What is the Jones Act and What Should a Lawyer Know About It?

maritime lawyer boatOceans cover 71% of the world’s surface area. And though the oceans aren’t inhabited as much as metropolitan areas like Houston, it’s not a lawless territory.

We’re not talking about pirates scouring the high seas. We’re talking about the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, otherwise known as the Jones Act.

Whether you’re a landlocked-lawyer or one with strong sea legs, the Jones Act is a federal statute any maritime lawyer worth his salt should know about.

Don’t know what the Jones Act is or why it’s important? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Read on to learn the ins and outs of the Jones Act.

Background on the Jones Act

Though enacted in 1920, the Jones Act’s concept dates back to the beginning of our nation. In 1789, the young Congress of the United States penned a law to regulate vessels for coastal trade. This law required American ships to meet certain standards before trades.

The Jones Act of 1920 expands on the tariff of 1789 by formalizing the rights of seamen. Under the Jones Act, sailors can make claims for injury or negligence against the owners of the ship.

This was a groundbreaking law for the well-being of sailors due to the fact that certain claims weren’t covered under the international maritime law.

Like any law, the Jones Act undergoes slight alterations on a case by case basis. That’s why keeping up with the Jones Act is key to the success of maritime lawyers.

What A Maritime Lawyer Should Know About the Jones Act

In recent news, the Jones Act has been getting large amounts of attention. So, it’s important to stay up-to-date with this law. After all, as a maritime lawyer, odds are high that you’ll get a case that involves this act.

Here’s what you need to know about the Jones Act of today’s standards.

1. Some Territories Are Exempt from the Jones Act

While the Jones Act deals with coastal trade in US waters, there are a few exceptions to the rule. Here is a list of US territories that are exempt from the Jones Act:

  • American Samoa
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Northern Mariana Islands
  • Guam (partial exempted)

To find out more about exemptions from the Jones Act, check with a maritime lawyer.

2. Only Qualified Seamen Have Coverage Under the Jones Act

To qualify for the Jones Act, a seaman must work on a vessel for a specific amount of time. The work on the vessel should relate to the purpose of the vessel as well. And, the vessel must operate in navigable waters.

These qualifications are set in stone, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a little wiggle room to alter the Jones Act.

3. It’s Possible to Waive the Jones Act

In the event of a natural disaster or for emergencies, the Department of Homeland Security reviews the Jones Act to alter or waive it. After hurricanes Harvey, Katrina, and Irma, the Jones Act was waived to provide relief.

Keep up with the news to determine the status of the Jones Act for future cases.

Recapping the Jones Act

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 was put in place to protect workers’ rights. Not everyone that works on or by the water has coverage under the Jones Act. And there are certain circumstances that can waive the Jones Act, such as declining oil production or hurricane relief.

Now that you’ve got a solid background on the Jones Act, you know what every maritime lawyer should know. So, go on and practice maritime law with more confidence than ever before.

Take a look at our blog for even more information on the maritime law.

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