Who Qualifies as a Seaman Under The Jones Act?

Under the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, a seaman is defined as any master or member of a vessel’s crew who completes work on board or helps navigate the craft. Anyone who spends a substantial part of their work day on an inland boat, barge, ferry, marine vessel or non-stationary oil rig qualifies as a seaman under the Jones Act. It is important to know that Jones Act recoveries are more substantial than the benefits offered by state worker’s compensation boards, and cases can be heard by a jury. If you have been injured while working on a vessel or oil rig, you need to consult experienced maritime lawyer or an oil rig accident attorney to discuss your case, determine eligibility and recover the compensation that you deserve. Qualifying for the Jones Act To qualify as a Jones Act seaman, a worker must spend at least 30 percent of each day on the vessel. To prove that the employer or vessel owner is liable, the worker must have a relatively permanent position on the ship or within a company-owned fleet. Jones Act protection begins once a seaman boards the vessel in preparation for a voyage. Injuries that occur to a crew member when a vessel is at a dock or in navigation are also covered. A worker’s rank in the crew does not affect eligibility. Captains, mates, engineers, cooks, housekeepers and commercial fisherman are all entitled to the same protections if they are injured in the course of duty. Qualifying Vessels Cruises, commercial fishing and petroleum production are major industries along the Gulf Coast. Thousands of vessels travel through the Gulf of Mexico on their way to exotic vacation destinations, prime fishing areas and offshore rigs. Occasionally, accidents happen due to improper maintenance, inadequate training, human error and extreme weather conditions. When an injury at sea occurs on a moveable vessel or oil rig, the worker is covered by the Jones Act. However, if the accident occurs on a fixed rig, injuries are generally excluded. Jones Act Exceptions Injuries that occur on land, docks or fixed drilling platforms are typically excluded by the Jones Act. That is because stevedores, longshoremen, dock laborers, marine warehouse workers and some offshore roughnecks are covered by the Longshore Harbor Worker’s Act. Most professionals who work in a maritime environment and do not go to sea can sue their employer under the Longshore Harbor Worker’s Act. Workers protected by this law include maintenance personnel, dry dock staff and those who board vessels to load or unload cargo. Jones Act Claims Qualifying as a seaman under the Jones Act does not guarantee a financial recovery. Injured workers must still prove that the vessel owner is liable. Unsafe equipment, severe weather and inadequate training are common grounds for a Jones Act lawsuit. In cases of death at sea, maritime lawyers could also file suit against the employer for failing to provide adequate medical care or for failing to evacuate the employee. Maintenance and cure are two benefits that Jones Act seamen can recover. Maintenance covers a portion of the worker’s living expenses until he or she is able to return to work. Cure covers ongoing medical expenses until the worker is cured or reaches a point where there is no improvement. Employers may also be responsible for past or future lost wages, training and punitive damages for pain and suffering. In addition to maintenance and cure benefits for injuries caused by negligence, workers can pursue damages if a vessel is not seaworthy. Maritime laws governing the Jones Act are very complex. If you suffered an injury at sea, you deserve compensation. Do not try to determine eligibility on your own. Contact experienced Jones Act alawyers who can evaluate your case and help you recover the compensation that you deserve for performing a dangerous and important job.