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Home > Maritime & Admiralty Law > Jones Act & Crewmember Claims

The Jones Act

Federal statute 46 U.S.C. section 30104 is referred to as The Jones Act, or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (“Act”). The Act requires that all cargo traveling by navigable waters in the United States be carried on United States ships, constructed in the United States, owned by American citizens, and consist of American citizen and/or permanent resident crew members.

The Act was established to maintain United States-based construction contracts, tax revenues, citizen employment, and ensure high standards of competency on board vessels. Additionally, the Act was codified to include provisions governing injuries to merchant mariners, including seamen and fishermen.

Crewmember Claims

Federal statute 46 U.S.C. section 30104 is referred to as The Jones Act, or the Merchant Marine Act (“Act”). The Act, established in 1920, protects seamen who are injured in workplace accidents, requiring ship owners to keep vessels safe while entitling employees to recover if they incur injuries. If the ship owner is found negligent and the vessel is considered unseaworthy, a seaman may be able to recover in the form of compensation through pain and suffering, lost wages, and/or other related damages. In order to qualify for the Act, a seaman must spend more than thirty percent of his/her time employed on a vessel on navigable waters.

The Act specifically states:

A seaman injured in the course of employment or, if the seaman dies from the injury, the personal representative of the seaman may elect to bring a civil action at law, with the right of trial by jury, against the employer.

Foreign crewmembers or Americans injured while under a contract that involves one or more foreign countries may attend arbitration to resolve their claims against a cruise line. If the employee is foreign, arbitration may be compelled under the United Nations Convention, requiring the following:

  • A written agreement to arbitrate;
  • The agreement provides for arbitration in the territory of a signatory of the Convention;
  • The agreement arises out of a commercial legal relationship; and
  • A party to the agreement must not be an American citizen or the commercial relationship must have some reasonable relation with one or more foreign countries.

Arbitration may be compelled in regard to an American crewmember based on the language of the contract and the facts surrounding the employment relationship between the crewmember and the cruise line.

If you qualify under The Jones Act, are employed by a ship owner, work on a vessel, and were injured while acting in the scope of your employment due to the negligence of your employer, contact the Law Offices of Brandon L. Chase to discuss legal representation for your potential claims.

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