How Does the Jones Act Protect Injured Sailors?

Photo of a supply vesselA Jones Act seaman recently filed a complaint against his employer, American River Transportation Co., alleging negligence. The complaint states that the plaintiff was working aboard the M/V Cardinal Pride in August 2015. While he was working, he was involved in an accident that left him with serious damage to his ulnar nerve (a nerve that runs near the ulna bone at the inside of your elbow), neck and other parts of his body.

He is claiming that his injuries resulted from a failure of his employer to provide a safe workplace. He is also accusing them of failure to properly train and supervise him.

What Is the Jones Act and How Does It Help Injured Seaman?

The Jones Act is federal legislation that protects American workers injured at sea. It allows qualifying sailors involved in accidents or who become sick while performing their duties to receive compensation from their employers, not unlike the regular workers’ compensation system.

Not everyone who works on or near water qualifies for Jones Act coverage. Employees must be “seamen,” a term that federal courts have defined at individuals assigned to vessels or fleets operable in navigable waters. Seamen must also perform work that is relevant to the vessel’s purpose. Additionally, to qualify, seamen must spend a significant amount of time on the vessel.

A difference between the Jones Act and workers’ comp is that workers’ comp does not deal with fault. For a Jones Act claim, the worker must be able to prove negligence on the part of his or her employer. If he or she can prove negligence, the employee can seek damages.


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