What Makes the Jones Act So Controversial?

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The Jones Act is one area of maritime law that has received extensive scrutiny from lawmakers over the past few decades. To understand what makes the bill so controversial, you must first understand what the Jones Act entails, what it was initially designed to protect, and how proposed changes affect you and your ability to receive compensation in the future.

A Primer on the Jones Act and How It Affects New Orleans Workers

The Jones Act was originally passed in 1920. It is there to protect maritime workers and ensure that the maritime industry is a safe and efficient. Employers are held accountable for any injuries or fatalities under the Act.

Recently, the Jones Act has received more national attention as the United States Customs and Border Protection Agency has attempted to revise and remove 30 rulings under the Act dating back to 1976. These relate to offshore operations and apply to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. The changes proposed could limit overseas growth, and therefore the current presidential administration has put a freeze on these changes.

The Controversial Changes Proposed for the Jones Act

Over the past few years, lawmakers have been proposing changes to the act, some of which are highly controversial. Some lawmakers have even suggested that the entire bill should be repealed and replaced. This is because lawmakers feel the law is archaic, outdated, and restricts economic growth due to its effect on imports and exports.

What lawmakers ignore, however, is the protections that this Act offers workers who are helping our economy thrive by working far from home every day out on the open water.

Most of the controversial changes proposed for the Jones Act will not impact how workers collect compensation. Therefore, if you have seen the Act in the news and are worried that you might lose protections, you do not have to worry just yet. But with lawmakers working hard to change or overturn past rulings in Jones Act claims – there could be changes in the future that affect workers and the obligations employers have for providing safe work environments.

Are You Qualified for Compensation Under the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is designed to protect “seafarers.”

Seafarer is a term used by the courts, and not all maritime industry employees qualify under this definition. Instead, workers outside of the realm of seafarer would be eligible under other acts, such as the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.

A seafarer is someone who spends a significant amount of their employment time on a vessel that is in navigation, which means the ship is at sea or in an intracoastal waterway and capable of moving about the vast ocean. The employee must spend at least 30 percent of their employment hours on a ship in navigation to qualify under the Jones Act. Also, the vessel must be afloat, in operation, and capable of moving.

A vessel that is parked in the open ocean, such as an oil rig, may not qualify as a vessel in navigation, primarily if it is fixed to the ocean floor or cannot readily move about the waters.

Understanding Your Right to Compensation

If you are injured at work and you do qualify as a seafarer, then you also are entitled to compensation under the Jones Act.

The Jones Act provides you with a way to seek compensation from your employer who is negligent and causes an injury, illness, or death. In these cases, the burden of proof is low, and you only need to show that your employer was partially negligent in your accident to qualify for compensation.

The Jones Act establishes that all seafarers have the right to a safe work environment, and all employers hiring seafarers must supply a hazard-free work environment. Some ways they must do this include:

  • Providing all workers with proper training and ensuring employees do their jobs as trained.
  • Ensuring all boat maintenance and equipment is regularly updated and in accordance with any manufacturer specifications.
  • Maintaining a safe dock environment, including removing debris and slick surfaces.
  • Providing safety equipment for all workers on board, having safety equipment inspected, and replacing outdated safety equipment.
  • Never allowing a vessel to go into the ocean that is unsafe or allowing a ship to travel when the weather is too dangerous.

If your employer was negligent and you suffered injuries as a result, you can seek damages from that employer under the Jones Act. However, you need to hire an attorney to see if you qualify under the Jones Act protections, and to start the process of filing your claim.

What Damages Can You Receive?

The damages you would receive are similar to an injury case or workers’ compensation claim. You can request damages for your medical costs, lost wages, and even future earning capacity if you suffer from a severe injury.

Some damages may include future medical costs, pain and suffering, and emotional trauma – depending on the severity of the injury and what caused that injury.
If there is a wrongful death, family members can also seek damages against the employer for their loved one’s death, including funeral and burial costs.

Time Limits for Filing Your Claim

Like other personal injury statutes, there is a limit to how long you can wait to file a claim using the Jones Act. Currently, the law limits you to three years from the date of discovery or injury.
Do not wait to file your claim, however. The moment you realize that your employer was negligent, and you suffered a severe injury, you should contact an attorney that focuses on maritime injury law.

If you have been seriously injured as a maritime employee, you have rights under the Jones Act, and various other laws designed to protect you. Schedule a consultation today with Shlosman Law Firm right here in Louisiana. We have helped countless seafarers and maritime employees receive compensation for their work-related injuries.

Schedule a free case evaluation now at 504-826-9427 or request more information online.