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Jones Act Accidents FAQs

The Jones Act is a federal law that provides legal recourse for an injured worker harmed at sea or on a U.S. navigable waterway to file a civil lawsuit against their employer seeking personal injury damages. These vision employees are not entitled to receive workers' comp benefits under federal or state law.

Any accident at sea could be catastrophic for the captain and crew members that could be severely injured or killed. After an accident, the employer might deny responsibility for their negligence, offer a low settlement, or try to blame the injured employee. 

A personal injury attorney has answered some of the most common Jones Act accidents frequently asked questions (FAQs) below.

What Is The Jones Act?

In 1920, the U.S. Congress passed the Merchant Marine Act (Jones Act) to provide injured individuals working on ships, oil rigs, and barges the right to file a civil lawsuit against their employers seeking personal injury damages.

The Act is a federal statute that solves the problem for individuals employed at sea or on a waterway to receive benefits like those provided to injured employees through the Workers' Comp system. The federal government enacted the maritime law to ensure the crews' safety and well-being by providing compensation for injuries caused by employer negligence.

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What Did Congress Promise By Passing The Jones Act?

The United States granted the Philippines their independence by passing the Jones Act. Implementing the federal statute interfered in a foreign affair that resulted in Puerto Rico emerging with the U.S. without granting the citizens full-fledged liberty.

Puerto Ricans were not given access to the polls to vote for presidential candidates even though Congress could now control the Island's postal, military, monetary, and fiscal affairs.

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When Was The Jones Act Passed?

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Merchant Marine Act (Jones Act) into federal law in 1920 to help the U.S. shipping industry recover from World War I's devastating outcome. The federal statute obligated any vessel transporting goods from one U.S. port to another to be built, crude, owned, and flagged in America.

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What Is The Jones Act Cruise Ships?

The Jones Act (Merchant Marines Act) is often referred to as the Passenger Vessel Services Act prohibiting cruise ships not registered in the U.S. from embarking and disembarking passengers from two different U.S. ports.

The maritime law prohibits point-to-point transportation of any non-US registered ship docking between two U.S. Ports. However, non-U.S.-registered cruise ships can be exempted from the rule if their itinerary includes stopping at a distant foreign port that the federal government identifies as Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba, and South American countries.

Congress does not consider Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, Central America, and most Caribbean islands as distant foreign ports. Passengers are not permitted to plan or purposely Barker disembark the cruise ship in an American port that violates the Passenger Vessel Services Act.

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What Is The Jones Act Waiver?

The Jones Act and maritime laws provide a small vessel waiver program to allow some foreign-built vessels or any unknown construction vessel to participate in U.S. commerce, primarily commercial passenger vehicles.

In this case, only specific ship owners and operators are eligible to receive a Small Vessel Waiver if a U.S. organization or citizen owns the vessel. Vessels two years and younger do not qualify.

According to U.S. Coast Guard requirements, the vessel must be intended to carry only twelve passengers or less while in service and be seaworthy.

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How Does The Jones Act Affect Hawaii?

The Merchant Marine act of 1920 (Jones Act) ensures America's national security while providing jobs. The federal statute bolsters Hawaii's economy, contributing over $3 billion every year to the state.

However, Hawaii's advocates claimed that the Jones Act increases shipping costs that directly increase the high cost of living in the Union's fiftieth state. 

Some opponents of the maritime law state that the statute severely limits the number of ships entering the Hawaiian Islands because over 90% of all merchant ships are constructed in China, Korea, and Japan.

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Why Is There No Jones Act in the Virgin Islands?

Congress exempted numerous U.S. territories, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. As a result, ships carrying foreign flags can transport cargo from the U.S. ports to these islands.

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How Does the Jones Act/Passenger Vessel Services Act/Cabotage Law Affect Cruise Ship Passengers?

The Passenger Vessel Services Act (The Jones Act) is referred to as the Sabotage law in Europe. The federal statute restricts non-US registered ship's from embarking and disembarking passengers at two different U.S. ports. The U.S. Virgin Islands, including St. John, St. Croix, and St. Thomas, are not affected under the Jones Act.

The federal law restricts passengers from pre-planning or purposely embarking and disembarking the crew ship at a U.S. port because it violates the Act. All passengers violating the Act could be fined over $760 per person.

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How Does an Employer Pay an Injured Worker through the Jones Act?

Any injured seaman or maritime employee could bring a lawsuit against their employer if they were injured while working on a waterway or at sea, under the Jones Act and admiralty law. In these cases, employers must pay the injured victim their weekly wages when the accident occurred until the voyage is complete.

The injured Jones Act seaman is also eligible to receive maintenance and cure benefits if injured on a vessel or ship. Maintenance benefits pay for the injured seaman's cost-of-living expenses while on the land.

