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Determining a shipowner’s negligence

Unsafe conditions at sea can put a New York seaman’s life in danger where those same conditions on land may not be much of a safety issue. Because of provisions in the Jones Act, someone who is injured while working on a ship may be able to hold the shipowner liable for negligence. According to Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute, negligence is acting without a reasonable level of care for another’s safety, or failing to act in a reasonable way to keep another safe.

Defining how a reasonable person would act could seem vague, but a legal definition has been created to help make this clear. A person who has the duty to act should be able to anticipate the potential for harm and the level of harm possible, and be able to take precautions to reduce or eliminate that possibility. To prove that negligence occurred, a person would have to prove that he or she was harmed, that someone owed a duty of care, that that person breached that duty and that it caused the injury.

FindLaw explains that any negligence at all on the employer’s part that led to the injury may constitute a valid Jones Act claim. The shipowner’s duty of care includes making sure the vessel is seaworthy and that everything on it is in good working order, including the hiring of an adequate crew. The Jones Act provision implies a duty of reasonable inspection when determining whether the owner should have known of a problem.

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