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WHAT IS THE JONES ACT?

The Jones Act is also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 and is an United States Federal Statute. The purpose of the statute is to regulate maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. Ports and was introduced by Senator Wesley Jones.

Part of the Jones Act addresses injuries to seaman and their respective rights against their employers. Specifically it allows injured sailors to make claims and collect from their employers for any negligence found against the owner, the captain, or fellow members of the crew.

46 U.S.C. § 688(a), provides:

Any seaman who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right of trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply

Thus the Jones Act, in part, follows or affords seaman the same rights as federal railroad injuries and thus allows seaman to bring causes of actions against ship owners based on claims of unseaworthiness or negligence. There are elements and other restrictions which federal laws mandate for employees to be considered seaman. Federal case law provides that any worker who spends less than 30 percent of his time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters is presumed not to be a seaman under the Jones Act. Any plaintiff that is deemed to be seaman however can bring an action in either US. federal court or in state court and is entitled to a jury trial.

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