In the wake of an offshore injury, maritime workers are often left with more questions than answers. Who will pay for my medical treatment? How will I pay my bills while I recover? Will I ever be able to return to work? While all of these questions are extremely important, one of the first things you need to do before you do anything else is determine which law applies to your specific case. Is it the Jones Act? The Longshoremen and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act? The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act?
To determine whether or not you qualify as a “seaman” under the Jones Act, ask yourself the following four questions:
- Do I work on a “vessel”? In order to qualify as a Jones Act seaman, you must work on a vessel or an identifiable fleet of vessels with the same owner. That means you must work onboard a boat, ship, jack-up rig or other structure that is capable of moving on the water.
- Was my vessel “in navigation” at the time I was hurt? This just means your vessel must have been in active operation at the time of your injury, not moored or otherwise out of operation.
- Did I have a “permanent connection” to my vessel? This means that you must have had a relationship with your vessel that was substantial in both time and nature. When assessing whether or not you meet this requirement, the Court will look at your entire hitch to determine the nature of your relationship, not just a snapshot of what you were doing at the moment you were hurt.
- Did I contribute to the overall “mission” or function of my vessel? To be a Jones Act seaman, you must do the ship’s work.