How the Jones Act May Help Injured Seamen Recover for Work-Related Injuries

When someone is injured in a Florida workplace accident, compensation may be available through several sources. One option for the injured employee is to apply for Florida workers’ compensation benefits. One good thing about workers’ compensation benefits is that an employee can obtain benefits without a showing of fault. However, these benefits are limited in that an employee can only recover economic damages. This means an employee is not able to obtain compensation for their emotional pain and suffering.

Another option for those who have been injured in a Florida workplace accident is to pursue a personal injury claim against their employer. However, as a general rule, an injured employee’s sole remedy against their employer is a workers’ compensation claim. Thus, many employees are foreclosed from pursuing a Florida personal injury claim against their employer.

That is not the case, however, for maritime workers. Under the Jones Act, those seamen who are injured or killed in the course of their employment may be able to pursue a claim against their employer. (Note: Florida railroad workers enjoy a similar benefit under the Federal Employment Liability Act.) It is important to note, however, that an employee who brings a claim under the Jones Act must establish that their employer was negligent. As a recent case illustrates, the duties that a maritime employer owes to its employees may be unfamiliar to those without advanced knowledge of the industry.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was employed as a ship worker and collapsed as he was unloading a ship’s cargo. A fellow ship worker discovered him, and the captain of the boat called 911. A private ambulance company arrived, and determined that the plaintiff had a brain mass. The company transported the plaintiff to the hospital. However, as it turns out, the plaintiff had actually suffered a stroke. The plaintiff sustained serious lifelong disabilities as a result.

The plaintiff claimed that his employer was negligent in calling 911. The plaintiff argued that his employer should have arranged for proper medical treatment of his condition, rather than calling the ambulance. The plaintiff also claimed that his employer was vicariously liable for the ambulance company’s negligence.

The court, however, rejected both of the plaintiff’s theories of liability and dismissed his case. The court explained that while a ship owner does have a duty to obtain appropriate treatment for an injured seaman, each case depends heavily on the surrounding circumstances. Here, the employer had no indication that the plaintiff had suffered a stroke. Thus, the court held that the employer’s decision to call 911 was a reasonable response.

The court then went on to hold that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence suggesting that the ambulance company was acting as his employer’s agent, rather than as an independent third-party. Thus, the court explained that there was no basis to impose vicarious liability upon the plaintiff’s employer.

Have You Been Injured on the Job?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida workplace accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation, despite what your employer has told you. At the South Florida law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank, we have decades of experience assisting injury victims and their families in pursuit of claims for compensation against those responsible for their injuries, and know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalves. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Establishing Liability in Florida Swimming Pool Accidents, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 25, 2019.

Can a Court Exclude Relevant Evidence from a Florida Personal Injury Trial?, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 7, 2019.

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