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The Texas Jones Act: Maritime Law and You

If you’re a merchant worker serving in the capacity of working on a navigable vessel at sea for around a third of the time you’re on the clock, and you’re hurt on the job, you’re not protected by normal workers’ compensation laws. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t get compensation for the injuries you suffer.

Rather than state laws, you’re actually protected by federal statutes—specifically the Merchant Marine Act, also known as the Jones Act. Learn everything you need to know about the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the protections it offers seamen, and why a Jones Act Attorney is important.


The Jones Act is more properly known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It exists to protect maritime employees such as sailors, offshore workers, and other seamen who get injured in the course of their job, through no fault of their own. This law is in place because since most maritime work occurs outside of state borders, workers can’t be covered by state workers’ compensation laws.

The Jones Act permits seamen who get injured on the job to sue their employer to collect financial damages for their injury, assuming the employer in some way contributed to said injury. The definition of “seamen” under the Act means any worker who spends at least 30% of the time they are on the clock, on a vessel in navigation.


Again, the Jones Act is very specific in defining what it means for a ship to be in navigation. Under the law, the vessel in question must be on waters that can be navigated, must be afloat and operating, and must be capable of moving.


The Jones Act is designed to protect sailors from exploitation on the job. It requires employers of maritime workers to provide healthcare to their employees, to maintain safe working environments and requires all U.S. ships to comply with existing EPA regulations. In addition, it sets clear standards for maintenance of vessels, for safety equipment like lifeboats, for training and licensing, and qualifications of the crew.

It also calls for any goods shipped between U.S. ports to be shipped by U.S. vessels that are primarily operated by American sailors and maritime workers. It provides our nation with a merchant marine workforce that continues the transport of goods and increases national security during times of war, as well as supporting the maritime industry. It was first created in 1920 to ensure a safe network for merchant mariners during World War I and has been amended a number of times since then, the most recent amendment coming in 2006.


If you do get hurt while working on a vessel at sea, you may be entitled to protections under the Jones Act. Since it has seen amendments and is specific in its protections, however, it’s important to have knowledgeable legal help in pursuing your case. That’s where a qualified Jones Act attorney like the Bandas Law Firm comes into play. If you need help with your Jones Act case, call us for a free case consultation today.