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What Is the Jones Act: Understanding Maritime Law

By Michael Shelton on February 16, 2018

A shipping vessel at seaAlso known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act is a federal law that protect American workers who are injured while on the job at sea. In the event of injury or illness while performing their job duties, these workers are entitled to receive compensation from their employers. In addition to the guarantee of compensation, these injured workers are able to bring about lawsuits against their employer if their employer acted negligently.

This may seem relatively straightforward, yet maritime law is quite complicated. The lawyers at our Houston, TX law firm consider some of the basics of the Jones Act and why it’s important to get legal representation after an injury at sea.

Who Is Protected by the Jones Act?

A seaman is covered by the Jones Act if:

  • He or she is employed by a ship/shipping company that operates on navigable waters
  • At least 30 percent of the seaman’s job duties involve work on a sea vessel

When an injury happens, there are sometimes legal disputes as to whether someone is protected by the Jones Act or not. This is why legal representation is so important in these kinds of cases.

Determining Negligence

Since the ability to bring a lawsuit against a negligent employer is a key part of the Jones Act, we should define negligence in legal terms.

Negligence means that the employer subjected the injured employee to unnecessary risks while the employee was at sea. This could mean lax safety precautions, long hours without rest, and forcing an employee to perform tasks that they were not trained or equipped to perform. The nature of the negligence and the severity of the injury can determine the amount of legal damages that are collected.

Seaworthiness of Vessels

In some cases of negligence, the employer subjected employees to unnecessary risks because the vessel was unsafe. If a vessel of any kind if not seaworthy, there is a much higher risk of serious injuries occurring. The owner of the vessel (whether an individual or a company) can be held liable for injuries related to a lack of seaworthiness.

The Right to Maintenance and Cure

Maintenance and cure is similar to the concept of workers’ compensation. The maintenance and cure benefits help cover lost wages and medical expenses while a seaman is recovery from his or her injuries/illness.

While maintenance and cure can be helpful covering living costs, the amount received is not the same as a seaman’s normal wages. This is why seeking damages for negligence is such an important part of the Jones Act.

How Our Team of Lawyers Can Help

As you can imagine, legal matters related to the Jones Act and other maritime statutes can be complicated. Your focus following a serious injury or illness is typically on recovery. A skilled lawyer can focus on the legal filings and laws on the books while you and your loved ones can concentrate on recovery and moving forward. Peace of mind is important and should never be taken for granted, especially in accident cases.

Learn More About Boating Accidents and Maritime Law

For more information about your legal rights and options following a serious boating accident, be sure to contact the lawyers of the Shelton Law Firm. We will help you in your time of legal need, and ensure your legal rights are observed and respected.

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