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What is the Jones Act?

What is the Jones Act and how does it impact seamen? Find out how this protects injured workers and who may qualify under the act.

The Jones Act is an important law pertaining to maritime activities. It essential outlines the rights of seamen when they suffer an injury and sets safety guidelines for vessels. This federal law applies in every state and to all commercial seamen under US authority.

The basics of the law

PBS explains the Jones Act was once known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It defined the rights of seamen when working onboard a vessel. It outlines how workers can claim benefits and compensation if they suffer an injury or illness while working or from work-related activities.

The law pertains to commercial vessels and their crews. It does not, however, clearly define who qualifies as a seaman under its authority. This omission can make it difficult to seek benefits under the act because it requires first proving that a person is a Jones Act seaman.

In general, it covers mostly commercial vessels. Anyone on the vessel, from crew to captains, can make a claim under the act. There is a requirement that the vessel must be in navigation at least 30% of the time during the worker’s work time, which means the vessel must be operational and able to be out on the waters and in the water.

If a person does qualify for benefits, he or she has the right to compensation for lost wages, living expenses and medical costs. There is a time limit for making claims under the act set at three years from the time of the injury or diagnosis of the illness.

Extension of the Federal Employer’s Liability Act

According to the Legal Information Institute, the Jones Act extends the FELA coverage to seamen. Prior to the act, maritime workers did not have such protections.

It is not the same as workers’ compensation benefits in other industries. The act allows seamen to bring a personal injury case in court against their employer. With workers’ compensation, employees who suffer an injury do not go to court. They go through the workers’ compensation system instead.

The Jones Act allows workers to bring a case in federal or state court. They also have the right to a jury trial if they desire.

Claims process

To make a claim under the Jones Act, a person must report the injury or illness to their employer within seven days and complete an official accident report. He or she needs to seek medical attention as soon as possible. The next step is either reaching a settlement with the employer or filing a lawsuit with a court. In either case, a person should contact an attorney with knowledge and experience in Jones Act matters, such as The Townsley Law Firm.