Working on vessels or shoreside can prove dangerous, especially if employers do not take care to keep the work environment safe. For example, seamen must be provided with appropriate safety gear and the vessel itself must be properly maintained. An employer who does not meet their duty of care might be held responsible should a seaman be injured on the job.
The seaman’s burden of proof
If a seaman is injured on the job, they can pursue damages via the federal Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, the seaman bears the burden of proving their employer’s caused their injuries. An employer is negligent under the Jones Act if they fail to exercise reasonable care to keep the vessel safe.
The Jones Act vs. standard personal injury law
However, proving negligence under the Jones Act is not as onerous as proving negligence in a standard personal injury lawsuit. In a standard personal injury lawsuit, negligence can only be found if the plaintiff’s injury would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions and only if the plaintiff’s injury was the type that would be a foreseeable result of the actions taken by the defendant.
But under the Jones Act, negligence can be found if the employer simply played a part in the situation that led to the seaman’s injuries. The employer’s actions need not be the primary cause of the injuries suffered, the employer’s actions just need to have been a factor in the incident in which the seaman was injured.
As this shows, proving negligence under the Jones Act is not as burdensome as it is in standard personal injury law. Injured seamen can use this to their advantage if they are injured on the job.