One of the most common questions in any maritime injury case is whether the injured party is a seaman. This question is important because it determines what law will apply to the case. In order to qualify as a Jones Act seaman, the person member of the crew of a vessel as well. He can be someone who is assigned to a fleet of vessels for his employer.
Those who work on tankers, freighters, jack-up rigs, semi-submersibles, towboats, supply boats, barges, and fishing vessels are members of the crew, and are considered seamen. Those on movable drilling rigs are also seamen. Thanks to the Longshore and Harbor Workers’’ Compensation Act, Congress limited the application of the term “seaman” in the Jones Act to “a master or member of a crew of any vessel.” Longshoremen, pilots, and those working on platforms are usually not classified as seamen, but they may still have other maritime remedies for their injuries.
To be a Jones Act seaman entitles you to sue for negligence as well as breach of warranty of seaworthiness, but does not entitle you to longshoremen’s compensation. Often there is a dispute as to seaman status and whether or not the seaman was actually working on a boat when was sustained his injures. It is therefore imperative to allow the maritime lawyer to study the facts surrounding the accident in order to help make the determination of seaman status.
The essential requirements for seaman status are as follows:
(a). A worker’s duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission;
(b). A seaman must have a connection with a vessel in navigation, that is extensive in terms of both its duration and in its nature
(c). The duration of a worker’s connection to a vessel and the nature of the worker’s activities, taken together, determine whether a maritime worker is a seaman because the ultimate question or issue is whether the worker in question is a member of the vessel’s crew or simply a land-based employee who happens to be working on a vessel at a given time
(d). A distinction must be made between sea-based employees and land-based employees who have only a transitory or sporadic connection to a vessel in navigation. Land-based maritime employees and laborers do not become seamen because they happen to be working aboard a vessel when they are injured, and seamen do not lose Jones Act protection where the course of their service to a vessel takes them ashore
(e) Jones Act coverage (seaman status) depends not on the place where the injury is inflicted, but on the nature of the seaman’s service, his status as a member of the vessel, and his relationship as such to the vessel and its operation in navigable waters.