What is the Jones Act

The Jones Act, also referred to as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a U.S. legislation that protects individuals who have been injured whilst working at sea. The legislation is referred to as the ‘Jones Act’ due to its initial sponsorship by Washington Senator Wesley L. Jones.

Features of the Jones Act 1920

The Jones Act was initially established in order to protect individuals who work at sea, however the legislation was moderated to incorporate the families of those who work at sea and have been injured. It is one of the few legislations that covers the grey area in maritime law as it protects seamen against the dangers of working at sea.

Features of the act:

  • The Act ensures that all sea workers aboard US ships receive high levels of protection and compensation.
  • The act was extended to protect and regulate the standards and activities of foreign ships that partake in US trade.
  • The  Jones Act authorizes any seaman/sailor to bring a case for damages against their employer where their injuries were a result from performing a job at sea and also where the employer has acted in negligence.

According to the legislation, any sailor who has received compensation for injuries received at sea is entitled to damages and compensation under the “maintenance and cure” section of the act. Maintenance and cure aims to ensure an injured seaman will obtain daily expenses and compensation for medical care to treat the injury.

To be entitled for protection under the Jones Act, sea workers must spend a minimum of 30% of their time on a Merchant Marine vessel in active service. This rule is applicable to all levels of crew members on a ship from seaman to the captain.