The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act, is a federal statute that protects seamen who get injured on the job, specifically by giving them the right to sue their employer for personal injury or negligence damages.
For purposes of the Jones Act, some terminologies are assigned their appropriate definitions:
- Seaman. Refers to a person, who spends a significant amount of time on a vessel or on a specific fleet of vessel (working as a crewmember or a captain on a vessel) that is considered “in navigation.”
- Vessel In Navigation. This refers to any type of vessel or boat that is afloat, in operation, capable of moving and on navigable waters (does not include: a vessel that is in a drydock or out of the water up on blocks; oil drilling platforms; a newly built vessel that is still undergoing sea trials; and, floating casino barges). By “navigable waters,” this can refer to a river or lake which can be used for interstate or foreign commerce (such as the ocean and landlocked lakes but only if these extend to another state or are connected to a river that flows into another state).
- Significant Amount of Time. A person should spend at least 30% of his/her employment time on a vessel in order to qualify as a seaman. Thus, a person who works 70% of the time in the office and the remaining 30% on a vessel can be considered a seaman.
The Jones Act strictly requires maritime employers to:
- Provide seamen with a reasonably safe place to work; and,
- Use ordinary care, under any circumstances, to keep and maintain the vessel, on which a seaman works, in a reasonably safe condition. Any unsafe condition on a vessel can lead to liability under the Jones Act and, in the event of injury, the injured seaman needs only prove that his/her employer’s negligence was a contributory factor to the events that resulted to his/her injuries in order for him/her to recover damages against his/her Jones Act employer.
As explained by a San Diego Jones Act attorney, numerous men and women are injured or killed each year while out at sea due to negligent or careless employers or co-workers, who make the sea much more dangerous. Injuries resulting to these negligent acts gives the injured the right to pursue legal action which will allow them to seek financial compensation.