George T. Bochanis Law Offices

The Jones Act -- Definition of a Seaman

Definition of a Seaman

The Jones Act applies only to a "seaman" who is injured while working aboard a vessel in navigable waters. In order to be a "seaman" within the meaning of the Jones Act, the worker must meet certain requirements:

(1) the worker must have a more or less permanent employment-related connection with a vessel (or group of vessels), and the connection must be substantial in nature and duration;

(2) the vessel must be "in navigation" (a vessel is "in navigation" if it is engaged as an instrument of commerce or transportation on navigable waters; the vessel does not have to be in motion at the time of a worker's injury in order for him to recover under the Jones Act.); and

(3) the worker's duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or the accomplishment of its mission.

In determining whether a worker is a seaman within the meaning of the Jones Act, courts do not take a "snapshot" approach, focusing only on the location of the worker when he was injured. Instead, courts examine the totality of the circumstances of the worker's employment to determine whether his duties contributed to the function of the vessel or the accomplishment of its mission. Courts make a distinction between seamen and land-based employees who are injured while aboard a vessel. A land-based employee is not a seaman within the meaning of the Jones Act, regardless of his location when he was injured.

Examples

Generally, members of the crew of a vessel are seamen. Such individuals may include workers on tankers, freighters, jack-up rigs, semi-submersibles, towboats or tugs, supply boats, crew boats, barges, lay barges, fishing vessels, and movable or jack-up drilling rigs.

Longshoremen, pilots, and individuals who work on fixed platforms are not seamen within the meaning of the Jones Act.

Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.

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