What is the Jones Act and How does it affect you?
The Jones Act, officially known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, was originally passed in order to provide protective legal rights for American Merchant Marines along with sailors and the ships’ crews. Its author, Senator Wesley Jones of Washington State declared that American sailors were being neglected when it came to medical and financial assistance. The actual act itself is rather multifaceted and attempting to thoroughly grasp its concepts can leave one more than slightly bamboozled. For this reason it is always advantageous to contact an experienced maritime attorney if there are any questions about The Jones Act.
During the late 19th century and early 20th century there was a great deal of concern about the health and well being of merchant marines. If injured at see there was little that could be done to compensate or lend assistance to the wounded seafarer. Recognizing the extreme danger of working at sea and the absence of adequate reparations for injuries The Jones Act established precise benefits for merchant marines and ship crews.
The specifics of The Jones Act can be broken down into two key sections. The first consists of laws that put restrictions on the amount of trade and shipping that can be executed on American owned or flagged ships within the boundaries of the United States. It also limited the amount of foreign materials that were allowed to be used in the building and on board application American ships. Finally, the act enforced that 75% of any ship’s crew had to consist of American citizens. With these new laws in place The United States focused on constructing a solid-built Merchant Marine that would be effective during both peace time as well as war time.
The second portion of The Jones Act which is extremely important extends itself to the furthest corners of the oceans and everywhere in between. This section states any Merchant Marine, sailor or ship member that is injured at sea is fully entitled to medical care and assistance as well as a recovery and restoration to health. Essentially, this stipulates that the employer must pay the member a stipend or compensation to cover medical costs until they have been cured. Additionally, members of the crew have the right to sue if they are hurt on the job due to the negligence of either the ship owner or another crew member or if they are injured due to their presence on a ship that is found not to be sea-worthy which also includes death benefits if a fatality results while on the job.
So how many people does The Jones Act encompass under its coverage? Qualifications for coverage require that an employee spends at least 30% of his or her time in the active service of a Merchant Marine vessel including all staff members.
Under the supervision and guidance of an experienced attorney benefits of The Jones Act can be very rewarding. This is why it is important that a maritime lawyer be consulted before any actions are taken when a situation involving this clause arises.