Many injured maritime workers are unsure whether they qualify for “seaman” status under the Jones Act. This is an important issue, since only seamen are qualified to receive benefits under the Jones Act, including maintenance and cure benefits after an injury. While the definition of seaman varies somewhat, there are many factors a court will consider in determining seaman status.
Am I Considered a Seaman Under the Jones Act?
Generally speaking, a person who spends the majority of his or her time as a crew member aboard a vessel that floats on navigable waters is considered a seaman. However, each of these requirements should be examined closely to discover whether or not the Jones Act applies. For instance, benefits may or may not be awarded depending on:
You. A seaman must spend a significant amount of his or her employment contributing to the mission of his or her vessel. In most cases, this will mean spending at least 30 percent of work time aboard the vessel (or on several vessels in a fleet) and the rest of the work time helping to complete the vessel’s mission.
Your vessel. While nearly any kind of ship or boat can be considered a vessel under the Jones Act, the vessel must be afloat, capable of moving, and in operation to qualify an employee for benefits. It is important to recognize that a vessel does not actually have to be at sea or even moving for a crew member to be a seaman, but it must be capable of moving under its own power. For example, a ship in a drydock is not capable of moving and is therefore not covered under the Jones Act. Similarly, a newly-constructed vessel that is not yet in commercial operation does not meet the "in navigation" requirement, and is exempt from Jones Act coverage.
Your location. The Jones Act only covers employees on vessels that travel on navigable waters. “Navigable” waters are those that are used for interstate or foreign commerce, such as oceans, rivers, and lakes that act as a means of travel between states or countries.
If you work on the water but not on a vessel in navigation, you may still qualify for compensation under maritime laws. The New York and New Jersey maritime lawyers of Hofmann & Schweitzer can help determine how much you could be owed in benefits. Contact us online or call us directly at 800.362.9329 to schedule your free consultation.