Most Rhode Island employees who are injured in on-the-job accidents are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, but these programs do not protect mariners who work on vessels in international waters. That is one of the reasons why Congress passed the Merchant Marine Act in 1920. This law, which is also called the Jones Act because it was introduced by Sen. Wesley Jones, regulates maritime commerce and requires all goods transported between U.S. ports to be carried by ships owned and operated by American citizens or permanent residents.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act also allows injured maritime workers to file claims against their employers when they are injured in workplace accidents caused partly or wholly by negligence. To qualify as a Jones Act seaman, people must spend at least 30% of their working hours on a vessel in navigation. A ship is considered to be in navigation when it is at sea or on navigable waters. This means the law covers virtually all crew members.
To receive compensation under the Jones Act, an injured maritime worker must only establish that their employer’s negligence was a contributory factor. They are not required to prove that negligence was the proximate cause of their injuries. Most maritime injury claims are settled because the 1920 law also allows injured workers to sue their employers.
Protecting maritime workers
Maritime workers are crucial to the U.S. economy, but the jobs they perform are often dangerous. When they are injured in accidents caused by negligence, the 1920 Jones Act allows them to file compensation claims against their employers. If an injured maritime worker cannot reach an agreement with their employer to settle a Jones Act claim, the law allows them to file a lawsuit.