Jones Act Injuries – When does it apply?

Mike Schuler
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August 13, 2008

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is one of three congressional laws commonly referred to as the “Jones Act”. Formerly, it was found at 46 U.S.C. Section 688, et seq. and was recently codified in October, 2006 at 46 U.S.C. Section 30104 et seq. The purpose of the Jones Act was to recognize the importance of a strong merchant marine system for national defense, and the growth of foreign and domestic commerce by protecting the mariner. Dating back for many centuries, the shipping industry has long been accepted as vital to the economic existence of countries. It was always important that when a seaman was injured far from home, it was the duty of the ship owner to repatriate the injured worker.

The Jones Act is one of the few areas of the law that is still favorable to an injured worker. It applies to deck hands, engineers, third mates, second mates, first mates, relief captains, captains, roustabouts, roughnecks, drillers, pilots, tanker man, anchor tenders and basically all persons that are involved in the maritime offshore industry. It applies to the fishing, fishery, canning, shrimping, oil field, dredging, barge, tugboat, towboat, crew boat, supply boat and other maritime offshore industries. The Jones Act was enacted after FELA but adopts FELA’s liberal construction in favor of the injured worker.

The Jones Act applies when: A seaman, while working on board a vessel, is injured in the course and scope of employment upon a navigable waterway. Though the previous sentence would seem easy to apply to determine the applicability of the Jones Act, unfortunately this is not the case even after almost a century of American jurisprudence.

If you were injured while working on board a vessel, make sure to speak to a good maritime injury lawyer so you know exactly how to get the necessary maintenance, medical care [“cure”] and win your Jones Act and/or unseaworthiness claim.

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