Jones Act Statute of Limitations

When an injury occurs at work, most people need compensation while they recover from their injuries. Fortunately, there are laws that allow workers to file for damages if the injuries happened because of employer negligence. Employers in the maritime industry have the responsibility to ensure workers are thoroughly trained and have a safe working environment. If employees fail to provide these conditions and an injury occurs, maritime workers have the legal right to file a lawsuit against them. However, maritime law, under the Jones Act, has a statute of limitations that must be adhered to 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 injury occurred to file a lawsuit. It is 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:

qualified seaman

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 were not discovered yet, the statute may state from the date that they were discovered. An example includes seamen who were injured while out to sea but did not 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 aboard a U.S. vessel must first submit their claim in writing to the government before filing a lawsuit. In addition, six months must pass 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 period is over, seamen have only two years to file their suit. 

Why is a Statute of Limitations Needed?

The statute of limitations is a necessary law that mandates lawsuits to be filed within a certain time period after an injury occurs. The statute of limitations was 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, imposing a statute of limitations in lawsuits provides an incentive for plaintiffs to efficiently build their case against the defendant without delay.

Statute of limitations may also help to keep fairness in lawsuits. For example, if no statute of limitations is 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

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