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What is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is a specific section of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It deals with cabotage (coastal shipping) and defines the rights of seamen who are hurt while working at sea. The Jones Act gives seamen legal avenues for seeking compensation if they are injured due to negligent actions (or inactions) performed by the shipowner, the captain, or any other member of the crew. Essentially, it extends seamen the same protection already afforded to railroad workers. Specifically, the act states that:

“Any sailor who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right to trial by jury, and in such action all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply.”

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