What Is the Jones Act Statute of Limitations?

Under civil trial law, plaintiffs have a limited time window in which to file claims. This is known as a “statute of limitations.” Statutes of limitations exist to ensure evidence brought forward in a given case is as accurate as possible. Witnesses are more likely to recall details accurately a year after an incident than they are ten years after, and evidence is less likely to be destroyed in a shorter timeframe.

The statute of limitations differs according to different states and types of claims. In general, most states grant plaintiffs a two-year statute of limitations for general injury claims. In cases that fall under offshore and maritime law, the Uniform Statute of Limitations for Maritime Torts will apply. This statute gives an injured party three years to file a claim for their injuries. In other words, the law grants seamen a three-year statute of limitations to file under the Jones Act from the date of injury or “qualifying event.”

Exceptions to the Jones Act Statute of Limitations

In general, the statute of limitations in maritime law is three years from the date of injury (or discovery of the injury). However, there are some exceptions to this. In atypical cases, the statute of limitations in maritime cases is contingent upon factors related to the type of vessel and which entity has jurisdiction over the case.

For example, the following cases likely have shorter statute of limitations in place:

  • Fatal accident claims involving the U.S. Government (18 months in most cases)
  • Cruise ship injury claims (generally within 6 months to 1 year of the incident)
  • Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act cases (30 days for claims)

In most cases, an attempt to file a claim for a maritime incident that occurred more than three years ago will be barred under this statute. That is why it is crucial to consult with an attorney as soon as you believe you may have a claim.

How Long Do You Have to File a Case?

What happens if you miss your deadline to file a Jones Act claim?

If you didn’t know about your injuries until long after it happened (e.g. illness from toxic exposure), then your statute of limitations begins the day you discovered your injury. However, the nature of Jones Act claims makes this situation somewhat rare.

If you missed your filing deadline for any other reason, your lawyer’s first task will be convincing the court to allow your claim to proceed. There are situations where the statute of limitations is up to the discretion of the judge, so your attorney’s skill, experience, and strategic preparation are a huge factor here.

Bringing Cases Against the Government

Cases against the government fall under a different statute of limitations. For example, you only have 18 months in cases against the U.S. government involving wrongful death.

In addition, the Federal Tort Claims Act requires injured parties to file a claim within two years with the right government agency.

The Statute of Limitations Under the LHWCA

The Jones Act doesn’t cover longshoremen or harbor workers, so they’d need to seek relief under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). An advantage to these protections is the claimant doesn’t need to prove negligence on the employer’s part, but the tradeoff is less relief than the Jones Act potentially offers.

Under the LHWCA, an injured employee must notify their employer of the injury within 30 days of its occurrence, and a formal claim for benefits must be filed within one year following the injury. If the plaintiff is covered under state workers’ comp law, they will not be able to file under the LHWCA. There are additional requirements pertaining to agreement with the employer in filing a claim, and a lawyer will be able to support you in this process. The best way to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve is to contact a lawyer immediately upon becoming injured or ill while working in the maritime industry.

Have Questions? Call Us for a Free Consultation.

Understanding how the various statutes of limitations apply to your maritime injury case can be complex. Arnold & Itkin is here to help you understand your case. Give us a call for a free case consultation. Together, we can review your options and figure out how to get you back on your feet.

Call (888) 346-5024 or contact us online for a free consultation. Let’s discuss your recovery options and help you rebuild your life.

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