What is a Seaman?
In order for the Jones Act to apply to you, you must qualify as a ‘seaman’ which means several things. To be a seaman, and therefore have the Jones Act apply in your case, you must satisfy a general 3 part test and you must have been —
- more or less permanently
- assigned to a vessel or fleet of vessels
- in navigation
at the time of your accident.
The ‘more or less permanent’ assignment has been interpreted to generally mean that you have spent at least 30% of your time on ‘vessels’. So even if 65% to 70% of your time was spent off of the water on land or elsewhere, you may still satisfy the ‘permanent assignment’ requirement. EVEN IF YOUR ACCIDENT OCCURRED ON LAND, YOU MAY STILL FILE A CLAIM UNDER THE JONES ACT IF YOU WERE ASSIGNED TO A VESSEL BUT ONLY WORKING ON LAND TEMPORARILY.
The definition of what qualifies as a ‘vessel’ under the Jones Act is very broad and is usually subject to debate. Traditional boats such as tug boats, crew boats and supply boats are definitely vessels under the Jones Act. So are jack-up and semi-submersible drilling rigs as well as drill ships. Some special purpose vessels also may qualify depending upon the circumstances. A crane barge, for example, can be a vessel as long as it was not used primarily as a ‘fixed work platform’ and it moved about sufficiently.
The ‘in navigation’ requirement is also broadly applied. The vessel does not need to actually be moving or underway at the time of your accident. ‘In navigation’ simply means that the vessel has not been removed to dry dock or otherwise totally disabled from operating. Typically as long as it is still capable of moving about with a few modifications (such as lifting the anchors or in the case of a jack-up, jacking down the rig) then the vessel will still be considered ‘in navigation’.
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