Before the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, seamen were subject to ill treatment, including abuse and atrocious working conditions. They had no legal protection against their employers, and injuries, illness or death at sea were just considered occupational hazards.

Part of that 1920 law, the Jones Act, changed those circumstances, giving seamen specific legal protections from employer negligence that contributes to injuries.

If you’re a seaman who has been injured on a vessel, a maritime lawyer can help you understand your rights and help you get the compensation you are entitled to.

What Is The Jones Act?

The Jones Act addresses the rights of the once-ignored seamen and establishes protections for them and recourse against poor treatment and negligent conditions that contribute to injury.

The legislation provides for compensation for injured seamen, although it is drastically different than other maritime laws and workers compensation laws.

Unlike other laws, to file Jones Act claims, an injured seaman must prove employer negligence to be eligible for benefits. However, even minor negligence can qualify as meeting this requirement.

It also offers substantial payouts that far exceed the kind available to claims under the Worker’s Compensation Act. This makes it particularly important that seamen consult an experienced maritime attorney who can help them get the full amount they are entitled to under the correct law.

Who Qualifies As A Seaman?

Not everyone who works on a boat will be eligible to file a claim. To be eligible under this maritime law, the person must be a seaman. For a person to qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act law, they must meet three essential criteria.

Must be assigned to a vessel: A worker must be assigned to a vessel or fleet of vessels under common ownership. Freelancers who work for different employers may not be able to show the required relationship with a single vessel.

Vessel must be in navigation: Not every tugboat, barge, rig or casino boat qualifies under the Jones Act. The vessel does not have to be in ocean waters to qualify. Vessels on rivers or inland waterways can also qualify, and workers on them can qualify as seamen under this law.

Must have substantial connection with vessel: This requirement means the seaman must spend a substantial amount of time on the vessel (although not 100 percent of the time) and contribute to its livelihood or function. If you spend 30 percent of your employment on a vessel, you may qualify.

It’s important to also note that to be defined as a seaman under the Jones Act, a worker does not necessarily have to be directly involved with the navigation and operation of the vessel. Other occupations also qualify, and chefs, waiters, card dealers, cooks, entertainers and many others have qualified.

If you’re a seamen who has been injured on a vessel, you may be eligible to file a Jones Act claim. Contact the experienced maritime law lawyers at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers for a free initial consultation.