The Jones Act is a federal law that gives injured seamen some legal protection, since Workers’ Compensation doesn’t apply. Maritime law has a few different provisions to protect injured maritime workers in different capacities, and the Jones Act applies specifically to injured seamen onboard vessels. The distinction can be a fine one, though. Are injured oil rig workers, for example, covered under the Jones Act? Here’s what you need to know about who’s covered:
Federal Courts Define “Seamen” Under the Jones Act
To be recognized as an injured “seaman” under the Jones Act, you have to meet a few important criteria:
- You must spend more than 30% of your time working on a vessel
- All persons who are employed on a vessel and meet these criteria are eligible
- The Jones Act covers officers, crew members, captains or ship owners - most any worker onboard a vessel more than 30% of the time
- Your vessel should operate in navigable waters; this typically includes vessels on the ocean, on the Gulf of Mexico or on some rivers and waterways
What is a Vessel Under the Jones Act?
To qualify to file a claim under the Jones Act, you must work on a vessel that can move around navigable waters - even vessels that can be towed. This means things like fixed production platforms typically aren’t covered by the Jones Act but are generally covered under other maritime law. Vessels may include:
- Fishing boats
- Casino boats
- Supply Boats
- Drilling rigs
- Jack-up drilling rigs
- Drilling barges and towable platforms
Other vessels may also qualify under the definition of the Jones Act.
For the purposes of distinguishing a vessel, it’s important to note that you may be injured on a vessel that doesn’t qualify - i.e. a fixed platform or even on a dock - as long as you spend at least 30% of your time working onboard a vessel that does qualify under the Jones Act. So the injury doesn’t have to occur on a qualifying vessel as long as you meet the criteria for a Jones Act employee.
Because of all of the complexities and nuance of Jones Act and general maritime law, it’s a good idea to consult an experienced maritime lawyer to discuss your rights.