The History of the Jones Act

February 01, 2011 @ 03:23 PM -- by

As a Corpus Christi and Port Lavaca Texas maritime and  Jones Act lawyer, the history of the Jones Act is interesting to me. Prior to 1920, seafarers had very little legal protection against horrible working and living conditions while working aboard ships. With the passing of section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which is now referred to as the Jones Act, workers aboard ships received better safety and better remedies if they got injured. The Act received its name from Senator Wesley L. Jones of Washington state, who proposed the law to maintain a good and viable working force on the seas. This was intended to increase the growth of worldwide marine commerce.

Even though the rights of working seamen were recognized around the world for several centuries, the Jones Act codified their protection, rights and remedies under United States’ courts. Over the years, the Jones Act has been rewritten and amended various times. In 2006, the latest version of the Act was codified.

The Jones Act is a cabotage law, which governs the transport of passengers or goods between two points within the same country. Under the law, 75% of the vessel’s crewmembers must be United States citizens.

The Jones Act does a great job of protecting sailors by allowing them to claim damages from their employers for negligence. This negligence may be caused by the ship owner, the captain, or a crewmember. The seaman may also have a claim for unseaworthiness of the vessel. Generally speaking, the seafarer has to spend at least 30% of his time in the service of the vessel on navigable waters. Whether a worker is a Jones Act seaman is often a highly contested and litigated issue.

The Jones Act has had some criticisms. Some people believe that the various restrictions and regulations on shipping and safety and working conditions causes the cost moving goods, commerce and passengers between ports to rise. This is probably true to a certain extent, but in my mind the greater safety is worth the extra cost. Contact Corpus Christi and Port Lavaca maritime and Jones Act attorneyScott Nelson if you or a loved one needs help with a maritime matter.