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Law Offices of Preston Easley
 Maritime Accident Attorneys • Serving California & Hawaii

Experienced Trial Lawyers for Maritime Injuries and Accident Claims Involving:

• Passengers

• Seamen

• Longshoremen

Negligence Claims Under The Jones Act

About The Jones Act

When it was passed nearly 100 years ago, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920—better known as the Jones Act—was intended to protect the interests of American shipbuilders, American shipping companies, and American sailors and dockworkers. This law mandates that all ships traveling between U.S. ports be constructed in the U.S., owned by U.S. companies, and crewed and maintained by American seamen and/or permanent U.S. residents. Not least, from the viewpoint of marine employees, the Jones Act allows sailors to collect damages if they have been injured due to the negligence of the ship’s owner, the captain, or other members of the crew.

Whatever you think of the protectionist intent of the Jones Act, there’s no doubt that it has greatly improved the lot of American shipping crews, and continues to do so to this day.  As a general rule, in the international shipping industry, laws are subject to the lowest common denominator: countries with the laxest safety regulations often receive the most business, since owners and captains aren’t subject to pesky tort claims from injured or mistreated crew members.

The Jones Act requires ships traveling between American ports to afford their crews the same legal rights as they would have with a land job (and, in fact, the Jones Act was modeled on existing railroad labor laws around the turn of the 20th century.)

The Right To File Negligence Claims Under The Jones Act

Until 1995, it remained rather vague who, exactly, was allowed to file a negligence claim under the Jones Act. In that year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a ship worker or crew member had to spend at least 30 percent of his time at sea in order to be eligible under the act (a decision that may, in fact, have expanded the number of injured seamen potentially covered). The Jones Act remains the envy of sailors around the world: it not only allows crew members to sue any ship’s captain or owner for recklessness or negligence, but it entitles them to have their case heard by a U.S. jury, if they so desire.

The Jones Act is supplemented by two other U.S. laws designed to help seamen. Also passed in 1920, the Death on the High Seas Act allows the spouse or child of a sailor killed in international waters to recover damages from the ship’s owner. The Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, passed in 1927, extends the provisions of the Jones Act to harbor workers and shipbuilders—providing, among other things, for the payment of two-thirds of an injured workers’ wages while he undergoes medical treatment. (Interestingly, in 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the LHWCA can be used to supplement, rather than replace, existing state worker compensation laws).

As a trio, the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act and the LHWCA guarantee American sailors and maritime workers the same rights enjoyed by their colleagues on the mainland. It’s often the case that ship owners or captains will attempt to confuse the issue by citing weaker international laws, rather than the Jones Act, when confronted by an injured sailor or worker; that’s why you need an experienced lawyer who can help assert your rights.

Maritime Accidents and Jones Act Attorneys • Free Consultation

From Law Offices in Ventura, San Diego, San Pedro and Honolulu We Help Maritime Accident Victims Throughout All Of California And Hawaii

The Law Offices of Preston Easley handles cases involving maritime and admiralty law and actively fights for the rights of injured longshoremen, seamen, crew members, passengers, and maritime workers.  As an attorney, Mr. Easley has personally handled numerous catastrophic maritime accidents involving cranes, forklifts, dredges, barges, tugboats, and defective products and equipment.  At the appellate level, he has been a pioneer in expanding the rights of injured workers, frequently reversing lower court decisions and making new law. [Published Decisions]

Preston Easley is an experienced maritime lawyer with considerable expertise in handling federal and state cases in the field of maritime and admiralty law. He will aggressively seek the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to receive.  For a free initial consultation, call or email our law firm today.