More formally known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act is a federal law regulating maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. Among other things, the Jones Act gives working seamen the right to sue their employers for injuries incurred while working on a ship when they are the result of negligence by the company, the ship’s officers or a crewman other than the injury victim.
Essentially, the Jones Act is like Workers Compensation for people who work on board ships and other vessels while at sea. This includes ships and boats operating on fresh water like the Great Lakes. The Jones Act was put in place because shipboard professions have an inherent amount of danger but Workers Compensation does not apply to offshore activities.
Though providing a similar function as Workers Compensation, the Jones Act is different in many ways. The most substantial is that the injury victim must file a lawsuit and prove the employer is liable. The tradeoff is that the damages that an injury victim can recover aren’t limited the way Workers Compensation damages are. Below are more details on what you need to know about Jones Act claims if you’re an injured seaman.