coal Miners Act. A shipowner is liable to a seaman in the same way a railroad operator is to its employees who are injured due to the negligence of the employer. The statute of limitation is three years.
Not every worker injured onboard a vessel is a "seaman" entitled to the protections offered by the Jones Act, doctrine of unseaworthiness, and principle of maintenance and cure. To be considered a seaman, a worker must generally spend 30% or more of his working hours onboard either a specific vessel or a fleet of vessels under common ownership or control. With few exceptions, all non-seamen workers injured over navigable waters are covered instead by the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, 33 U.S.C. §§ 901-950, a separate form of workers' compensation.
Port Canaveral Jones Act injury lawyers deal with on the job injuries to a crew member or seamen of a vessel. To be covered under Jones Act Law:
You must be assigned to a vessel in operation on a navigable waterway Your duties as a worker must contribute to the vessel's function or mission Your connection to the vesse l must be substantia l in both time and nature
The Maritime Courts have a broad definition of aiding in the job of the vessel. A ship's dancer or other entertainer is crew, as well as the person who comes to a docked vessel in navigable waters to clean the ship and then goes home.
As a seaman, the Jones Act gives you claim special treatment under federal maritime injury law. Telfer, Faherty, Anderson & Hawkins, will fight for your rights to recover compensation for your injury. They will be fighting against ship owners who will work very hard to defeat your Jones Act injury claim. It is not in their interest to have you succeed. That is why an experienced Jones Act Injury lawyer is Call your Port Canaveral injury lawyer if you suffer an injury onboard.
33 U.S.C. §§ 901-950, Commonly referred to as the "Longshore Act" or "LHWCA" it is the statutory workers' compensation scheme, first enacted in 1927, that covers certain maritime workers, including most dock workers and maritime workers not otherwise covered by the Jones Act. n addition, Congress has extended the LHWCA to cover non-appropriated fund employees (i.e. AA FES employees), Outer Continental Shelf workers, and U.S. government contractors working in foreign countries. If you work in or near Port Canaveral and your job involves the loading or unloading of vessels, work on Port Canaveral facilities, wharves or docks, you are likely covered by the Longshore Act.
The LHWCA is administered by the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation, a division of the Office of Workers· Compensation Programs of the United States Department of Labor.
Generally speaking, a worker covered by the LHWCA is entitled to temporary compensation benefits of 2/3 his average weekly wage while undergoing medical treatment. and then either to a schedu led award for injury to body parts enumerated in 33 u.s.c. § 908(c) or 2/3 of the workers' loss of earning
capacity. More specifically, the LHWCA entitles a worker to compensation for medical bills, permanent total disability, temporary total disability, permanent partial disability, temporary partial disability,non-schedu led permanent partial disability, permanent partial disability for retirees. and rehabilitation.
In 1972, the Longshore Act was amended to extend coverage landward for maritime worker s. n 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Longshore Act did not supplant state workers' compensation laws, but supplemented them (Sun Ship v. Pennsylvania, 447 U.S. 715 (1980)). In 1984, Congress amended the Longshore Act, but did not invalidate Sun Ship, so concurrent jurisdiction was preserved.
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