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What Is The Jones Act?

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act, is a federal law that addresses maritime commercial activity in the United States.

While the Jones Act covers many aspects of maritime commercial activity, one of its roles is to protect people who work on the water. It offers recourse for mates, deckhands, leadmen, captains, pilots, masters, engineers, cooks and others who have been injured working on a towboat, tugboat, barge or ship. This includes employees who make their living on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland and other area rivers.

Many people consider the Jones Act a type of workers’ compensation. It does offer benefits to injured workers. However, the mechanisms it uses to provide those benefits and the types of benefits provided are dramatically different than those under workers’ compensation law. Injured river workers have unique rights that may not apply to other lines of work. Most importantly, the Jones Act allows a seaman to sue his employer and recover full tort damages for his employer’s negligence. This is a dramatic departure from land-based claims, where an employer is immune from suit from its employees in exchange for providing workers’ compensation coverage.

Maintenance And Cure Benefits

Under the general maritime law, injured river workers are entitled to receive maintenance and cure benefits from their employer. Maintenance is essentially payment for room and board, and the day-to-day sustenance-level living expenses, for the employee who was hurt on the job. Cure refers to payment for medical costs associated with a work-related injury or illness suffered by someone working on a river. Maintenance and cure is payable to the injured river worker until he or she reaches maximum medical improvement. When cure is appropriately terminated it is oftentimes a matter of dispute, and it is important to have a skilled attorney in your corner to make sure that you get all of the medical care you need to fully recover from your injury.

Working With A Jones Act Attorney

Jones Act claims are very different from traditional workers’ compensation claims or regular state law-based tort claims. Most lawyers have never handled a Jones Act claim and are totally unfamiliar with them. It is vitally important that you hire an attorney who is experienced in handling Jones Act claims. Be a smart consumer of legal services and ask specific questions about experience with these type of claims and case results before entrusting your claim to an attorney. Do not assume that all lawyers who handle personal injury claims are familiar with the Jones Act, most are not.


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At Katz Law in Paducah, Kentucky, our lawyers have recovered millions of dollars for people who make their living working on and around the river. We have over 30 years’ history of success in Jones Act claims, maintenance and cure claims, and related matters. We have the experience to get meaningful results in these complex cases, and we always start by offering a free consultation.

Call us today at 270-908-2872, or send us an email
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