The Jones Act: Understanding the Purpose of Maritime Law

Maritime vessel at sea. | Patrick Daniel Law
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Maritime occupations are inherently fraught with danger, and the aftermath of an injury can leave workers adrift in uncertainty. In these times, the purpose of maritime law and the provisions of the Jones Act can be a beacon of hope.

After suffering a maritime injury, it becomes a struggle to heal, let alone return to work. Meanwhile, the medical bills are stacking up. At this trying time, knowledge of maritime laws—offering vital protections and avenues for compensation—becomes invaluable. Navigating these legal waters, however, can be intricate and demanding.

That’s when you need to call a Houston maritime attorney. At Patrick Daniel Law, we have a vast knowledge of the Jones Act and an in-depth understanding of the purpose of maritime law. Our commitment is unwavering in the pursuit of justice for our clients, ensuring they seek the full benefits of maritime law in their time of need.

Call Patrick Daniel Law at (713) 999-6666 to schedule a FREE consultation with our Strategic. Meticulous. Merciless. Houston maritime attorney. We will fight for the compensation you deserve when you need it most.

What Is Maritime Law in Simple Terms?

Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, is a distinct branch of law that governs activities conducted on navigable waters. In simple terms, it primarily deals with matters involving shipping, fishing, navigation, waterside workers, and the transportation of people and goods over water.

This legal framework helps regulate maritime commerce, resolve disputes related to maritime activity, and manage maritime accidents and injuries. Essentially, maritime law ensures orderly and legally guided conduct of all activities and professions associated with the sea.

Particularly relevant to workers, maritime law encompasses regulations that protect the rights and safety of those employed in maritime professions. It ensures fair treatment and compensation for workers injured at sea or on waterways, maintaining an equitable balance in a challenging working environment.

What Is the Purpose of Maritime Law?

The primary purpose of maritime law is to regulate maritime activities and resolve disputes within the maritime industry. It provides a framework for international and domestic maritime commerce, ensuring safe and efficient transport of goods and people over water.

Crucially, when it comes to workers’ rights, maritime law plays a vital role in protecting the interests of seafarers and other maritime employees. It establishes standards for working conditions, addresses issues of negligence and injury, and ensures fair compensation for those injured or killed on the job. This aspect of maritime law is essential in safeguarding the rights and welfare of those who work in a high-risk maritime environment.

Read More: Why Is Maritime Law So Important?

Maritime Workers’ Rights

When injured on the job, maritime workers have specific rights and legal avenues available to them. Broadly, maritime employees are categorized into two groups: those legally recognized as seamen and those working on or near water.

A seaman is typically defined as an individual who spends a considerable amount of their working hours aboard a vessel, contributing significantly to the vessel’s operations, either as part of the crew or as a captain. The “significant amount of time” criterion is often subject to legal debate. Generally, to be classified as a seaman, an employee should spend at least 30% of their total employment time on a vessel or, for companies with multiple vessels, across the employer’s fleet.

Seamen differ from other workers in that they are not eligible for traditional workers’ compensation benefits under state or federal laws. Instead, they have the right to seek alternative remedies. This includes the option to sue their employer under the Jones Act for injuries incurred on the job. Furthermore, they can claim damages from the owner of the vessel where the injury occurred, in addition to seeking maintenance and cure benefits.

Therefore, engaging a Houston maritime attorney experienced in such legal distinctions is critical. A knowledgeable maritime lawyer, well-versed in the nuances of the Jones Act and adept at thoroughly investigating every facet of your case, is essential in ensuring your rights are fully protected and advocated for.

What Is the Jones Act in Maritime Law?

The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a fundamental aspect of U.S. maritime law. It serves a dual purpose: promoting a robust maritime industry (46 U.S.C. § 50101) and protecting American maritime workers (46 U.S.C. § 30104). One of the key provisions of the Jones Act is that it mandates goods shipped between U.S. ports be transported on ships that are built, owned, and operated by United States citizens or permanent residents (46 U.S.C. § 50102).

From a worker’s rights perspective, the Jones Act is particularly significant. It allows seamen injured at sea to obtain damages from their employers due to negligence, a right not typically afforded under general workers’ compensation laws.

The Act provides a vital avenue for maritime workers to seek compensation for injuries sustained in the course of their employment, covering medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. This legislation is important in ensuring the safety and security of maritime employees.

What Are the Duties of the Jones Act?

As a cornerstone of maritime law, the Jones Act bestows several key responsibilities and protections, including:

  • Regulating maritime commerce in U.S. waters.
  • Setting standards for vessel maintenance and crew safety.
  • Providing a legal basis for injury claims by maritime workers.
  • Ensuring fair compensation for injured maritime workers.

This legislation is pivotal in safeguarding the rights and safety of those working in the maritime sector.

Understanding Your Rights Under the Jones Act

The Jones Act enables seamen to legally pursue claims against their employers. This law mandates maritime employers to maintain a safe working environment, provide proper training, and ensure the vessel is safely maintained. If these standards are not met, workers can pursue legal claims for compensation.

Notably, the threshold for proving negligence under the Jones Act is considerably lower than in standard negligence cases. A seaman needs only to show that the employer’s negligence, however minimal, contributed to their injuries.

Read More: Does Maritime Law Apply To Your Case?

However, workers who don’t qualify as “seamen” are excluded from the Jones Act’s scope. Instead, such maritime workers’ injury claims fall under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). This act encompasses maritime employees engaged in onshore or nearshore activities who don’t fit the “seamen” criteria.

Compensation under the LHWCA resembles traditional workers’ compensation but generally offers slightly higher benefits. Understanding these distinct legal pathways is crucial for maritime workers seeking recourse for job-related injuries.

Contact a Houston Maritime Attorney

If you’re a maritime worker facing injury and uncertainty, reaching out to a skilled Houston maritime lawyer is a vital step. Patrick Daniel Law understands the purpose of maritime law and can guide you through the complexities, helping you secure the compensation you deserve.

Read More: What Does a Maritime Injury Lawyer Do?

Contact us today for a FREE case evaluation. Let our experienced Houston maritime attorney be your steadfast ally in seeking justice under the maritime laws that govern your claim. We proudly represent clients throughout the nation.

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