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Who qualifies as a seaman under the Jones Act?

On Behalf of | May 14, 2021 | Admiralty And Maritime Law

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also called the Jones Act, offers maritime workers the opportunity to file a claim after an injury. However, workers must meet certain qualifications to be considered seamen under the Jones Act. Who qualifies as a seaman?

Seamen must work on a vessel.

Whether they work primarily on one ship or work aboard a fleet, seamen’s work must “have a connection to a vessel in navigation.” This can include a wide variety of jobs related to the operation of a vessel or fleet, including captains, deckhands and even a ship’s cook. A wide variety of vessels may also be included, from large ships to barges and riverboats.

Their connection to the vessel must also be significant.

The definition of a seamen under the Jones Act comes down to whether their contribution to the vessel is significant. Generally, seamen must spend at least 30 percent of their work time aboard the vessel or fleet that they serve.

Riverboat workers, for example, would qualify as seamen because they spend a large amount of their time at work aboard a vessel, even if that vessel navigates rivers instead of the sea itself. Workers who spend the majority of their time on land, on the other hand, would not qualify as seamen even if they did some work aboard a ship.

If you wonder whether you qualify for support under the Jones Act, you may want to speak with an attorney with experience in maritime law about the options available to you.


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