The Jones Act of 1920
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more formally known as the “Jones Act” is a federal statute that has multiple functions. On one hand it’s serves to promote and protect Merchant Mariners, and on the other it promotes business in the United States by establishing certain requirements for shipbuilding and trade. All told, HBN’s attorneys operate under the guise of the Jones Act daily. The Jones Act is at the core of every aspect of maritime law and affects every shipowners and merchant mariner operating out of or in the United States waters. This is why it’s important for shipowners to have representation that know the inner workings of the Jones Act through experience. HBN has that experience and excels at representing clients under the Jones Act. One of the main aspects of maritime personal injuries falls under the Jones Act, which allows seaman to bring suit in state court when they are injured by the negligence of a shipowner with the right to a jury trial. Negligence in maritime law is relatively the same as negligence under the common law with more protections for the shipowners. Shipowners must operate their vessel as to ensure not to increase the harms and dangers of working onboard a vessel by failing or breaching a duty not to cause harm to its workers. In maritime law a shipowner must act with reasonable care to ensure they do not fail or breach a duty owed to its seaman. Shipowners are in very unique and difficult position when an injury occurs onboard its ship. As seaman are statutorily allowed to demand a trial by jury, a shipowners is in trouble right off the bat. A jury made up of our peers will most likely be empaneled without anyone on the jury have any experience or understanding of vessels or their operations on navigable waters. Therefore, shipowners must retain counsel that is strategically positioned to assist the jury in explaining vessel operations and why or why not a shipowner acted with reasonable care towards its seaman. A major tool in a shipowner’s arsenal is the defense of comparative fault, which allows for a reduction in damages based on the percentage of fault that the seaman is responsible for. This affirmative defense operates to reduce a seamans claim of damages when the principles of common sense should have applied to the scenario in which the seaman was injured. At HBN, we have asserted the comparative negligence defense on behalf of shipowners under many circumstances and since we have strategically positioned our firm with a foot forward by having mariners as lawyers, we are in a better position to explain to the jury the principles of common sense and why the seaman failed to exercise it.