In multiple ways that even those aware of the law don’t always stop to remember, The Jones Act provides protections for people who work in and around U.S. waters.
Besides its benefits for workers after an on-the-job injury or illness, its rules for finding fault also promote more careful attention to safe conditions aboard vessels, thereby potentially preventing injuries before they happen.
Jones Act is like workers’ comp but also very different
Of course, the Jones Act benefits workers with something akin to workers’ compensation, paying living expenses and medical bills for job-related health issues. The act also requires that if you’re injured working on the job, your transportation and wages are paid until you get back home. The days of abandoning a sick sailor in a foreign port are long gone.
Other workers’ compensation systems work in comparable ways, but among the Jones Act’s most effective aspects are its approach to negligence.
Injured people in some systems, including civil courts, are usually faced with sharing a percentage of fault, blame or negligence with another party, or they may even bear the burden of showing the other party to be entirely to blame.
Any degree of employer negligence is enough for Jones
Jones Act claims must show only that some part, however small, was played by the employer in the accident or conditions that caused the employee’s health issue. As a result, the incentives for employers arising from the Jones Act tend to run heavily in favor of “running a tight ship.”
Partially unsafe conditions can depend on either large or seemingly small issues such as food scraps, grease or oil or even water, missing handrails, poor or missing signage, and lax training and discipline among workers. It’s worth considering whether attention to these small details may also help prevent more serious defects of the kind that lead to more large-scale accidents.