Jones Act Statute of Limitations

When an accident occurs at work, most people need compensation while recovering from their injuries. Fortunately, laws have been set in place that allow workers to file for damages if the injuries happened because of employer negligence. In the maritime industry, employers have the duty to ensure workers are thoroughly trained and afforded safe working conditions. If these conditions are not provided and an injury occurs, maritime workers have the legal right to file a lawsuit against their employers. However, maritime law, under the Jones Act, has a statute of limitations that must be adhered at all times in order to have a valid case.

How Long Do Maritime Workers Have to File a Lawsuit Under the Jones Act?

Maritime workers have three years from the time the accident occurred to file a lawsuit. It’s important to note, however, that not all maritime workers can file a lawsuit under the Jones Act. Only seamen are allowed to file for damages under the Jones Act. In order to be qualified as a seaman, the maritime worker must:

  • Spend at least 30% of their working time aboard a United States vessels in navigable waters
  • Contribute to the work of the vessel
  • Have a connection with the vessel in operation

After three years have passed since the accident and injury, seamen are no longer eligible to file a lawsuit for damages. However, there are certain exceptions to the rule. For instance, if the injuries weren’t discovered yet, the statute may state from the date that they were discovered. An example includes a seamen who was injured while out to sea, but didn’t show any signs of harm or suffering from the accident until a year or so later.

Seamen working aboard a United States government vessel also have exceptions. Under 46 U.S.C.A. § 30101 et seq., seamen injured while working and aboard a U.S. vessel must first submit their claim in writing to the government before filing a lawsuit. In addition, six months must elapse before the lawsuit can be filed. This provides the government the opportunity to investigate the accident, and if applicable, offer a settlement. After the six-month time span has elapsed, seamen have only two years to file their suit. 

Why is Statute of Limitations Needed?

Statute of limitations is a necessary law that mandates lawsuits be filed within a certain time period after an accident and injury occurs. Statute of limitations were set into place to ensure that the evidence presented in the case is as accurate as possible. Over time, witnesses may not remember details as clearly and key evidence may be lost or destroyed. In addition, by imposing statute of limitations in lawsuits, it provides incentive for plaintiffs to efficiently build their case against the defendant without delay.

Statute of limitations also help to keep fairness in lawsuits. For example, if no statute of limitations are in place, someone who was injured 20 years ago and didn’t want to file a lawsuit at the time, may decide to start a lawsuit decades later.

Additional Resources About the Jones Act for Maritime Workers

For more in-depth details on the Jones Act, maritime injuries, accidents, and what your legal rights and options are, we invite you to fill out our form today for a free Maritime Injury Guide.  Each guide is filled with invaluable details to help you and your loved ones understand laws regarding maritime accidents and injuries and what resources are available to you during these trying times.