Seamen have been protected against injuries occurring onboard ships caused by a ship owner's or captain's negligence since the 1920s under the Jones Act. Unfortunately, these rights may be stripped away if a newly proposed amendment to the US Maritime Administration (MARAD) is passed.
A MARAD Reauthorization Bill Amendment proposed by Senator Dan Sullivan (R) of Alaska to the Senate Commerce Committee contains a provision that would effectively destroy the Jones Act in favor of much more lenient compensation requirements for injured seamen. If the bill should pass, cruise lines and the commercial fishing industry would be exempt from compensating injured seamen who are non-resident aliens on ships registered under the flag of foreign nations. When considering the fact that a majority of cruise lines and fishing companies are incorporated on paper in foreign countries to evade corporate income taxes, this would provide yet another way for these companies to guard their already massive profits.
This legislation would have a massive impact on American jobs by providing cruise lines with an incentive to hire foreign workers in order to circumvent the responsibility of having to pay their crew members in the event of their illness or injury. As a result, cruise lines would be free from the law to hire the cheapest and labor and spend as little as possible on critical crewmember training. In effect, this blatantly violates the primary rule of putting passengers' safety first, exposing them to a greater possibility of harm at sea.
This is not the first time that this amendment has been proposed. GOP legislators have previously attempted to hide a similar "policy rider" provision into the Coast Guard reauthorization bill, though it was eventually defeated. The GOP has essentially claimed that the Jones Act is a "trial lawyer" special interest law and is threatening to prevent the US Maritime Administration from being funded unless this amendment is passed. This is a true shame, as the Jones Act has nothing to do with trial lawyers and is simply a means to provide seamen with the same protections that workers would otherwise receive under their employers' workers' compensation insurance.
It is crucial that this bill be defeated just like it was before. The safety of cruise ship passengers and the rights of the American worker are far more important than the profits of cruise lines.
Contact a Miami Jones Act Attorney
If you are a seaman that has been injured on an active vessel on navigable waters, you may have grounds to seek compensation under the Jones Act. At David C. Rash, P.A., our Miami maritime law attorney has more than 25 years of dedicated legal experience and can fight to maximize your chances of securing the financial recovery you deserve.
Read David Rash's letter to Senator Nelson