Cueria Law Firm, LLC

New Orleans Jones Act Attorney

Jones Act Cases

The Jones Act was enacted in 1920 as a protection for seamen injured or killed due to the negligence of a vessel’s owner, master, or fellow sailor.

According to the Jones Act:

“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….”

Under the Act, seamen can bring claims of unseaworthiness or negligence against ship owners with the help of our New Orleans Jones Act Attorney.

Jones Act- Ship at port

Jones Act Compensation

Seamen are entitled to maintenance and cure under the Jones Act. An injured seaman might also be able to obtain compensation for lost wages, medical bills, diminished earning capacity, pain and suffering, permanent disability, and diminished quality of life. If you or a loved one have suffered an injury as a seaman, contact a New Orleans Jones Act attorney immediately. The Jones Act lawyers at Cueria Law Firm, L.L.C., have successfully handled numerous Jones Act Cases obtaining million-dollar verdicts. Our firm will ensure you and your loved ones get the justice and compensation you deserve.

Potential Punitive Damages in Jones Act Claims

Under maritime law, injured seamen may have negligence and unseaworthiness claims, but they are also entitled to the right to payment for maintenance, cure, and unearned wages. Maintenance and cure is an obligation imposed upon a shipowner to provide for a seaman who becomes ill or injured during his service to the ship. This obligation arises from the employment relationship and exists regardless of the seaman’s fault or any negligence or unseaworthiness of the vessel.

A seaman is not only entitled to be reimbursed for medical expenses incurred but also to receive the proper medical treatment and care. The shipowner is also liable for compensatory damages. It is important to note that jurisprudence has banned punitive damages for many years and only permitted recovery of attorney’s fees if the proper showing of egregious fault is made. (Guevara v. Maritime Overseas Corp.)

The United States Supreme Court overruled this jurisprudence in 2009, making it clear that punitive damages are available in maintenance and cure claims if his employer/vessel owner has willfully failed to fulfill its maintenance and cure obligation. (Atlantic Sounding Co., Inc., et al. v. Townsend) An experienced maritime injury lawyer or New Orleans Jones Act lawyer will understand the significance of this Supreme Court decision.

Negligence Vs. Unseaworthiness

Under general maritime law, a vessel owner has an absolute duty to provide a seaworthy vessel to its crew members. The shipowner is responsible for a vessel’s unseaworthiness regardless of negligence. A company or employer must ensure that the work environment is safe.

Our New Orleans personal injury attorneys will review your case and look for examples of negligence or unseaworthiness within your case.


  • The employer fails to hire enough employees or provide proper training
  • The employer does not provide quality gear, protective clothing, or the right equipment for the job at hand
  • The employer does not follow or enforce safety measures
  • The ship or its equipment is not properly maintained
  • Weather is unsafe, yet work is carried on anyway


  • Decks, passageways, and gangways are not properly maintained
  • The vessel does not have an adequate crew
  • Lines, wires, and cables are loose or not stored properly
  • Hulls, bulkheads, and rails are defective
  • Lifeboats or emergency response gear malfunctions
  • Work methods are extreme or dangerous


Another area in the Jones Act applies to wrongful death at sea. At Cueria Law Firm, we have handled Jones Act claims for wrongful death at sea for family members of the deceased.

Below are a few common accidents or issues that can result in a wrongful death while out in the open waters:

  • Crane accidents
  • Sinking or capsizing vessels
  • Fires or an explosion on board
  • Accidents involving the handling of cargo
  • Parting tow lines
  • Failure to provide emergency medical attention in time

If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, illness, or death at sea, we can help. Contact our Jones Act Louisiana office today to learn more.

Offshore Injuries

If you are new to the maritime industry, you may need to learn how many injuries occur due to offshore employment. Each year, a high number of employees in the maritime sector are subject to an offshore injury. Maritime workers of supply boats, crew boats, and tugboats become injured and cannot work and earn a living due to the extent of the injury.

At Cueria Law Firm, we have seen many cases where seamen are injured and unable to pay for medical bills due to losing their primary source of income based on the injury.

There are several common injuries sustained while working in the maritime industry. It is not uncommon for an employee to be injured due to a slip and fall on the deck or to be hit with a large object due to moving cargo via cranes. The rough sea waters make it difficult to work on a vessel, which only intensifies the danger level.

The most common injuries on the job include:

  • Falling into the water off the ship or rig
  • Falling from a structure on the boat onto the deck
  • Slips and falls on the deck
  • Injury while performing strenuous duties
  • Falling objects strike the body
  • Moving objects like cargo or mooring lines strike the body
  • Entangled in mooring lines
  • Steam or engine exhaust burns
  • Cold injury due to extreme temperatures
  • Shocked by electrical equipment
  • Poisoning from cargo
  • Poisoning from ship cleaning supplies
  • Poisoning from food or drinking water that is contaminated or spoiled
  • Injury due to explosion

These are just a few injury types that seamen are subject to when employed in a maritime position. All employees must have proper training when working on a vessel, and the owner must supply quality tools and equipment for the daily workload. When employees are not appropriately trained and faulty equipment is used, the risk of accident or injury increases.

