The Jones Act was created as a means to strengthen existing laws and policies that were in place to give legal protection to seamen and their families. This Act was drafted with inspiration from the Federal Employers Liability Act. It contains many of the same provisions, though the FELA was for injured railroad workers. Today, there have been some changes to the Act, though it remains a key part of maintaining fairness and justice in the American maritime industry.
How Does the Jones Act Work?
Under The Jones Act, an injured seaman can sue their employer with a claim of negligence. This individual needs to prove that the captain/owner, and/or the crew of the vessel that they worked on actually were negligent and that this led to the seaman’s injury.
How Is Negligence Defined Under the Jones Act?
It’s necessary that the employer of a vessel provides the following:
- A reasonably safe place in which to work
- Ordinary care to maintain the vessel, keeping it in a safe condition
Maritime employers are liable to seamen who work for them under the Jones Act. This means that they uphold a legal duty to ensure certain conditions are met and that the employees are compensated if they do not meet the conditions. It’s considered to be an extremely employee-friendly law.
The seaman can hold their employer liable for such conditions as the following:
- If there’s been breakage of any equipment
- If the equipment is not kept properly maintained
- If there’s oil or grease on the deck
- The employer fails to offer the crew members proper equipment in order to conduct work
- There are unsafe work methods being used onboard the vessel (or anywhere work is being conducted for the employer)
- The seaman or crew on the vessel have received improper training
- There’s an assault from a co-worker
- The seaman’s co-workers are experiencing negligence
Example of How The Jones Act Is Used
It can be helpful to see how this plays out in an example. If there’s a deckhand who mops the deck beside a door and hasn’t marked off the area during this time (and kept it in place for a while after), another deckhand may walk out of the door and slip on the deck. This injured employee now can sue their employer for negligence and have a good chance of receiving compensation for injuries, at the very least. This would fall under the category of negligence, even though the employer may not have been present and wasn’t the individual who did something to lead to the injury.
Understanding the Law and Your Rights with The Jones Act
There is some difficulty in terms of understanding who qualifies for and what is protected under The Jones Act. You may benefit from discussing your questions and concerns with a maritime lawyer who has a strong background in dealing with such matters. It definitely will help you when it comes to understanding the Jones Act and how it can be applied if you believe you have a case.