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What is the Jones Act and why is it important?

Many Louisianans make their living working on ships. These positions often require a unique set of skills, and the duties involved can be challenging. They can also be dangerous. It is important for Louisianan workers to know, though, that the laws that apply to ships in domestic and international waters can differ from those imposed on land. With this in mind, those who have suffered harm while at sea should be sure to familiarize themselves with the law so that they can ensure that they can know when legal action is appropriate.

One of the most important maritime laws is the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. This important federal statute is critical for those who are injured while at sea, as it extends the Federal Employer's Liability Act to cover seamen. Under the law, those who are hurt at sea while operating within the course of their employment can file a lawsuit against their employer for damages suffered.

A lawsuit filed under the Jones Act can be brought in either state or federal court. Though maritime law typically disallows plaintiffs from having their case heard by a jury, the Jones Act explicitly allows for a jury trial. This is an important aspect, as a jury may sympathize more with an injured worker, perhaps giving him or her an edge when it comes to imposing liability and recovering compensation.

Though an individual can bring a personal injury lawsuit via the Jones Act, the maritime laws surrounding such claims can be complex. Therefore, those who have questions about admiralty and maritime laws and how they might apply to a specific circumstance may want to speak with a legal professional who is experienced with such matters.

Source: Legal Information Institute, "Jones Act," accessed on May 9, 2016

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