You can file a Jones Act claim in either state or federal court, even though the Jones Act itself is a federal statute. The “savings to suitors clause” provides that claims can be filed in state courts if those courts recognize federal claims under the Jones Act.
It is important to note, however, that if you file in federal court, the right to select either a judge or jury trial is completely up to you, while if you file in state court, both parties have the right to a jury trial. Many times, it is actually better to have a trial by judge rather than one by jury, depending on the specifics of your case.
More often than not, you will have more than one option for where you can file the suit; the location of the courthouse where you can file varies greatly between cases. If you file federally, any federal court in the country can hear your case. In federal courts, however, there does exist the rule of “forum non conveniens”, which means that the court you select must be positioned close to some of the necessary actions that did or will happen surrounding your case, including the site of the initial accident, medical facility of your treating physician, or the location of witnesses in your case. Even filing in state court will have some of these location requirements, but the requirements can generally be satisfied if the company has a local office, or if you left for offshore from nearby.
The Young Firm routinely files suits in both state and federal courts in southern Louisiana from across the Gulf Coast, because very often the companies in these cases have offices in Louisiana, or the employee worked out of Louisiana.
In Jones Act cases, you technically have until three years after the accident to file your claim; however, in most cases, it is critical to file your claim much sooner than that. If you think you might have a claim under the Jones Act, contact one of our experienced maritime lawyers today for a free consultation. Maritime law is all we do, and we are here to answer any questions you have. Call us today at 866-920-8471.