The Jones Act – How It Incorporates Personal Injury Claims

January 19th, 2018

The Jones Act, originally named The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, was designed to protect merchant mariners within the United States after World War I. According to the Transportation Institute, the Jones Act imposes four primary requirements on vessels carrying goods between U.S. ports. These requirements include that the vessel must be owned by U.S. companies that are controlled by U.S. citizens with at least 75% U.S. ownership, at least 75% of the vessel must be crewed by U.S. citizens, the vessel must be built in the United States, and the vessel must be registered in the United States.

Although the Jones Act is primarily focused on foreign shipping regulations, the act also provides safety regulations for crew members and requires remedies for injuries due to negligence. The Jones Act should be liberally construed to expand protection afforded to seamen under general maritime law. 46 U.S.C.A. § 30104 (West). This act is an exclusive remedy for personal injury claims against employers of injured seamen. Id.

Who Is Included Under The Title ‘Seamen’?

There is a twofold system of figuring out who qualifies for seaman status under the Jones Act. First, employee’s duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of the vessel’s mission. Second, the seaman must have a connection to a vessel in navigation or to an identifiable group of such vessel that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature. Id. Subsequently, to become covered as a seaman under the Jones Act, the employee must be permanently assigned to a vessel in navigation or perform substantial part of his work on a vessel, and must contribute to the mission of a vessel. Id.

Duration of the employee’s connection to a vessel and nature of his work activities also determine whether a maritime employee is a seaman under the Jones Act. Id. The ultimate inquiry is whether the employee in question is a member of the vessel’s crew or simply a land-based employee who happens to be working on a vessel at a given time. Id. Furthermore, when an employee performs various duties on various vessels as part of his regular employment, nature of all his work and characteristics of each vessel are relevant factors to consider when determining if an employee is a seaman and falls under the Jones Act. Id.

Therefore, in order to fall under the protection of the Jones Act to recover for personal injuries sustained on a vessel during the course of employment, the injured party must be a seaman. As previously stated, there are a number of factors to consider when determining if an employee is in fact a seaman. If the employee is a seaman, he can hold his employer liable for injuries sustained during his employment on the vessel.

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