The Jones Act: What Injured Maritime Workers Need to Know

The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act and the Cargo Preference Act, is a law that was established in 1929 by Congress to deal with injuries that occur on the high seas. It is primarily aimed at establishing workers compensation standards for the merchant marine and shipping industry. It also sets parameters for the shipping industry in regards to foreign ships making deliveries in United States coastal territory. The law stipulates that merchant marines are entitled to an enhanced ability to file compensation claims for work-related injuries when the injuries do not occur on U.S. soil. Maritime workers are obviously aboard a ship during their off-duty time and the law is meant to extend the protections that traditional workers on United States soil enjoy.

Jones Act Compensation Claims

The Jones Act: What Injured Maritime Workers Need to KnowThe Jones Act addresses the amount of compensatory and punitive damages that an international maritime worker may claim. It applies only to United States companies flying the U.S. flag with a minimum of 75% U.S. workers in jurisdictional waters. The stipulations on damages is differential to land-based companies. It was established because shipping companies attempted to avoid compensation on claims that occurred at sea. The Jones Act extends compensation coverage to the territorial water and adds the possibility of an on-duty injury being covered until the injury is restored to the “best” possible condition. If the injury is permanent, then lifetime physical damages can constitute an additional severity claim which might result in a claimant hiring a Jones Act attorney. However, the federal government has the authority to suspend the provisions of the act in case of a national emergency, such as Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the delivery systems for necessary products like gasoline.

How is The Jones Act Affected by a Government Waiver?

The waiver of the Jones Act has no effect on the worker’s compensation rights. The waiver addresses shipping vessels being received at ports and expedites the time delay in unloading and transporting products. The absolute requirement of a U.S. flag is waived to allow quicker product deliver, especially in cases of gasoline because it is so critical in all facets of economic activity. This particularly applies in the case of Hurricane Sandy. In many ways, gasoline is as critical as electricity in terms of utility.

Your Injuries and The Waiver

Worker’s rights are still protected by the law, even though the waiver is in force. The Jones Act has been waived by U.S. Attorney General Janet Napolitano until November 13. The stipulation of a set date is critical.
It is important for any maritime worker that suffers a work-related injury during the waiver to understand that the employing shipping company may claim exemption from the law if an injury occurs during the waiver time period. An experienced and effective Jones Act attorney will understand how to defend this claim and will convince the court that the company claim is not material evidence.

It may be an immaterial fact, but the worker does not need to attempt to proceed with a claim on their own in this case. Hire an experienced Jones Act attorney immediately. Any injured worker can rest assured that the company is covered by insurance and both the company and insurance agency will have a team of attorneys attempting to divert a claim. Stand your ground and protect your future by hiring a solid personal injury counsel that is well versed in The Jones Act.

Nadine Swayne is a freelance writer and contributing author for the law firm of Doyle Raizner LLP.  With the help of an experienced Jones Act attorney from their firm, you will get the help you need to file for benefits and recover a fair compensation. It is important to hire a skilled attorney in maritime law, because this type of dispute can dramatically increase the complexity of your case.

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