Working on a tow on the Mississippi River or any other inland waterway is dangerous work. Deck hands, engineers, captains, first mates, and cooks work night and day through rain and sometimes snow. These conditions expose workers to all sorts of hazards. Despite being an inherently dangerous occupation, companies that own or operate barges must keep their workers safe.

At Bonifield & Rosenstengel, we represent workers injured on a commercial boat or a river barge. With an office located in Belleville, Illinois, we advocate for the rights of injured people throughout southern and central Illinois and in the St. Louis metropolitan area.

Even though a barge can be a dangerous place to work, you should not have to deal with an unreasonably dangerous workplace. If you have questions about a personal injury claim, contact us to set up a free initial consultation.

Barge Accidents and the Jones Act - Understanding Your Rights

Governed under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), the Jones Act extends the remedies available to railroad workers to workers on a commercial barge. It allows workers to sue their employers for any work-related injury caused by their employer's negligence. Workers can also file claims against their employers for injuries caused by a barge's unseaworthiness.

Accidents on barges can have serious or even fatal consequences. Some common causes of barge accidents include a slip and fall on a greasy step or ladder, or injuries caused by barges that have broken loose. Under the terms of the Jones Act, injured barge workers are entitled to the following:

  • Maintenance: Employers must pay an injured barge worker's a daily allowance equal to the pay they would have received to house and feed them had they not been injured in the first place.
  • Cure: Employers are required to pay an injured barge worker's medical expenses until he or she has recovered to a maximum level of health. Medical costs covered by the Jones Act include the following:
    • Emergency room costs
    • The cost of an airlift or ambulance
    • X-rays and other diagnostic tests
    • Surgery
    • Physical therapy
    • Prescription drugs
    • Medical equipment
    • Hospitalization

Unseaworthiness and Damages for Negligence

If a barge is in disrepair, maintains a poorly trained crew, or exposes to workers on-board hazards and dangers, it can be considered unseaworthy. As such, "unseaworthy" does not refer to the ability of a barge to remain afloat; rather, it refers to negligence on the part of a barge owner or barge operator.

Under the Jones Act, injured workers can recover damages for future medical treatment, lost wages, and loss in quality of life the unseaworthiness of a barge is to blame for an accident.

Unfortunately, when unseaworthiness is a factor, employers don't always inform barge workers of their rights. In fact, they may try to cover up what happened or ask you to sign a statement that you did not write.

Protecting Your Rights After a Barge Accident

If you've been injured in a barge accident, you don't have to see a company doctor nor is it necessary that you must be accompanied by a company nurse to any of your doctor's appointments. You also don't have to sign a statement or agree not to sue your employer in order to get benefits under the Jones Act.

If your employer is trying to intimidate you or force you to come back to work before you are in a state of total health, contact a Jones Act attorney at Bonifield & Rosenstengel today.

We provide free consultations and represent clients throughout Illinois and Missouri, including people in Mascoutah, Alton, Mount Vernon, Nashville, St. Clair County, Madison County, St. Louis, and Edwardsville.