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How to Figure Out If You Have a Jones Act or Maritime Case

What’s Your Status?

When a marine worker brings a potential Jones Act or Maritime Law case to his or her lawyer, one of the most important things to determine is the employee’s “status”; that is, does the employee meet the criteria necessary to have the Jones Act and/or General Maritime Law apply to his or her case?

2-are you a seaman

  • Did your offshore injury occur on navigable waters? The first requirement the worker must fulfill is that his/her injury or accident must have occurred on “navigable” water.  While many bodies of water (i.e., Mississippi River; Gulf of Mexico), are clearly navigable, others are not, and making this determination is the first step in establishing your maritime case as legit.
  • Are you a seaman? The second requirement under Maritime Law is finding out whether or not you’re a “seaman”.  What this means is that you, for the most part, are permanently assigned to a vessel, and that vessel (or fleet of vessels) is in navigation.  The “permanent” designation requires that the employee spend at least 30% of his or her time on a vessel.  To note: this requirement applies only to Jones Act cases.  Under General Maritime Law, any individual can file suit if his/her accident happened on navigable waters (i.e., cruise ship passengers, offshore workers injured by a non-employer third party, etc.).
  • Were you on a vessel? Additionally, it is necessary to determine whether or not land-based laws could apply to your case.  Working on a fixed platform or a dock, for example, is not covered under General Maritime Law; rather, the law of the state to which that platform or dock is attached applies. You must be working on a vessel in order to file under Maritime Law.

What is “Seaworthiness”?

Seaworthiness, defined as being “fit or safe for a sea voyage”, is an important concept in General Maritime Law.  Going beyond the dictionary definition, General Maritime Law requires that a vessel owner not only provide a seaworthy vessel, but also, seaworthy equipment and accessories as well.  If an employee is involved in an accident or becomes injured due to malfunctioning or otherwise unsafe equipment onboard the vessel, that employee can file a claim under General Maritime Law (in addition to any Jones Act or other claims).  Seaworthiness as a doctrine applies exclusively to a vessel owner.

How do I start this process?

The process of defining and proving the status of an injured worker is extremely time consuming and often quite difficult.  In fact, in many cases, the status of the worker is not determined until his/her court hearing.  But that status can make or break your case, so it is important that careful research and consideration go into figuring that out.

If you have been injured offshore, it is vital that you clearly and accurately prove your status under Jones Act and General Maritime Law.  You deserve to receive compensation to the fullest extent of the law.  Contact The Young Firm to get your questions answered!  Maritime law is all we do, and we are here to answer all your questions about your current situation.

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