If you are employed in the maritime industry and a big percentage of your job duties require you to sail on a seagoing vessel, you are considered a seaman. If you are injured while performing those job duties, your workers’ compensation is different than what is provided to other types of employees.
If you are injured as a seaman, you are covered under what is known as the Jones Act, a federal law that requires the employer to provide them with a safe work environment and use ordinary care to maintain and keep the vessel in a reasonably safe condition. The burden of proof under the Jones act is low on the part of the seaman as even a minor unsafe condition on a seagoing vessel is considered negligence. Under the act, you may file a lawsuit against the owner of the vessel and receive what is known as maintenance and cure, regardless who was at fault.
One of the requirements of the Jones Act is that the vessel must be in navigation at the time of the injury. This means it must be afloat, in operation capable of moving and in navigable waters. It does not have to be at sea or moving under its own power or being sailed. It can be docked or moored, but cannot be in drydock or out of the water. Navigable water is a body of water that can be used for interstate or foreign commerce. This includes landlocked lakes if they extend into more than one state or connect to a river that flows in more than one state. Any waterway that connects to the ocean or other bodies of water are navigable waters. An oil drilling platform is not covered under the Jones Act as it cannot be a vessel in navigation.
If you are working as a seaman and your work helps accomplish the mission of the vessel, you are contributing to the work of the vessel. However, this term can be very broadly interpreted. It is difficult to say any vessel crew member does not contribute to the work of the vessel. One example could be an administrative employee who does not normally sail with the vessel who happens to be on the ship for one reason or another. In addition, at least 30 percent of your employment time must be spent on a vessel or fleet of vessels. A licensed seaman who spends most of his workday performing administrative duties but takes one trip each year on a vessel would not qualify under the Jones Act.
If you or a loved one was injured while working as a seaman, contact Lundy Law to learn if you are qualified to receive coverage under the Jones Act. You can arrange for an initial consultation by calling 1-800-Lundy Law or completing the easy form on our website.