The Jones Act protects seamen by giving them the right to sue their employer for personal injury or negligence damages. This federal maritime law, which is originally called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is designed to protect seamen who get injured on the job.
To determine who are qualified for the benefits offered under the Jones Act, some terminologies are assigned their appropriate definitions:
- Seaman. This refers to any person who spends a significant amount of his/her time on a vessel or on a specific fleet of vessel (“in navigation”) as a member of the crew member or as captain.
- A vessel in navigation. This is any type of boat that is afloat, in operation, capable of moving and on navigable waters (this definition excludes vessels in a drydock or those out of the water and up on blocks; floating casino barges; oil drilling platforms; and newly built vessels that are still undergoing sea trials). “Navigable waters” refer to rivers or lakes used for interstate or foreign commerce (may oceans 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. In order to qualify as a seaman, a person has to spend at least 30% of his/her employment time on a vessel. Thus, anyone who works 70% of the time in the office and 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 to 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.
Employer carelessness or negligence often result to injuries or death at sea due to “unseaworthy” ships and vessels. Injuries on open water, under the Jones Act, allows injured employees to seek compensation that will cover medical care expenses, lost wages from missing work and emotional trauma.Read More