Welcome back folks. I’m Jim Adler, The Texas Hammer, and I’m here to talk about recovering compensation for workplace injuries under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a very worker-friendly law that allows you to replace all your wages, pay your medical bills and more after an accident. But it only applies to “seamen,” and there are specific rules about who is a seaman. So it pays to know who qualifies.
The Jones Act was made to compensate workers for serious injuries they got working on a ship or other vessel. When it was created about 100 years ago, it referred to those workers as “seamen.” However, that doesn’t mean your job title needs to be seaman, and you don’t need to be a man.
Under the law, a seaman is someone who spends a significant amount of their work time on a vessel in navigation. This can be complicated. Courts have determined that “a significant amount” means at least 30 percent of the worker’s time, but that 30 percent does not need to all be on the same vessel. That is, if you spend 10 percent of your time on one ship and 20 percent on another, you have still met the 30 percent requirement. But if you spend almost all your time at work on the dock or in the office of a shipping company, you are probably not a seaman.
A seaman also must contribute to the work of the vessel. That means you must spend your work time accomplishing the goals that the vessel’s crew was hired to meet. Most ships don’t bring people on board to merely watch, so this is an easier test to pass. That said, an owner or passenger who only watches the work is probably not a seaman. Someone in a job like mate, deckhand, porter, able-bodied seaman, captain, engineer or steward is likely to be a seaman for the purposes of the Jones Act. Many jobs in the oil industry we have here in Texas can also count, including derrickman, toolpusher, roustabout, floorhand, roughneck, driller, rig electrician, rig mechanic and crane operator.
It’s also important to know that a vessel doesn’t have to be a boat. Legally, a vessel can be anything that floats and is capable of moving. That covers a wide variety of boats and ships used for fishing, shipping, tourism, transportation and more, but it would also cover a mobile oil rig, as long as that rig is capable of moving. Vessels related to oil drilling that might qualify a worker include jack up rigs, drill ships, offshore oil and gas supply boats, tugboats, push boats and barges. The vessel doesn’t have to actually be moving when the accident happens. It just needs to be capable of moving.
The vessel must also be in navigation, which means it has to be on waters that can be used to conduct business across state or international lines. Again, it doesn’t have to actually be traveling across borders when the accident happens. A vessel that’s moored is in navigation. But a vessel that’s in dry dock wouldn’t qualify, and a vessel that’s on a lake that doesn’t connect to any rivers or oceans would probably not qualify. A vessel that is in navigation must also be in operation, meaning that it’s being used, rather than being tested.
The Jones Act is especially important here in Texas because of the oil industry. If you were injured on, or on the way to, an oil rig or drilling platform, you should call an experienced lawyer. Depending on the type of platform, it might or might not be a vessel under the Jones Act. And whether the workers count as seamen depends on the jobs they’re doing. We can help, but you should call us as soon as you can to explain your case.
The Jones Act can be a powerful tool for workers who were injured by someone else’s bad decision. If you’re out of work because of an injury, you’re losing income just when you have high doctor bills to pay. In a Jones Act lawsuit, you can recover compensation for your medical costs, replacement income and more. For a free case evaluation, call us now at 1-800-567-7575 or fill out our contact form at jimadler.com.