How Does the Jones Act Affect Maritime Law?


Quick Answer

The U.S. Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, provides legal and financial recourse for sailors injured or sickened in the course of their duties, explains HG.org. The federal law allows workers to hold their employers' liable for incidents resulting from negligence.

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Full Answer

Although the Act does not specify the scope of its coverage over maritime workers, courts have determined that it applies to seamen working on vessels capable of navigating interstate and international routes, according to HG.org. The law applies to individuals regardless of their job responsibilities, provided that they are related to their ship's work. Courts do, however, require that employees spend as much as 30 percent of their time on their vessels in order to qualify. Compared to the recourse available to normal workers on land, the Jones Act provides employees the opportunity to claim a fuller portion of any damages, but simultaneously maintains a higher standard of proof for a causal relationship between the employer's actions and employee's suffering.

Under the Act, workers can claim both economic and noneconomic damages, with the former comprising direct out-of-pocket and opportunity costs, such as medical expenses, and lost wages and future earnings, notes HG.org. The latter comprises punitive amounts for pain and suffering and typically arise in cases of extraordinary corporate irresponsibility.

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