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Seaman Qualification

The word “seaman” has been ubiquitous with ships and vessels for hundreds of years. While the term seaman was always analogous to sailors onboard a vessel, it has required a deep analysis by various courts throughout the country to determine the true definition to fit within the Jones Act. If you were injured while onboard a vessel, you may be entitled to bring a claim under a federal act for your injuries.

What is a Seaman?

The Jones Act allows a seaman to recover against their employer for injuries received while working onboard the vessel. The Supreme Court has developed a specific test to determine who meets the definition of “seaman” within the Jones Act. The following must hold true to allow recovery under the Jones Act:

  1. An individual must be assigned to work on a vessel;
  2. The vessel must operate on a navigable waterway;
  3. The individual’s duties must contribute to the vessel’s function; and
  4. The individual must spend at least 30% of their time onboard the vessel.

If an individual does not meet all four points of this test, they will not be able to qualify within the Jones Act, although they may be able to recover under a separate Act. The Supreme Court has also developed a bright line test for what qualifies as a “vessel” although most vessels include:

  • Barges
  • Tugboats
  • Ocean-going ships
  • Oil drilling rigs
  • Dredgers
  • Commercial fishing boats

However, it is important to note that oil platform workers may not qualify within the Jones Act unless they were engaged in work on a different type of vessel or were en route to the oil platform at the time of their injury. Oil production platforms are typically not considered vessels under the Jones Act. However, if you are injured while on an oil production platform, you may be covered by a different federal act which will afford you a similar type of recovery, such as the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.

Seaman Recovery Under the Jones Act

The Jones Act was instituted to specifically apply to seaman and sailors who were injured during the course of their employment. The Jones Act allows seaman the ability to bring a claim directly against their employer based on the negligence of the employer leading to an accident while onboard the vessel. A seaman is entitled to receive compensation for any injuries sustained as a result of the injury, including the following:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Future earnings
  • Pain and suffering

An experienced maritime law attorney will be able to assist you in determining your Jones Act claim amount and assisting you throughout the claim process. You should not be forced to cover your own expenses after receiving an injury while working onboard a vessel.

The Malley Law Firm | Houston Maritime Law Attorney

If you or a loved one have been injured during the course of your employment at sea, you may be entitled to receive compensation under the Jones Act. Tony Malley is an experienced maritime accident attorney and has years of experience in handling Jones Act Claims and related maritime claims. Contact our Texas offices today for your initial free consultation.

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