Injured seamen who work on vessels out on the open water are protected by the Jones Act when it comes to injury. Based on the legal aspects of the Jones Act, seamen can file a personal injury claim for compensation based on injuries they were subject to while employed.

At Cueria Law Firm, we have represented several injured individuals on the job. When you or a loved one are hurt as a maritime worker, our New Orleans personal injury attorneys can help.


Vessel owners must create a safe and secure environment for employees. When the environment is not safe, employees are at risk of injury and even death. When a seaman is injured on the job, the Jones Act provides an outlet for compensation. If you or someone you love has been injured on the job, contact a Jones Act attorney from Cueria Law Firm. Seek help for your Jones Act claim today.

FAQ: Jones Act

What is burden of proof?

In a maritime injury case, the burden of proof is a requirement of the injured seaman and their attorney. We work with you to find evidence to prove your case.

Based on the Jones Act, the injured employee has a “featherweight” burden of proof based on the cause of the injuries. When presenting your case to a jury or a judge, we must present evidence proving that a maritime accident caused your injury.

Aside from requiring evidence to prove your case, a Jones Act claim can be complicated. It helps to have an experienced New Orleans Jones Act Lawyer by your side to navigate the legal action you need to take to receive monetary compensation. With an experienced Jones Act Lawyer, you may receive the compensation you rightly deserve.

Am I classified as a Jones Act “seaman” under federal law?

To be considered a seaman, you must be:

  • Permanently connected with a vessel or fleet
  • In navigation at the time of your accident
  • Performing duties and working aboard the vessel

Learn More

At Cueria Law Firm, our Louisiana Jones Act lawyer has vast experience in handling cases involving maritime injuries. When it comes to working in the maritime industry, the employment positions come with a high-risk of injury or death. Large equipment and heavy loads are dealt with on a large vessel which can be dangerous within itself, not to mention the difficult conditions on the water that can lead to even more risk. When you suffer an injury while working as a seaman, it is important to know your legal rights and understand if the Jones Act applies to your case.

A cause of action under the Jones Act arises when one of the Jones Act employer’s duties to his seaman employee is breached and the employer’s breach of duty plays a role, however slight, in causing the seaman’s injury. If you’ve been hurt on a vessel working as a deckhand or other crewmember, it is best to contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, known today as the “Jones Act,” is the federal statute which establishes support and standards for the shipping industry and for vessel maintenance and safety in the ports of the United States. General regulations are included in the Jones Act along with provisions for employees. With protection under admiralty law, a U.S. citizen working in the maritime industry who is injured due to the negligence of a vessel or company, can file a claim based on the Jones Act.

The goal of the Act was to ensure that seamen receive just compensation for injuries that occur out on open water. Furthermore, the Jones Act encompasses the obligations for companies that own vessels and employ seaman; the liability shared between captains, deckhands, and other crewmembers; as well as, the causes of action for injuries and death that occur on the high seas and the procedure for reporting such injuries and deaths.

A violation of the Act can occur when a Jones Act vessel does not comply with necessary safety standards, or through negligence, causes injury to an employee.Under the Jones Act, if an employer fails to provide or maintain a seaworthy vessel, take preventative steps to prevent injuries, or provide maintenance and cure when a employee is injured, the employer has breached their duty of care under the Jones Act and the seaman injured is entitled to recovery.

Seamen Rights Under the Jones Act Include: 

  • Right to a safe work environment
  • Right to a legal claim based on injury caused by negligence
  • Right to compensation related to the illness or injury (i.e. maintenance and cure)
  • Right to compensation if the vessel is found to be unseaworthy including crew
  • Right to punitive damages if payment of maintenance and cure is wrongfully refused

In order to recover for their injuries, or maintenance and cure while recovering, an employee must be determined to have met the statute’s definition of a “seaman.” Generally, a seaman can be anyone who significantly works aboard a vessel. Additional requirements include that the vessel must be “in navigation,” the seaman must “contribute to the work of the vessel,” and the seaman must meet the “30% Rule” where part-time seamen spend at least 30% of their time working on a vessel in order to qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act. Employees who are considered “seamen” and qualify for a Jones Act claim can include captains, deckhands, engineers, divers and drillers, anchors, stewards, cooks, fishermen, and other crew members.

In Chandris Inc. v. Latsis, a two-part test was established to determine whether an employee qualified as a Jones Act seaman:

  1. whether the employee’s duties “contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission,” and
  2. whether the employee has “a connection to a vessel in navigation (or to an identifiable group of such vessels) that is substantial in terms of both its duration and nature.”

Negligence under the Jones Act is the failure to use ordinary care under the circumstances; the doing of some act that a reasonably prudent person would not do; or the failure to do something that a reasonably prudent person would do under the same or similar circumstances. This negligence standard goes hand-in-glove with the employer’s basic duty under the Jones Act to exercise reasonable care to provide the seaman with a safe place to work.

In these cases, the plaintiff has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that his injury was caused by the negligence of his Jones Act employer. A seaman is entitled to recover under the Jones Act if his employer’s negligence is the cause, in whole or part, of his injury. This causation burden of proof is “featherweight.” The standard of causation in Jones Act cases is not demanding. The seaman needs only to present “slight evidence” that his employer’s negligence caused his injuries.

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