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What is the Jones Act?

Container ship The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, is a series of Federal statutes which regulate shipping practices on the coasts and internal waterways of the United States. Although primarily concerned with issues surrounding trade protectionism and wartime preparedness, the Jones Act also contains provisions which acknowledge the fundamentally dangerous nature of employment at sea and seek to protect sailors, deckhands, captains and other vessel-bound laborers from the abuse and negligence of their employers and the unseaworthiness of their vessels. By creating a unique system of legal recourse for those injured on the water, the Jones Act is the primary legal doctrine under which those injured while working as sailors or seamen may seek compensation for their injuries.

Why is the Jones Act Important?

Louisiana generates more than $10 billion dollars annually from its domestic maritime industry, and Louisiana companies employ close to 60,000 maritime laborers across the state. Louisiana has the largest network of navigable rivers and inland waterways (some 2,800 miles worth) in the lower 48 states, and Louisiana's unique position straddling the mouth of the Mississippi river gives it (and its maritime employers) access to an additional 14,500 miles of American river, canal and coastal waterways.

Because Louisiana is a hub of maritime activity, it is also a hub of Jones Act litigation; and just as Louisiana boasts some of the most skilled sailors and seaman in the nation, so also does it boast some of the best maritime personal injury attorneys as well.

What Does the Jones Act Do?

The Jones Act allows employees injured at sea to sue their employers.

Under the Jones Act, an injured employee must prove that they were hurt in the course of their maritime duties and that their injury resulted from negligence. The Jones Act requires companies operating on the water to maintain a safe environment for their employees and to use care in maintaining the vessel their employees are working on.

What is Special About the Jones Act?

The Jones Act simplifies fault for those injured on the water. Generally, anyone permanently assigned to a vessel who contributes to the mission of the vessel including captains, deckhands, oilfield workers, etc., are provided with a special set of Federal laws including the ability to maintain negligence and unseaworthy actions against their employers and vessel owners as well as third parties. Additionally, general maritime law provides the Jones Act seaman with a compensation remedy called “maintenance and cure” which adds daily pay and reasonable medical expenses while a Jones Act seaman recuperates from an accidental injury.

What Can a Person Recover Under the Jones Act?

A Jones Act seaman is able to recover (in addition to maintenance and cure), general damages similar to those available under Louisiana Law for an auto accident claim. Specifically, past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages and general damages for pain, suffering, disability and mental anguish are available. For more information on how to institute a Jones Act claim, including what must be proven to recover under such a claim, please contact the maritime personal injury lawyers at Anderson, Dozier, Blanda & Saltzman today.

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