Overview of the Jones Act

The Jones Act, originally known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is important because it gives repose to those who sustain injuries at sea and do not qualify for workers’ compensation.

The Jones Act specifically allows injured marines to sue their employers over claims of negligence. The Jones Act, in combination with the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, ensures that people who receive injuries while working at sea receive the same rights as those who sustain injuries while working on land.

Who may file a claim under the Jones Act?

According to FindLaw experts, the Jones Act covers Merchant Marines. You are a Merchant Marine if you are an employee of any kind on a ship and spend no less than 30% of your time in navigation.

If you sustain an injury while at work and you can prove negligence on the part of your employer or another employee, you may file a claim under the Jones Act.

How does the Jones Act protect employees?

Before signing the Jones Act into law, seafarers had no way to hold their employers accountable for shoddy working conditions. Employers could get away with not updating equipment or machinery, creating unsafe work environments and insufficiently training their crew.

Additionally, any injuries sustained by crewmembers were not eligible for compensation via workers’ compensation. This essentially left those working at sea uncovered, while those working on land could receive help for injuries sustained while at work.

The establishment of the Jones Act ensures that the law can hold employers responsible when it comes to creating safe workplaces for their employees. This act effectively closed the giant loophole that exploited those working at sea.