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How Would Repealing the Jones Act Affect Boston Maritime Workers?

Published in Maritime Law on September 30, 2015

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Boston is a port city, and it is estimated that it supports over 50,000 workers – a figure that does not include all the Bostonians who work at maritime jobs not directly related to the port’s functioning. Thus, the Jones Act is a very important piece of legislation for all of these workers.

How the Jones Act Governs Maritime Workers

Part of the Jones Act relates to the types of vessels that can function commercially in United States waters. The intent of this part of the legislation is to regulate trade in the United States. Foreign-made vessels and passenger vessels, such as yachts, are subject to a number of restrictions on what they can and cannot do in US waters.

However, for the many Bostonian jobs that rely on maritime functions, the most important features of the Jones Act are not the trade laws. Instead, they are the laws relating to the relationship between employers and maritime workers. Prior to the passage of the Jones Act, there were few laws governing these relationships, and employers were not held to any standard liability for injuries to their crew resulting from employer negligence. The Jones Act changed that; now employers can be held liable for any injury or wrongful death resulting from the negligence of officers or other representatives of the employer.

In these cases, negligence covers all the same situations it would if the employment was on land rather than at sea. The employer is still expected to give standard compensations for negligence-caused injury or wrongful death. These suits must be filed within three years under maritime law – a similar period as given in Massachusetts state law.

The Future of This Legislation

A number of organizations are currently calling for the repeal of the Jones Act because of the trade restrictions on places that are not states but are affiliated with the United States, such as Puerto Rico. Although the trade restrictions may be onerous, repealing the Jones Act entirely could have severe repercussions on the safety of sailors and other maritime workers. Without some explicit requirement for these employers to follow the injury and wrongful death standards after the repeal, there may be no way for maritime workers to receive appropriate compensation if they are injured due to the negligence of their employers.

Not only would this affect compensation due to injury and lost wages, but it would have serious repercussions for the families of maritime workers. If wrongful death is no longer covered, these families would likely undergo further hardship because one of their primary sources of income has been lost and they have no other means of offsetting the financial difficulties involved.

If you need help navigating the complex legalities of United States maritime law, particularly with regards to personal injury and wrongful death, contact Sweeney Merrigan Law, LLP. Our partners are experienced litigators and have particular expertise in the field of maritime law. We understand the benefits those injured at sea are entitled to and what those benefits mean to the families of maritime workers.

With an expert in the field of maritime law who is considered a “Rising Star, Super Lawyer,” we will see that your case gets a thorough investigation. If your employer was negligent and you were injured, or if employer negligence resulted in the wrongful death of a loved one, you may be entitled to compensation. We will speak with everyone involved, guarantee that every fact receives due consideration, and ensure you are appropriately represented and receive the best compensation possible. Contact our firm to get started.

For more information, call our law office at (617)-391-9001. Or if you would prefer to email us, then please visit our contact page.

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