Unlike some landlocked states, Louisiana provides many jobs that place individuals on boats and vessels at sea. Oil tankers, cruise ships and fishing boats are multitudinous in the oceans and waterways, generating countless jobs on these vessels.
While individuals can make a great living working on these ships, crewmembers often take on many risks working in this industry. Therefore, various laws and regulations have been passed to protect the safety and rights of these employees. One such law is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which is more commonly known as the Jones Act.
What is the Jones Act and who does it cover? One of the most important functions of this Act is to protect mariners who are injured while out at sea because they are not qualified for workers' compensation under maritime law.
Terrestrial law doesn't apply to employees working at sea, so they do not have an ability to file a workers' compensation action. The Jones Act provides a way for employees at sea to sue their employers for injuries suffered on the job.
Those covered by this act include masters, captains, officers and crewmembers that spend at least 30 percent of work time on a vessel in navigation. A vessel in navigation is one that is afloat, operational, capable of moving and on navigable waters. This means that even when a ship is tied to a dock in is in navigation.
An employer could be held liable for an unsafe conditions or negligence. Situations that could trigger liability include insufficient training, poorly maintained equipment, oil or slippery substances on the ship's deck, assault by a fellow crewmember or the failure to provide crewmembers with proper equipment. In order to file a claim under the Jones Act, an injured party only has to show that the employer's negligence played some role in the injury.
Filing a claim under the Jones Act may not be a simple and straightforward process in many cases. Therefore, it is important that maritime employees understand the process and the rights afforded to them.
Source: Findlaw.com, "The Jones Act and Merchant Marines," accessed Nov. 12, 2016