Cure benefits provide financial compensation to pay for any reasonable medical attention needed to treat the injuries until fully recovered. 

Filing a civil lawsuit against the employer can ensure that additional compensation is provided for any past and future medical attention, past and future lost earnings, mental anguish, disfigurement, disability, loss of enjoyment of life, pain, and suffering.

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What Is a Maritime Injury?

The justice system recognizes a Maritime injury as any seaman or crew member injured on a ship or vessel and U.S. navigable waters (at sea or on a U.S. waterway). The federal law is vital for injured maritime workers who are not qualified to receive traditional workers' compensation benefits.

Instead, compensation under the Jones Act provides a legal remedy, allowing the injured seaman to file a civil lawsuit against their employer seeking employment-related benefits for worker injuries.

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How Does the Jones Act Work?

In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Jones Act (Merchant Marine Act) to compensate seamen and maritime workers injured on a vessel or ship in U.S. navigable waters. By law, a sea person is any individual spending significant time working as the vessel's captains or crew members.

The Jones Act works as an alternative legal remedy for a sea person injured at work on a ship or vessel who is not entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits under federal or state law. Alternatively, the injured Jones Act seaman or crew member can file a civil lawsuit against their employer, citing negligence under the Jones Act.

The seaman must prove that their injuries were the result of their employer's negligence. Their attorney might show that:

  • The employer failed to provide the Jones Act seamen and maritime workers a reasonably safe workplace<
  • he employer failed to take ordinary care in maintaining and keeping the vessel safe for the seaman or crew member to work

The federal law is based on strict requirements in keeping the vessel safe. Even a slight unsafe condition, however small, could create a liability issue for the employer for damages covered under the Jones Act.

There is an especially low burden of proof required to show that the employer's negligence led to the seaman's injury. 

Additional defendants could be the ship manufacturer, ship operator, or captain who created an unsafe condition through the ship's design, maintenance, and operation while the seaman or crew member was working.

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Does the Jones Act Cover All Maritime Workers?

Specific maritime workers are not covered under the Jones Act, including longshoremen, harbor workers, dockworkers, and those working in shipyards and shipping terminals. 

In these circumstances, any injured Maritime worker not covered under the Jones Act can file a compensation claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

The Longshore Act provides similar benefits as the state Workers' Compensation Benefits System, typically pays two-thirds (66 2/3%) of the injured longshoreman's average weekly wage. Additionally, the injured dockworker can expect to receive permanent partial disability benefits when applicable.

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What Is Maintenance and Cure under the Jones Act?

The Merchant Marines Act (Jones Act) provides maintenance and cure compensation to an injured seaman (crew member) who was harmed while working on a ship on a waterway or sea. A maintenance payment covers the injured seaman's cost-of-living after disembarking.

Some Jones Act cases provide Cure benefits which are financial compensation payments for the injured victim's reasonable medical care necessary for treating and recovering from the injury.

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How Much Is My Jones Act Claim Worth?

Every Jones Act injury case is unique, with different circumstances and injuries contributing to its monetary value. Benefits provided to crew members and seamen will be based on the extent of damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, future lost earnings, and any unique situation requiring additional funds like temporary or permanent disabilities.

Jones act cases require filing a civil lawsuit against the employer, citing how their negligence caused the victim's damages. The case may be built on accidents and injuries that developed over time, even if the victims no longer work at that location.

Crew members and seamen could have been exposed to toxic chemicals and minerals, like asbestos, and developed severe illnesses decades later. A maritime injury attorney working on your behalf can determine the value of your case to ensure you receive adequate payments for your injuries.

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What are the Best Reasons for Hiring a Jones Act Lawyer?

While the Jones Act provides injured maritime workers, seamen, and dock workers the right to file a civil lawsuit against their employer for negligence, these injury cases are often complicated. 

Hiring an attorney will ensure that your rights are protected to ensure you receive Maintenance and Cure when suing your employer for negligence.

Also, you can file a civil lawsuit against the shipowner due to the vessel's unseaworthiness, where the defective or dangerous condition of the ship led to your injury or the wrongful death of a loved one.

Your injury likely entitles you to receive financial compensation to cover all past and future medical expenses associated with your injuries. Surviving family members can file wrongful death claims to be compensated for a preventable death.

The shipowner and employer will use maritime law to protect their interests. It is best to protect your interest by hiring an experienced Jones Act attorney to represent your side.

If you have questions, a law firm handling Jones Act cases can ensure you receive an acceptable negotiated settlement or jury verdict to receive the compensation you deserve for injuries you got on the job. 

Typically, the vessel owner or insurance companies will pay your compensation benefits to resolve your claim.

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