Over 80 Combined Years Of Maritime Law Experience

Filing a Jones Act claim for fatigue

On Behalf of | Jul 1, 2024 | Jones Act

Getting seafood from the ocean to the consumer’s table is a long process marked by many arduous and dangerous jobs. The men and women who work in this industry face constant hazards of injury imposed by their working conditions.

Some of these hazards are intuitively obvious, such as damage to limbs from cutting machinery, or illness caused by bacteria and viruses carried by the fish that are processed, but others are more subtle. One of the most subtle, but most injurious hazards, is excessive fatigue caused by working conditions and an employer’s demand for excessive working hours.

The danger of fatigue

Fatigue in the fish processing industry is often the result of the extremely seasonal nature of the fishing industry. Runs of the most popular fish, including salmon, tuna and other species, places a heavy demand on the workers who make their livings from processing the fish that are caught on the high seas.

During the heavy season, when runs are the heaviest and fishing boats are returning the most bountiful catches, processing workers are often expected to work 12 to 18 hours per day. The fatigue caused by these working hours can cause a variety of illnesses, chronic disease, and other conditions that can be painful and disabling.

Recovering on a Jones Act Claim

The Jones Act is a federal statute that gives seamen the right to receive compensation for their injuries by proving that their employers were negligent. To recover under Jones Act, the plaintiff (the injured seaman) must prove that they were devoting a substantial amount of their time (more than 30% per week) to the employer’s business. The seaman can meet this burden by proving that the employer’s conduct played a part – no matter how small – in the events that led to the plaintiff’s injuries.

If the plaintiff is able to establish the employer’s liability, the employer must pay all present and future lost wages, any employment related benefits, past and future medical expenses, and compensation for mental and physical pain and suffering.

A Jones Act claim can begin as a fairly simple assertion of negligent acts by the plaintiff’s employer, but it can easily turn into a complicated case involving expert witnesses.