The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act, is a United States federal law pertaining to maritime commerce in the U.S.
Among its provisions is one granting injured seamen the right to sue their employers for personal injury damages. Unlike most workers, seamen are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The Jones Act thus protects their right to compensation for their injuries.
Seamen may bring actions against a maritime employer based on the negligence of the employer or its employees, including the seaman’s captain and fellow crew members. The employer is required to provide a reasonably safe place to work and to use sufficient care to maintain the vessel in a safe condition.
Most personal injury cases usually require the plaintiff to prove that the defendant’s negligence was the main cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Jones Act plaintiffs, however, enjoy a lower burden of proof. They must only prove that the employer’s negligence played any part in their injury. The employer’s negligence might be one of many contributing factors, and might be outweighed by those factors, and the plaintiff could still be eligible for damages.
Seamen injured on ships, floating oil rigs, and jackup rigs generally have legal rights under the Jones Act. Those who are injured on oil platforms permanently affixed to the ocean floor are generally protected by the Longshoremen and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. Determining who qualifies as a seaman under the Jones Act is also subject to minimum work times. If you are injured in maritime work, contact LaGarde Law Firm for a free evaluation of your case.