The Jones Act of 1920: Interesting Basics of Maritime Law

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly called The Jones Act, was implemented to clarify which transportation and shipping companies could operate in United States territorial waters. International shipping security became an important issue following World War I. The legislation set requirements for ship identification and ensured that the crews of the cargo ships were either American citizens or eligible to work in the country. In addition, the law established workman’s compensation benefits for qualified seamen. The act is still in force today, but has received some recent criticism as being outdated.

Injury Treatment

Medical professionals are not required to return the employee to a perfect physical condition in the event of an injury. The requirement for rehabilitation is returning to the best possible condition attainable considering the injury. However, if that condition prohibits the injured employee from returning to work in any capacity at a comparable income, then the possibility of permanent disability is enhanced. This further maximizes a claim.  If you are injured while employed on an oil rig, be sure to hire a competent Maritime injury attorney.

Cabotage Regulations

Cabotage is the transportation of goods or individuals across the high seas. It is important to understand that legal jurisdiction in the United States applies primarily to land and international territorial water boundaries. The law requires that three-fourths of the transportation workers be American citizens. In addition, it requires all ships to be American ships and built with American steel products. All ships operating in territorial waters must fly the United States flag for identification purposes or request permission to enter. These authorization regulations are waived in times of national emergency, such as during Hurricane Sandy, for expedient material delivery.

Seamen Compensation Rights

The Jones Act actually served to put maritime workers on a comparable level with railway workers on the mainland. The railway system had already been adjusted to federal employment scales because it was a controlled territorial monopoly and the federal government subsidized much of the funding. The Jones Act gave seamen the right to sue a responsible employer in a United States court if they were injured on the job and the company was not covering any expenses. This also includes a jury trial, which can result in a significantly higher punitive damage award. It also set parameters for which workers actually qualified to receive this legal claim standing. Any worker who is not in a vessel that is on the high seas at least 70% of their employment tenure is not a qualified seaman.

Filing a workman’s compensation claim under the Jones Act can be a complicated process, but once the court recognizes the merchant marine status of “seaman” the case is established. Shipping companies who are defending the claim and not providing benefits can then be brought to court for an immediate ruling. It is always important to hire an experienced and effective Jones Act attorney who knows how to build a solid Jones Act for a maximum award.

With families and working individuals’ concerns in mind, Midnight Walker writes about law, safety and worker’s issues. Maritime injury attorney Doyle Raizner, LLC., understands that maritime law is a very complex area of law, governed by a variety of federal statutes and is very different from other kinds of injury cases.



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