What is the Jones Act?

Nov 4, 2020 | Jones Act And Maritime Law

The Jones Act, officially called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal law that sets several rules regarding the operation of marine vessels in United States waters. In addition, the Jones Act incorporates the rights of maritime workers after an injury while on the job.

What Is the History of the Jones Act?

Named after the Washington Senator Wesley Jones, the Jones Act was initially written to protect Marine merchants. Howe’ver, it now commonly incorporates the extensive range of employees that work on vessels operating in oceans, offshore lakes, rivers, and canals.

After World War I, the Jones Act was passed to protect both American and international marine shipping by protecting maritime workers who are injured, maimed, or die while at work. After the infamous sinking of the Titanic in 1912, it became increasingly clear that maritime workers, both domestic and foreign, were suffering from work-related injuries or tragically dying at sea and that there was very little legally required assistance available.

Additionally, the Jones Act includes limitations for domestic shipping in that all vessels transporting items between points within the United States must be built in America, crewed by American citizens, or by legal residents. Moreover, these vessels must be owned by American citizens and flagged under the United States of America. As such, foreign ships and crew are banned from American water routes which were originally designed to protect America’s shipyards and boost employment. There are also arguments that the Jones Act assists with national security measures by supporting the navy and training domestic sea personnel.

Are You Eligible for Damages Under the Jones Act?

Do you spend at least thirty percent of your time at work on one or more maritime vessels, including boats, barges, rigs, or ships? If so, you would be considered a seaman/woman or a sailor, and as such, the Jones Act would apply to you. Seaman status can also be given to employees that work on ships such as maids, cooks, bartenders, or bookkeepers.

Note that though the maritime vessel does not need to be at sea when you are injured, it cannot be drydocked or completely stopped operating. You also must have been on a vessel that was in navigation, meaning that it must be in good working order, afloat, capable of moving and on waters that can be navigated. Ensuring that you are eligible for seaman status will be integral to claiming under the Jones Act. The lawyers at Williams Hart will be able to advise if your particular situation is eligible, or if another maritime law may apply.

Bringing a Jones Act claim and obtaining the compensation you are due is a specialized task. By hiring a law firm experienced in maritime law like Williams Hart, you will rest assured that you have a considerate advocate in your corner who is both knowledgeable of the proceedings and empathetic to your plight. If you, or your loved one, have been injured in a maritime accident, contact Williams Hart today to set up a free consultation.

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