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What is the Jones Act in simple terms?

On Behalf of | Aug 22, 2022 | Jones Act |

The Jones Act is a maritime law that defines the rights of anyone injured on a vessel. It also sets guidelines for safety.

The act is a federal regulation that applies to all U.S. waterways. PBS explains its original name was the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.


The act will apply to commercial vessels. It covers seamen on these vessels, but the definition of seaman is vague. To prove you have a claim, you need to prove you are a covered individual first. You generally have coverage if you work on the vessel and the boat is at sea at least 30% of the time you are on the clock.


The Jones Act allows you to sue your employer for damages. You will go to court for a personal injury lawsuit. You can choose to have a jury trial and decide if you wish to go to state or federal court. Keep in mind that an award under this act is not guaranteed because you are going through the court system instead of something like a workers’ compensation system.


If you make a claim, it must be within three years of your injury. It is a requirement that you alert your employer to the injury within three days of it occurring, though. You also must have an accident report to show you reported within the time limit. You can seek payments for living expenses, medical costs and lost wages. Typically, you will negotiate and reach a settlement with your employer. But you may also have to go to court and through a trial to get payment.