How Does the Jones Act Apply to Cruise Ships?

How Does the Jones Act Apply to Cruise Ships?

Cruise ships are popular vacation options for many individuals in the United States. They enjoy Alaska cruises and cruises to Puerto Rico. However, many people do not realize that the Jones Act applies to cruise ships. 

The Jones Act is best known for allowing injured seamen to file claims against their employers for negligence. However, this section of the Merchant Marine Act applies to cruise ships traveling between ports because the Act applies to commerce occurring at American ports or on United States waterways.

Cruise Ships and the Jones Act 

Cruise Ships and the Jones Act

The Jones Act requires U.S.-owned, built, and documented vessels to transport merchandise between U.S. ports. Likewise, The Passenger Vessel Services Act (PVSA) places the same restrictions on the cruise industry. Only U.S. ships can transport passengers between U.S. ports. Foreign cruise lines cannot travel directly from one U.S. port to another U.S. port.

The law makes it inconvenient for foreign ships to travel from the Hawaiian islands to other U.S. ports of call because they must find a foreign port of call to stop at before continuing to the U.S. port of call, such as Los Angeles. Therefore, foreign-flagged ships are not registered or operated under the laws of the United States.

Why is this important for injured cruise ship employees? The Jones Act does not apply to foreign-flagged ships. The Jones Act only applies to cruise ships operating in the United States. 

Therefore, employees of foreign owned, built, and operated cruise lines do not enjoy the protections offered to injured seamen under the Jones Act.

Injuries Sustained by Seamen on Cruise Ships

Cruise line employees work long hours. Many cruise ship jobs are dangerous and stressful. Crew accidents and injuries are common. 

The Jones Act protects cruise lines from foreign competition and protects seamen injured while working on a cruise ship. If a seaman is injured during the ordinary course of employment, the seaman can sue the employer for negligence. 

However, the Jones Act does not protect guests on passenger ships. If a guest is injured on a cruise ship, other maritime laws might apply in those cases. 

Unlike a workers’ compensation claim, claims under the Jones Act are based on negligence. Winning a Jones Act lawsuit requires the injured crew member to prove the following legal elements:

Duty of Care

You must prove that your employer owed you a duty of care to provide a safe workplace. Generally, this is known as providing a seaworthy vessel. Cruise ship employers must provide adequate training, safety equipment, and maintain the ship in a seaworthy condition.

Breach of Duty

The employer knew or should have known about an unsafe or hazardous condition but failed to correct it. For instance, an employer may breach the duty of care if it fails to repair broken stairs leading from the crew member’s quarters to the decks above. 


The breach of duty must have led to or contributed to your injuries. The burden of proof for fault is lower in a Jones Act claim than in other personal injury cases. 

You could win a Jones Act claim by proving your employer’s action contributed to your injuries. In other personal injury lawsuits, you must prove the defendant’s conduct was the direct and proximate cause of your injuries. 


You must have sustained damages because of the breach of duty. Damages can include medical bills, physical injuries, lost wages, emotional distress, and pain and suffering

Even though the burden of proof for a cruise ship Jones Act claim is lower, it is still wise to seek legal advice from a Houston Jones Act claims lawyer. Your employer or its insurance provider might try to claim that you are partially to blame for the cause of your injury.

Contributory fault laws apply to negligence claims under the Jones Act. Therefore, if you were partially to blame for the cause of your injury, you could receive a lower amount for your damages. An attorney can help you fight unjust comparative negligence claims designed to cheat you out of the money you deserve. 

Who Can File a Jones Act Claim for a Cruise Ship Accident?

The Jones Act applies to employees on cruise ships, including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • Captains
  • Housekeepers
  • Chefs, bartenders, and waiters 
  • Childcare workers 
  • Support service members
  • Crew mates
  • Engineers
  • Maintenance and repair staff
  • Entertainers

The Jones Act generally covers anyone working for the cruise line aboard the ship. However, the person must spend at least 30 percent of their work hours aboard the ship to be eligible to file a Jones Act claim. 

How Long Do I Have to File a Jones Act Claim?

The Jones Act is a federal law. However, it is still subject to a statute of limitations. In most cases, you have three years from the date of injury to file a lawsuit under the Jones Act. The deadline could be longer if you did not realize you were injured or an occupational hazard or condition caused illness. 

However, it is best to speak with a Houston Jones Act lawyer as soon as possible if you were injured while working on a cruise ship. The longer you wait to file your claim, the more time the cruise ship has to correct the hazards that caused your injury. Furthermore, evidence may be lost or destroyed.

Wrongful Death Claims Under The Jones Act

Surviving family members might be able to seek compensation for damages if their family member died in a work-related injury on a cruise ship. Wrongful death claims filed under the Jones Act can compensate families for lost wages, funeral expenses, loss of consortium, and pain and suffering. 

Contact Our Jones Act Attorneys in Houston To Schedule a Free Consultation

If you or a family member was injured while working on a cruise ship, contact an experienced Houston Jones Act attorney for a free consultation. You may have the right to sue your employer to obtain compensation for your injuries and damages. 

You have the right to talk with a lawyer about your maritime injury. Don’t let an insurance company or your employer pressure you to settle a claim without seeking advice from a lawyer about your legal rights.