Who counts as a “seaman” under the Jones Act?

On Behalf of | Nov 6, 2020 | Maritime Law

The Jones Act provides seamen additional protections and rights to sue for compensation when they’re injured as a result of negligence on the part of their captain, fellow crew members or maritime company.

But who, exactly, qualifies as a seaman? There are all kinds of workers involved in the maritime industry, including people who work on barges and offshore oil drilling platforms or at the docks. Determining whether they’re covered under the Jones Act if they’re injured may require a close examination of the Jones Act itself, case law and the facts specific to the situation.

Here’s what you should know if you’ve been hurt:

  • The Supreme Court established a two-part test that says a seaman must “contribute to the function of the vessel or the accomplishment of its mission,” and “must have a connection to a vessel in navigation (or to an identifiable group of such vessels) that is substantial” in both nature and duration.
  • Generally, any worker who spends 30% of their time or more in the service of a vessel in navigation can generally be considered a seaman. Anyone who spends less than 30% of their time working on the vessel would likely be considered a land-based employee, not a seaman.
  • If you work for a fleet of vessels that are connected, your combined service can make you entitled to seaman status. For example, maybe you spend 60% of your time in the office for a shipping company, but 40% of your time is divided between work on various vessels. Even though you may not spend more than 10% of your time on any one vessel, that likely still makes your service substantial.
  • Your employer is not the person you should trust when it comes to your entitlements. While most employers are honest, they are not lawyers. They may not fully understand who is covered under the Jones Act and who is not. Others may be motivated by self-interest to tell you that you’re not covered.

If you were injured in a maritime accident and aren’t sure about your entitlement to relief under the Jones Act, don’t guess: Give our office a call or continue reviewing our site to learn more.