If you use water transportation for your commercial business, you likely need to follow the rules and guidelines of the Jones Act. The Jones Act is an important section of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a set of federal laws that dictates what kind of commercial business can take place in U.S. waters and at U.S. ports.
Maritime law generally falls under federal jurisdiction, but state courts can also address maritime matters. Knowing the scope of the laws for your situation is critical for building your cases and defenses when necessary.
The Jones Act outlines rules for shipping vessels used in U.S. commerce. The act states that commercial ships going from one U.S. port to another must be built and registered in the U.S., and owned and manned by Americans.
The Jones Act can be waived at times of national crisis, like when natural disasters hit, to increase aid and supply availability.
The Jones Act contains additional provisions for sailors to seek legal recourse and remedies if they’re injured on a commercial vessel. As a result, many boat and marine-based insurance policies have coverage options specific to the rules of the Jones Act.
Failing to abide by the laws of the Jones Act can have serious consequences. If you’re caught using improper ships or crews, the government can seize your cargo or may levy fines that equal the value of your cargo and transportation.
If a sailor on your ship is hurt in the course of their employment, they could have the option to sue their employers or fellow crew members for personal injuries and negligence. Typically, people employed on waterways don’t qualify for worker’s compensation, so the Jones Act litigation powers can be one of their only pathways to injury compensation.
Unsafe working conditions or improper maintenance of your ship, equipment, and surfaces could make you liable for negligence if an employee is hurt. Employers can be liable for the actions of their other employees that cause another crew-mates injuries, whether that’s from the employees’ own personal negligence separate from ship operations, or even intentional injuries and assault.
Maritime law can be complicated, as the rules can differ drastically from the regulations that apply on land. Understanding the rules and restrictions of maritime law is essential for running a safe and profitable business. If you need help learning the Jones Act laws, you may need help from legal professionals to keep your commercial trade in compliance.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified jones act lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local jones act attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.