The Jones Act
Maritime Law Overview
Seaman's Information Regarding Maritime Injury
While on the water, people find themselves in situations that could end in accident or injury.
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Anyone who spends at least 30% of his or her time in active service on a Merchant Marine vessel that is 'in navigation' can qualify for Jones Act benefits including all staff on board ship, from the Captain on down. The Act covers not only the members of a crew, but the masters of that crew as well. Anyone who has a connection that is both substantial in nature and duration to a specific vessel, or to a fleet of vessels and whose duties contribute to the function or mission of that vessel or fleet is covered under the Act.
The Jones Act generally protects workers on cargo ships, oil drilling rigs, crew boats, barges, transportation boats, and dredges. The Jones Act covers injuries that occurred at sea as well as injuries which occurred while in transport to a vessel or while a vessel was docked.
- work at sea more or less permanently - spent at least 30% of time on a vessel at the time the injury occurred.
- be assigned to a vessel or fleet of vessels. What constitutes a vessel under the Jones Act is quite broad. Traditional boats that clearly navigate waterways like cargo boats, tug boats, crew boats, drilling ships, transportation vessels, and supply boats clearly fall under the vessel requirement of the Jones Act. Workers on other types of vessels may also fall under the Jones Act depending on the circumstances in which the boats are being used.
- work on a vessel that is still in navigation. 'In navigation' simply means that the vessel has not been removed to dry dock or otherwise totally disabled from operating. As long as it is still capable of moving about with a few modifications, it is considered 'in navigation' for the purpose of the Act.
Under the Jones Act, the injured seaman is eligible for financial compensation for a variety of damages, including "maintenance" and "cure." The Jones Act covers:
- Living expenses while off work due to injury (maintenance)
- Medical treatment, medications, and rehabilitation (cure)
- Vocational training for a new job if injury prevents the seaman from returning to the previous job.
The Jones Act also covers injuries caused due to an employer's negligence and vessels that are unseaworthy. A vessel is unseaworthy if it is not properly built or maintained, thereby creating an unsafe working environment for the crew. Employers may also be negligent, or careless, for failing to provide reasonably safe working conditions for their crew members