The Jones Act passed in 1920 and is basically workers compensation for people working at sea. The act was passed federally, but can be brought to state courts. There are no specific regulations in Connecticut indicate whether or not it is more appropriate to file the case at the state or federal level, but as a basic rule the more expansive your claim and the damages you are seeking, the wiser you would be to file in federal courts.
There are a few major reasons why it can be a better legal strategy to file your claim in state court if it involves the Jones Act. One major reason is because there are stringent rules about the level of involvement your legal representation will have in choosing a jury, voir dire in a federal case. Another factor is whether or not your state is more friendly to Jones Act cases—in Connecticut it would benefit you to discover whether or not you can file the claim where you reside, giving you proximity to your home, family and doctors. A third is that in some states you will be able to do much more pre-case discovery. Depending on how wide Connecticut' range of acceptance is for discovery could be an important issue during your case if there is an instant of negligence or there must be investigation into who is the responsible party or parties.
Even when it is a slight breach of duty that results in an injury, the negligent employer may be prosecuted. Also, the seaworthiness of a ship is often under question during a Jones Act case. It is important to understand that the seaworthiness of a ship is far more expansive than just a question of whether or not it is in pristine condition. A seaman is considered any worker who spends at lease 30% of their time working at sea.
When you have been injured while working on a ship or boat, whether or not you are in international waters, you need to consider filing a Jones Act claim. Filing a workers compensation claim can affect your ability to file a Jones Act claim. Check with a lawyer familiar with Connecticut maritime law to see which option will be wiser in your case. There is a major difference between the compensation for your injuries that you will receive. A Jones Act claim usually offers a much higher rate of compensation in terms of lost wages, medical care and rehabilitation. It is important to understand that this compensation will only last until the level of maximum medical improvement which may not be a level at which the worker will be able to return to work.
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