Navigable WatersThe Jones Act considers "navigable waters" to be any waterways that are capable of being used for interstate or foreign commerce. In order for a maritime worker to be considered a Jones Act seaman, he or she must spend over 30 percent of work time in the service of a vessel on a navigable waterway. If your injury took place in an area that does not meet the technical definition of “navigable waterways,” your Jones Act injury benefits may be denied.

Types of Navigable Waterways Under the Jones Act

The term “navigable waterways” is generally accepted to be any body of water that can be used for interstate or international transport of goods or passengers. Oceans, seas, and all waterways that are connected directly to them are considered to be navigable waters, as is the Gulf of Mexico and other large bodies of water. However, landlocked lakes may also qualify as navigable if they border more than one state or are connected to a river that flows into another state.

Nearly any type of waterway could potentially be considered “navigable,” including:

  • Rivers
  • Lakes
  • Harbors
  • Wetlands
  • Streams
  • Mudflats
  • Beaches and banks of any of the above

It is important to note that the vessel does not have to be actively engaged in operations or even in motion for an injury to be covered under the Jones Act. A ship that has been docked in a navigable harbor for routine maintenance may still be considered “in navigation,” and any worker who is injured onboard should be eligible for Jones Act injury compensation.

We're Here to Help!

If you have suffered from a maritime injury, we encourage you to find out more about your rights to see who may owe you compensation for your recovery. Contact one of our New York and New Jersey maritime accident attorneys today via our online contact form, or call us at 1-800-3-MAY-DAY. For more information on your case, be sure to download your complimentary copy of Are You a Seaman Injured in a Maritime Accident? Know Your Rights.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.