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Understanding The Jones Act

Understanding The Jones Act

When most workers are hurt on the job, they are able to fill out a workers’ compensation claim and call it a day. Not so for those in the maritime industry. There are federal laws for those injured on the job while out at sea, including deckhands, crew members, stevedores, longshoremen and others who are performing their job duties on navigable waters. The Jones Act protects these workers. Here’s what you need to know.

The Jones Act gives seamen who are injured on the job the right to sue their employer. Because seamen are not able to file workers’ compensation claims, this is one of the only laws that protects their right to compensation for injury.

Definition of a Seaman

Without getting into the specifics, a seaman is anyone who performs the majority of their duties aboard a vessel. In order to qualify for the Jones Act, a seaman must spend at least part-time (or 30 percent) of their working hours on a vessel.

What Is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act gives seamen the right to sue their employer for negligence. In order to win their case, the seaman must prove that someone was negligent and that negligence caused injury. Typically, the person accused of negligence is a captain, a fellow crew member or the owner of the vessel.


Under The Jones Act, an employer is required to provide a reasonably safe place of work and use ordinary care to make sure the vessel is properly maintained. The act is very employee-friendly. There are a variety of unsafe conditions for which an employer can be found liable. These include:

  • Breakage of equipment
  • Failure to maintain equipment
  • Improper training of crew members
  • Unsafe work methods
  • Assault by a fellow crew member

Burden of Proof

In typical negligence cases, the plaintiff must prove that negligence was the cause of injury. Under the Jones Act, however, the burden of proof is not so high as it is in standard workers’ compensation cases. The seaman must only prove that the negligence contributed in only a small part to the injury.

When a plaintiff wins a case under The Jones Act, they may be entitled to a variety of compensation: pain, suffering, mental anguish, lost earnings, lost earning capacity, past and future medical expenses, and even interest.

If you believe that you have been injured at work due to the negligence of your employer in South Carolina, please contact our office. A member of our team will review the details of your case and advise you of your options. Call now.

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