July 12, 2023

Understanding Jones Act Damages: A Comprehensive Guide For Maritime Workers


The Jones Act, also referred to as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a significant piece of legislation that safeguards the rights of sailors and seamen working in U.S. waters and ports. This article aims to provide an in-depth understanding of Jones Act damages, how these damages are proven, collected, and how to build a strong case for pain and suffering.

The Essence of Jones Act

The Jones Act, established in 1920, was revised in 2006 to better protect maritime workers. It fills gaps not addressed by land-based laws, ensuring the welfare of sailors and fostering the growth of the shipping industry.

The Act extends protections to a wide range of maritime professions, including but not limited to:

  • Captains
  • Deckhands
  • Engineers
  • Fishermen
  • Mates
  • Pilots
  • Stewards
  • Cooks
  • Bartenders
  • Divers

Anyone contributing to the work of a vessel for at least 30% of their time in navigable waters is generally protected under the Jones Act.

The Jones Act and its Protective Measures

Maritime workers often do not qualify for federal or state-based workers’ compensation when injured, leaving them vulnerable. The Jones Act addresses this by enabling maritime workers to recover damages from accidents and injuries resulting from employer negligence.

What constitutes “Navigable Waters”?

To be protected under the Jones Act, seamen must work on navigable waters. This implies that their main job function should be offshore or on a vessel that’s moored but capable of navigating on water. Even vessels undergoing repair but still in water are considered “in navigation.”

The Concept of Contribution to the Work of the Vessel

The Act protects any seaman who works on a vessel in navigable waters. It does not matter what the job function is; as long as the individual works on the vessel, they are considered to be contributing to the vessel’s work.

Types of Negligence Under The Jones Act

It’s crucial to understand that the Jones Act does not cover accidents resulting from seamen’s own actions or those not caused by anyone’s fault. It is only when injuries occur as a result of employer negligence that seamen are protected. Common examples of negligence include:

  • Failure to provide proper safety training
  • Neglecting regular equipment check-ups
  • Ignoring necessary repairs to malfunctioning equipment
  • Not providing workers with appropriate safety gear
  • Overlooking the placement of warning signs in hazardous areas
  • Failing to ensure vessel decks contain non-skid surfaces
  • Not providing a seaworthy vessel

Compensation and Benefits Under The Jones Act

The Jones Act provides compensation in three primary areas: loss of earnings, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. In certain instances, punitive damages may also be applicable.

Lost Earnings

Compensation for lost earnings includes current earnings and future earning capacity, considering potential pay raises and career advancements. Benefits such as vacation time, 401K, and/or pensions are also taken into account.

Medical Expenses

The Jones Act covers present and anticipated future medical expenses. This can include medication, physical therapy, rehabilitation, surgeries, mental health treatment, and more.

Pain and Suffering

The Jones Act also provides compensation for both physical and mental anguish resulting from the injury. Several factors, including the severity of the injuries and the extent of physical pain and mental distress, determine the compensation amount.

Punitive Damages

In cases where employers have knowingly and recklessly breached their duty in providing a seaworthy vessel, seamen may be eligible for punitive damages.

Making Your Case for Jones Act Damages

If you’re a maritime worker who’s been injured on the job, it’s crucial to understand your legal rights and options under the Jones Act. At Cueria Law Firm LLC, our team of experienced personal injury attorneys can help guide you through the process, ensuring you receive the compensation you deserve.

Don’t hesitate to contact us today for more information or to schedule a free consultation. You’re not alone in this; let us help you navigate your way to recovery.


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