The Jones Act: Flag of Vessel Matters
The nationality of the vessel you worked on may affect your ability to file a Jones Act lawsuit.
Fishermen, oil rig workers, cruise ship crew members, and other offshore workers can (and often are) injured on the job. Prior to the Jones Act, injured offshore workers couldn’t recover the compensation that they needed to recover from their injuries. “Maintenance and cure” did help workers and seaman partially, but prior to 1920 there was no legal remedy for a seaman to be “made whole.”
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act, applies to maritime commerce and travel in U.S. waters. When it was passed, it provided many of the same rights onshore workers enjoyed to those who work offshore.
The Jones act provides a remedy for those injured at sea, allowing them to obtain compensation from negligent Jones Act employers. Additionally, family members of those killed at sea can recover under this law.
THE JONES ACT & THE LAW OF THE FLAG
The Jones Act only covers American vessels and does not apply to ships that are made in a foreign country or are considered foreign in any way.
Under the “law of the flag,” crewmen and passengers on a vessel are subject to the laws of the country corresponding to the flag flown by a vessel. Flying a flag other than the American flag can easily label a ship as foreign and can thus interfere with the coverage of its crew under the Jones Act.
For instance, if a cruise ship is operated by a domestic (American) Cruise line but sails out of Panama and has a foreign flag, the American crewmembers on board may not have grounds to seek out compensation under the Jones Act. The crew members may be bound by whatever employment/arbitration agreement was signed with the cruise ship owner, and could potentially have to litigate their injury claim in a foreign country.
It is important to know what country’s flag is flying over the vessel which you board. The crew of vessels operating under a foreign flag risk losing potential claims after offshore accidents.
If you’re uncertain about what your options for compensation are after a preventable accident, call an offshore injury firm as soon as possible.