The Jones Act & Maritime Personal Injury Law: Navigating the Waters of Seafarer Rights

When you hear the term “personal injury law,” what comes to mind? For most, it might be car accidents, slip and fall incidents, or maybe medical malpractice. However, a lesser-known yet equally significant realm of personal injury law protects the brave individuals who work at sea – the Jones Act and Maritime Personal Injury Law.

The Unsung Heroes of the Sea

Mariners, longshoremen, fishermen, and other maritime professionals undertake challenging and often hazardous work. From the raging tempests that batter fishing boats to the heavy machinery on cargo vessels, risks in this line of work are abundant. To safeguard these seafarers, the law has put specific legislation in place.

The Jones Act: A Beacon of Hope

Passed in 1920, the Jones Act (officially called the Merchant Marine Act) primarily supports American marine commerce, but also specifically extends protection to sailors. If a sailor is injured as a result of the negligence of their employer or co-workers or because of the ship’s unseaworthiness, they can seek damages. As a Houston maritime attorney, I utilize these laws frequently to get the best possible compensation for my clients!

The unique feature of the Jones Act is the relatively lenient threshold for proving negligence. Unlike other personal injury scenarios, even a slight oversight or a minor act of negligence can lead to employer liability. General maritime law of the United States also allows injured seafarers to get maintenance (daily living expenses) and cure (medical expenses incurred or due) benefits.

Maritime Personal Injury Law: Beyond the Jones Act

Beyond the Jones Act, maritime personal injury law offers a broader array of rights and remedies:

  1. Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA): This law caters to maritime workers who aren’t sailors, but still suffer on-the-job injuries. Dockworkers and ship-repair personnel are some typical examples.
  2. Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA): This legislation provides remedies to the families of seafarers who tragically lose their lives while on international waters.
  3. General Maritime Law: This is the foundational layer, offering remedies for seafarers not covered by specific laws. An essential principle here is the “doctrine of unseaworthiness,” ensuring that vessels are fit for their intended purposes.

Why Maritime Personal Injury Law is Crucial

  1. Compensating Risk: Sea-related jobs rank high on the list of dangerous professions. These legal provisions ensure that the sacrifices and risks maritime workers take are acknowledged and compensated. As an offshore maritime injury attorney, I work to make sure victims can claim this compensation.
  2. Maintaining Standards: By holding shipowners and employers accountable, these laws ensure that safety standards are upheld.
  3. Fostering Economic Growth: A robust maritime industry is crucial for the country’s economic growth. By protecting the safety of its workers, the industry can remain attractive and continue to thrive.

While the crashing waves and vast expanse of the sea might seem romantic in literature and film, they represent an arena of immense risk for maritime professionals. The Jones Act and maritime personal injury law stand as testaments to society’s commitment to protecting these brave souls. Here at the Herd Law Firm, PLLC, we are proud to fight for maritime workers and passengers in all types of personal injury claims, and never waver in our commitment to help these maritime workers and their families when they are injured, become ill, or are killed as a result of maritime casualties.


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