Who is a seaman?

To be eligible to file a claim under the Jones Act, the injured worker must be considered a seaman to recover damages. By definition, a seaman is a member of the crew of a vessel or someone who is assigned to a fleet of vessels for his employer. Proving seaman status at the time of the injury can be complex and requires a thorough understanding of maritime law. The Jones Act attorneys at the Willis Law Firm have extensive experience in helping injured seamen receive compensation under the Jones Act.

The U.S. Congress passed the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, which limited the term “seaman” when referring to the Jones Act as “a master or member of a crew of any vessel.” Therefore, workers on tankers, semi-submersibles, freighters, jack-up rigs, towboats, tugboats, supply boats, barges, lay barges and fishing vessels are all considered seamen as they are members of the crew. The Captain and Officers fall under this classification, as well. Crew members who work on movable or jack-up drilling rigs are also considered to be seamen and are protected under the Jones Act.

Generally, a longshoreman, pilot and workers on fixed platforms do not fall under the category of seamen. If a worker does not qualify as a seaman, there may be other maritime remedies available.

There are certain criteria that need to be met in order to prove seaman status, which are as follows:

  • The vessel must be in navigation.
  • Duties performed by the employee must contribute to the vessel’s function.
  • The worker must have a substantial connection with the vessel in navigation.
  • The total circumstances of the worker’s employment should be considered when determining seaman status and not just one factor.

When deciding if a worker is a seaman, the duration of the worker’s connection to the vessel and the activities assigned will be reviewed. This review will help differentiate whether the worker was a crew member or a land based employee who happened to be on the vessel.

One important fact to remember regarding seaman status is that it does not rely on where the injury took place, but instead on the nature of the worker’s service, member status on the vessel and the relationship to the vessel and its operation in navigable waters.

The maritime attorneys at the Willis Law Firm will be able to review your case to determine your seaman status. They can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.