Walnut Creek Tug & Barge Accident Lawyer
Few jobs are as thankless–and dangerous–as working on board a commercial tugboat or barge. These vessels operate within narrow inland waterways and harbors. On top of that, they are often cramped and filled with cargo. It is therefore no surprise that tug and barge workers are frequently injured in shipboard accidents.
Unlike most personal injury claims, which are governed by state law, injuries onboard these types of vessels fall within the jurisdiction of federal maritime law. That is why if you are an injured sailor, you need to work with an experienced Walnut Creek tug & barge accident lawyer who understands maritime law.
At Venardi Zurada, our lawyers go beyond legal knowledge. Partner Mark Venardi is himself a five-year veteran of the United States Coast Guard. So he understands the struggles that sailors face every day, and he brings that knowledge to his practice of maritime law.
How the Jones Act Protects Seamen
The Jones Act is the federal statute that allows seamen who are injured in the course of their employment to sue their employer for monetary damages. The Jones Act is roughly akin to state workers’ compensation laws for land-based employees. Indeed, the Jones Act is considered an “exclusive remedy” for seamen seeking to hold their employers accountable, as workers’ compensation laws do not cover them.
The Jones Act broadly covers all seamen. The law defines a seamen as any crewmember or captain who performs a significant amount of their work onboard a ship or boat that is “in navigation.” This means the vessel must be afloat and capable of moving on navigable waters. It does not actually have to be moving at the time of an injured seaman’s accident. The Jones Act merely requires the boat is capable of navigation, so it can be tied up at a dock or mooring.
A worker must also spend a “significant amount of time” aboard the vessel to qualify as a seaman. This is often the most contentious issue in tug and barge accident litigation. A vessel owner will often try and argue that an injured worker was not actually a “seaman” as defined by the Jones Act. The general rule, however, is that if an employee spends at least 30 percent of their working hours on a vessel (or specific fleet of vessels), then they are a seaman.
Our Maritime Lawyers Are Here to Help You Following a Tug or Barge Accident
Unlike many land-based personal injury cases, the Jones Act actually makes it easier for seamen to prove negligence and collect damages. The Act only requires proof that an employer’s negligence played some part in causing an employee’s injuries. So even if that negligence was only a “1 percent” factor, the vessel operator still has to pay. And as with any other personal injury case, a seamen’s damages may include compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, among other categories.
So if you, or a member of your family, has been injured while working aboard a barge or tugboat, it is in your best interests to seek out immediate legal advice. The Walnut Creek tug and barge accident lawyers at Venardi Zurada, LLP, are ready to assist. Call us today at 925-937-3900 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.