Essentials of the Jones Act

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act) is a special federal law designed to protect the rights of seamen who get injured while on the job, among other things. A seaman as qualified under the Jones Act can file a suit against an employer to recover damages incurred from injuries caused by negligence. As in any tort or personal injury case, the plaintiff has to prove that there was negligence on the part of the employer and that this negligence is the reason the seaman was injured. However, there are significant differences between a regular personal injury case and a Jones Act case.

Under the Jones Act, the employer is required to take steps appropriate to the circumstances that will ensure that workers are operating under reasonably safe working conditions. An employer may be considered negligent for any number of reasons, including the usual greasy floors and lack of safety gear as well as for hiring or retaining someone who is violent. For example, if a worker is injured because he or she was assaulted by a co-worker that investigation later reveals has a history of violence, the employer can be held civilly liable for exposing workers to that person.

An employer may also be held liable for damages if the injured worker proves that any action or inaction of the employer contributed a part no matter how small in causing the injury under the Jones Act. Under regular tort law, the defendant can only be held liable of the negligence was the proximate (or main) cause of the injury.

The damages that may be awarded under the Jones Act are similar to those in a regular personal injury lawsuit. Being a federal law, Jones Act cases may be filed in either federal or state court, depending on the judgment of the maritime lawyer engaged in the case. However, a lawsuit must be filed within three years after the injury was incurred.

One Response to “ “Essentials of the Jones Act”

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