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Understanding the Jones Act: A 96-Year-Old Law in Today’s Modern Economy

Mar 27, 2015 - Articles - by Dodson & Hooks, APLC

At the heart of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, are principles of national pride and integrity – as well as an investment in American maritime commerce. This piece of legislation, which was introduced to advance and enhance U.S. waterborne activity, not only works to protect our historic oceanic presence, but the workers and staff onboard covered vessels who experience an accident or injury while on the job.

If you are a maritime employee, or have questions about how the Jones Act may impact your situation, please contact Dodson & Hooks APLC– a team of Baton Rouge attorneys experienced with this complex area of law.

Vessels and Workers Covered by the Jones Act

The Jones Act contains several mandates designed to prevent the influx of foreign vessels within the American waterborne economy. For instance, the Act requires all commercial vessels transporting goods between two American ports be constructed in the United States, manned by U.S. citizens and registered under the U.S. flag. Reportedly, these regulations have helped secure 70,000 jobs for seamen and other ship workers who are further protected by the Seamen’s Rights provisions contained within the Act.

Seamen’s Rights Under the Jones Act

As your Jones Act lawyer will explain further, the law contains several provisions geared toward protecting seamen’s rights in the event of a workplace accident or injury. Under 46 U.S.C. § 30104, injured seamen may commence a cause of action (lawsuit) for damages in a court of law and have a right to a trial by jury. A lawsuit may allege negligence or unseaworthiness, which are two legal doctrines that were not traditionally afforded to seamen under historic common laws.

In one pivotal Jones Act case decided in 1995, (Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis), a shipping company opted to challenge the applicability of the Jones Act after a superintendant engineer onboard one of Chandris’ ships developed a severe eye condition and ended up losing part of his vision after the condition went untreated.

The respondent, Chandris, Inc., argued the Jones Act should not apply – thereby barring the plaintiff from having any opportunity for compensation – because he did not spend a significant amount of time actually onboard Chandris’ vessels. After much consideration, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a worker who spends less than 30 percent of his time onboard a covered vessel is not covered by the Act, and all other workers are considered within the purview of the Act’s personal injury provisions.

Let a Knowledgeable Baton Rouge Jones Act Attorney Help

With the state of Louisiana lying along the Gulf Coast, our ports are home to thousands of Jones Act-covered vessels and crewmembers. If you are facing a recent workplace injury and would like to speak to a knowledgeable attorney about your situation, please contact Dodson & Hooks APLC today by calling (225) 372-1666.

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