What Is The Jones Act?

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act, is a federal law protecting injured offshore and maritime workers.

In addition to protecting injured workers, the Jones Act promotes the American maritime industry.  For example, it stipulates that only American-flagged vessels can carry cargo between American ports.

The Jones Act is named for Wesley Jones, the United States senator from Illinois who secured its passage.

Jones Act Expansion of Worker Rights

Prior to the Jones Act, injured American offshore and maritime workers had no right of action against their employers for negligence.  Their rights were typically limited to common law claims that the rig or vessel was unseaworthy under maritime law and the right to maintenance and cure.

Elements Of A Jones Act Claim

To establish a Jones Act claim, an injured offshore worker or sailor must establish that (1) he or she is a seaman; (2) he or she suffered injury or death in the course of employment; (3) the employer was negligent; and (4) the employer’s negligence at least partially caused the injury.

Jones Act lawsuits are typically filed against employers on behalf of seamen who are injured or killed on the job.  Usually, the employer’s negligence must only have played a small role in causing the injury or death.

The Text Of The Law

The Jones Act provision protecting seamen currently states:

A seaman injured in the course of employment or, if the seaman dies from the injury, the personal representative of the seaman may elect to bring a civil action at law, with the right of trial by jury, against the employer. Laws of the United States regulating recovery for personal injury to, or death of, a railway employee apply to an action under this section.10

The “railway employee” law referenced in the Jones Act is the Federal Employers’ Liability Act or “FELA.”  That law is incorporated into the Jones Act to allow injured offshore and maritime workers to sue their employers for negligence and to seek a jury trial, just like railroad employees.

Course Of Employment

The Jones Act applies to workers who are injured in the course of their employment.

What constitutes employment under the Jones Act may vary depending on whether the worker is a “blue water seaman” who sleeps on the vessel or a “brown water” seaman who returns home every night.  A blue water seaman may be covered by the Jones Act even if his or her injury occurs while on shore leave, or while traveling to or from work.

Morrow & Sheppard Help Jones Act Seamen

Morrow & Sheppard are privileged to represent injured offshore workers and sailors who must bring claims under the Jones Act.

We are a member of the Maritime Law Association, the largest and most prestigious organization for maritime lawyers who practice in the United States.

As former partners at large defense firms, we know how offshore companies do business. In many cases, we know the executives who will decide whether or not to settle your claim and for how much.

To learn more about the Jones Act and whether you may have a claim, please contact us for a free, confidential consultation.  Consulting with us does not obligate you to hire us or pursue a claim.  It is simply an opportunity to discuss your legal rights.

1048 U.S.C. § 30104.

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