The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is a federal statute that regulates maritime commerce in the United States. The Jones Act addresses the rights of seamen and defines seaman status. Those who qualify as seamen can make claims and collect damages for injuries they sustain due to the negligence of their employers. This can include the negligence of the owner of the vessel they are working aboard, the captain of the vessel, and fellow members of the crew.
The Jones Act defines seamen status. Congress enacted the Act to protect the right of seamen injured while performing duties on the vessel and the rights of the families of seamen who were killed. A seaman is defined as a person who spends 30 percent or more of his time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters. People who qualify as seamen include sailors, fishermen, divers, masons, stewards, surveyors, and many others. Seamen often work on jack-up rigs, tugboats, supply boats, barges, fishing boats, freighters, and tankers just to name a few. Seamen plaintiffs may bring actions against their employers in either federal or state court. Seaman are also entitled to trial by jury.