When you get injured at work on a normal job, you’re generally covered under workers’ compensation rules — but that’s not true for seamen. Despite the dangers of their industry, maritime workers usually don’t qualify for workers’ compensation benefits after an injury. In addition, they typically cannot sue their employers in civil court.
That’s why the Jones Act exists.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 offers important protections for maritime workers
Commonly called “the Jones Act,” the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 gives seafaring workers certain entitlements that can protect them from dangerous working conditions and allow them to hold negligent employers liable for any injuries.
There are some unique limitations on who can bring a Jones Act claim
To bring a case under the Jones Act, a maritime worker must spend at least 30% of their work time on a vessel that’s on navigable waters, so this generally excludes longshoremen, harbor workers and contractors.
Plus, the worker’s injury or illness must be the result of either their employer’s negligence or the negligence of another employee. This is quite unlike a typical workers’ compensation claim, in which “fault” is largely not an issue. As such, claims under the Jones Act can be more difficult to pursue than workers’ comp because employers are generally reluctant to admit their own errors.
Pursuing a Jones Act claim takes concentrated effort
It’s not always clear who is really at fault for any accident — and there’s a lot at stake when someone’s been seriously injured in a maritime accident. The Jones Act may not be your only option. Working with an attorney who understands the complicated intricacies of maritime law from the very start is the best way to protect your future.