The Jones Act

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The Jones Act - 46 US 688

The Merchant Marine Act was passed in 1920 to provide protection for sailors and ship crew. It is commonly known as the Jones Act after Senator Wesley Jones who sponsored it.

The Jones Act provides injured seamen with compensation for the negligence of others while employed on a vessel or offshore oil rig. That compensation includes damages for future medical treatment, past and future wage loss and pain and suffering. Anyone who spends at least 30% of his or her time in active service on a Merchant Marine vessel can qualify for Jones Act benefits including all staff on board ship, from the Captain on down.

The Jones Act provides for two types of remedies for seamen. First, the employer is bound by law to compensate an injured seaman for: "Transportation, Wages, Maintenance and Cure". "Transportation and Wages" are paid until the voyage is complete. "Maintenance" and "Cure" are paid until the seaman has reached maximum medical cure.

The Jones Act intended to create a strong, well staffed Merchant Marine which could ably serve the United States during both peace and war. The Act heavily promotes American built, owned, and staffed ships by restricting shipping and passenger trade within the United States to American owned or American flagged ships, and stipulation that 75% of a ship's crew must consist of American citizens. In addition, the use of foreign parts and labor in ship construction and repair was also heavily restricted.

The Jones Act created benefits for sailors which are extremely far reaching. Any sailor who is injured at sea is entitled to maintenance and cure. The sailor's employer must pay the sailor a daily stipend and provide medical care to treat the injury. In addition, the sailor can also sue for damages if the injuries were caused by negligence on the part of the ship's owners or other crew members, or sailing on unseaworthy vessels.

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