In 1920, the Merchant Marine Act, now known as the Jones Act, was established by the federal government as a way to develop and maintain merchant marines to support commercial activity within the United States. The statute requires shipping between US ports to be conducted by ships under US ownership (US flag ships).
The statue is of particular importance for seamen, because it extends the Federal Employer’s Liability Act to them. This allows these individuals to file a personal injury action against their employers if they’re hurt while working at sea. They can opt to bring the action in state or federal court.
How the Jones Act protects maritime workers
Seamen receive a range of work protections thanks to the Jones Act. Some of the people who may be protected through the Jones Act include:
- Captains and mates
To obtain those protections, those individuals must spend at least 30% of their time working on a boat or vessel used for maritime navigation or working in navigable waters. The specifics of the Jones Act allow it to be applied to people who are working on ships even when those ships are moored to docks, so long as the ships are capable of maritime navigation.
To obtain compensation under this act, you have to show that your employer was negligent in some way. For example, if they do not provide adequate personal protective equipment, fail to perform vessel inspections or maintenance or don’t have slip-proof decking materials, then you may be able to make a claim for compensation through your employer. Our website has more on what you should know about filing a claim for benefits under the Jones Act.