The question as to whether a barge worker is considered a seaman under the Jones Act largely depends on the circumstances of the accident and resulting injuries. For purposes of Jones Act claims, a seaman has to be considered in the service of a vessel at the time of the accident and injury.

In addition, the barge must be on navigable waters, such as a river, lake, or ocean. This part of the Jones Act definition is open to interpretation and could include situations where the barge is docked, so long as it is still in navigable waters.

What Does a Barge Worker Do?

Barge workers can perform a wide range of duties and job functions. Some workers aid in the navigation of the barge. Other workers perform regular vessel maintenance and upkeep. Then there are other workers who perform other tasks, like building docks or working on another vessel next to the barge. Furthermore, barge workers may be tasked with loading and unloading cargo, as well as its transport from one port to another.

What Hazards Do Barge Workers Face?

There are many perils a barge worker faces on a daily basis. These could include, but may not be limited to:

  • Deep Cuts and Lacerations
  • Back, Neck, and Shoulder Injuries
  • Torn, Sprain, or Strained Tendons, Muscles, and Ligaments
  • Burns
  • Broken Arms, Hands, Feet, Legs, Fingers, or Back
  • Crushed Bones and Body Parts (i.e., Ribs, Arms, Legs, Hands, Feet, etc.)
  • Brain Injuries
  • Skull Injuries
  • Compartment Syndrome
  • Lung and Respiratory Problems
  • Exposure to Toxic and Hazardous Chemicals, Solvents, etc.
  • Loss of Limbs
  • Loss of Life
  • Drowning
  • Near Drowning
  • Explosions

All of these potential hazards can be caused for a variety of reasons, such as inadequate training, improper use of equipment, defective equipment, unseaworthy vessel, and so on.

What Legal Protections Do Barge Workers Have?

There are several maritime acts which provide protections when accidents and injuries occur. One of the more common ones is the Jones Act. This act provides remedies for injuries caused due to the negligence of the employer or other co-workers.

The employee must demonstrate some level of negligence took place, even if the employee was partially at fault for the accident. The amount of compensation the barge worker is entitled to receive will depend on the extent of injuries, circumstances surrounding the accident, and other mitigating factors.

crane unloading coal from barge to hopper

What if the Claim Is Not Covered by the Jones Act?

Not all accidents and injuries sustained by barge workers are always covered by the Jones Act. In some cases, their claims may need to be filed under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA).

The LHWCA provides protections for barge workers who might be performing specific job functions, such as:

  • Loading and Unloading Equipment/Cargo
  • Repairing Other Vessels
  • Building a Vessel or Other Structures

Regardless of the type of accident and resulting injuries, it is highly recommended to speak to a local maritime attorney as soon as possible. There are set statutes of limitations for filing claims, and you will want to ensure your claim is filed under the right maritime act. For a free case evaluation and consultation, please feel free to contact Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers at 713-364-0723 today!