Who Qualifies As A Seaman

Unlike other workers, Seamen are provided additional legal benefits that go along with their jobs, such as the ability to sue their employers under the Jones Act, or the ability to sue their vessel owners for unseaworthiness, as well as the ability to obtain maintenance and cure. However, in order to qualify for these benefits, a maritime worker must actually prove that they are, in fact, a seaman. This is an important distinction because there are many maritime workers out there, such as longshoremen and cargo surveyors, who periodically work on vessels and near water, yet do not qualify as seamen and have their own compensatory schemes. Through the case law, courts have provided some pointers as to how to distinguish seamen from other types of maritime workers.

First, the maritime worker has to actually be working on something that could be considered a vessel to be considered a seaman. Courts have stated that things like oil rigs do not count as vessels. Oil rig workers are therefore not seamen. Oil rig workers have their own compensation systems set up, which are different from the compensation systems that govern seamen. Surprisingly, determining whether an individual worked on a ship and is considered a seaman is a very complex question and is best suited to be directly discussed with an experienced maritime attorney.

Second, the seaman must somehow be tied to a single vessel or an identifiable fleet of vessels, generally under common ownership. Usually, this means the seaman is on the vessel, providing services that keep it functioning. As a rule of thumb, courts generally require that the employee spend at least 30% of their time aboard a ship to be considered a seaman. That said, courts have stretched the employment requirement pretty far. Positions such as cruise ship bartenders and even casino dealers have qualified as seamen. Workers who come onto a docked cargo vessel to unload the vessel and then leave, however, would probably be classified as longshoremen rather than seamen and would have separate compensation systems for their injuries.

Being a seaman confers a number of great benefits onto a maritime worker. If you have been injured, and your job has you spending many hours a week on some kind of a vessel, you may qualify as a seaman and you may be able to tap into the benefits reserved for seamen. As the determination of seaman status can be a complex legal question, you may wish to contact an experienced offshore injury lawyer to review the fact surrounding your case and your employment. Such an attorney can help you determine if you qualify as a seaman, and if not, guide you to other potentially lucrative compensation systems you may be able to tap into to get the compensation you deserve.


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