How hard is it to prove negligence under the Jones Act?

On Behalf of | Aug 21, 2023 | Commercial Seamen |

No workplace is entirely safe, but maritime industry workers may be at special risk due to their extreme working conditions. However, injured seamen generally have to seek compensation under the Jones Act – not workers’ compensation.

Under the Jones Act, a seaman’s ability to collect certain benefits relies on the ability to prove that their employer’s negligence somehow led to their injuries (causation). 

This is vastly different from workers’ compensation, which is largely designed to be a “no-fault” system, and it can sound intimidating – but don’t let that stop you from pursuing a claim.

Causation under the Jones Act isn’t as difficult to prove as you might think

In traditional personal injury claims based on negligence, an injury victim has to show that there was an actual connection between the defendant’s actions (or inactions) and the injuries 

and that the injuries were reasonably foreseeable. This is both actual (but-for) causation and proximate cause. That’s actually a pretty high standard.

In a Jones Act claim, the standard is significantly lower. Negligence can be established even if the employer was just slightly responsible for the seaman’s injuries. The employer is not relieved of the burden to pay even if there were other causes or other parties that contributed to the chain of events that caused the accident. This is sometimes called a “featherweight” standard of causation and it’s a direct acknowledgment that the work of a seaman is uniquely hazardous. 

Jones Act claims can be complicated, despite this lower burden of proof. If you’re a seaman who has been injured in a maritime accident, you may be eligible for multiple forms of compensation. It’s always wisest to get qualified legal guidance about your options.