In some American jobs, workers’ compensation covers a variety of work injuries. In fact, it has protected millions of workers over the years. However, there is one work setting that has never been covered by workers’ compensation claims: the sea. For injuries sustained off the coast, seamen must rely on the Jones Act.
What Is the Jones Act?
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (a piece of maritime law commonly known as the Jones Act) has provided offshore workers with a solution to their workplace injuries for nearly 100 years. The Jones Act was initially enacted to spur on the production of American ships; however, during this time, few employees wanted to work on the high seas due to the high fatality rates coupled with the lack of verifiable seaman’s rights. The U.S. government realized Americans were not willing to risk life and limb in offshore employment if their accidents had no stated path to recovery. For this reason, the government included seaman’s rights in the Jones Act.
The Jones Act gave seamen the following rights:
- The right to hold a ship captain accountable for their negligence.
- The right to make claims and obtain damages in regards to injuries.
- The right to a trial to determine the outcome of Jones Act claim
The above rights were extended to any worker whose employment duties were conducted on a vessel in navigable waters for at least 31% of their employment hours.
The Power of the Jones Act
Under the Jones Act, shipmates and crew members can sue their sea captain (employer) for negligent actions that result in personal injuries. As a result of the Jones Act, American maritime workers have recovered billions of dollars due to injuries and illnesses they have suffered while on the high seas. As proving negligence in a Jones Act claim requires knowledge of maritime law, offshore attorneys are a necessity for any claim made under the act. However, establishing employer negligence is not as difficult as it might sound.
Here are some examples of employer negligence as described by OSHA:
- Failing to clean oil spills or other slip hazards on a ship deck
- Failing to properly maintain railings, ladders, and other safety measures on a ship
- Asking a worker to perform a dangerous or unnecessarily burdensome task
- Failing to keep machines up-to-date with safety standards and regulations
As you can see, the Jones Act covers a vast array of employer negligence. However, the only way to ensure that an injury falls under negligent conditions is to contact a skilled Jones Act attorney.