Chapter 309 of the Jones Act is also known as the “Suits in Admiralty Act.” Seamen who suffer an injury on a ship owned or operated by the United States often think they have no legal rights. Ordinarily, the United States and the federal government enjoy sovereign immunity unless Congress waives this immunity. However, our Lafayette Jones Act lawyers also know that Chapter 309 creates legal rights for seamen against the United States.
In the Suits in Admiralty Act, Congress waived the federal government’s immunity from liability under the Jones Act. The Suits in Admiralty Act allows an injured seaman to file a civil action against the United States or a corporation owned by the federal government. Courts have substantially broadened the scope of this Act, and almost all maritime torts fall under this Act. The Act does, however, provide some limitations to a seaman’s rights. The Jones Act attorneys at our Lafayette firm can help you try to navigate around them.
If a seaman is injured on a vessel belonging to the United States or a federally-owned corporation, the seaman does not have a right to a jury trial. A seaman can only try the issue before a judge in a bench trial. The seaman must also file the claim within two years after the cause of action arose. Finally, several circuit courts have decided that the government remains immune from liability when the government is exercising a discretionary function. Under the discretionary function exception to government liability, the government is immune from liability for a claim that is based upon a policy decision or judgment executed by the government.
A qualified Lafayette Jones Act attorney can help you litigate a claim under the Jones Act against the federal government. The Suits in Admiralty Act lays out a specific framework for filing suits against the United States. For questions about the provisions of this chapter, contact a Jones Act lawyer in Lafayette at Broussard & David at (888) 337-2323 (toll-free) or (337) 337-2323.