The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal law that—among other things—is intended to protect maritime workers who are injured while at sea. The following are answers to frequently asked questions about this little-known legislation as it pertains to personal injury.
What Does the Jones Act Do for Injured Sailors?
The Jones Act states that any sailor who suffers a personal injury during employment may seek damages from their employers. This includes claims against ship owners with regard to a vessel’s seaworthiness or any negligence on the owner’s part.
Who Is Covered by the Jones Act?
According to a benchmark set in the 1995 U.S. Supreme Court case of Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, any worker who spends 30 percent or more of his or her time working on a vessel on navigable waters is considered a Jones Act seaman.
How Does Legal Action Work Under the Act?
Legal action may be brought in a federal or state court, and the seaman bringing the action is allowed to have a jury trial. This right would not otherwise be given in maritime law without The Jones Act.
Are There Exceptions?
In some cases, such as when there is a national emergency or a serious issue regarding national defense or security, a waiver for the Jones Act can be granted by the Department of Homeland Security. Requests for these waivers primarily relate to the trade regulations imposed as part of the Jones Act.
I’m Considered a Jones Act Seaman and Have Been Injured at Work. What Should I Do Now?
If you’ve been injured while at work on a vessel on navigable waters, the Jones Act states that you have the right to bring legal action against your employer to receive any damages you may be owed. The first thing you should do is contact an experienced Jones Act lawyer like those at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P.