Because You Matter: These Are Your Rights as a Seaman

Seaman

Thankfully, there are several statutes that provide protection to seafarers and maritime workers. As someone who works out at sea, you already know some of the dangers you face on a daily basis, and having protection is vital to ensure you’re looked after and aren’t taken advantage of in any sense of the word.

With this in mind, what are your rights as a seaman? The most common laws in the US fall under The Jones Act, a piece of regulation specifically designed to protect sailors, but what exactly is it, and what does it do? In today’s guide, we’re going to find out.

The Jones Act in the US

The Jones Act is a piece of legislation enacted by the United States

It was enacted into federal law in the 1920s to protect seafarers who were injured or murdered on the job or while serving on a vessel or fleet of vessels. Bear in mind this isn’t Worker’s Compensation. 

The Jones Act allows sailors to sue their employers for carelessness that caused their injuries, with a three-year statute of limitations from the date of injury.

You’re not sure if you’re a seaman under the Jones Act? You should consult a maritime accident attorney for the facts, but there are some criteria we’ll explore in the next section that you can look into that should give you a clear idea.

While the Jones Act isn’t too specific, any crew member who spends over 30% of their working time aboard a ship, or potentially a number of different ships, can be classed a seaman and therefore full under these rules and acts of protection.

Workers on crew boats, cruise ships, supply boats, drilling barges, workboats, derrick barges, dive boats, and drillships all fall under this category.

Work on a vessel (or fleet of vessels) in navigation; contribute to the vessel’s mission and purpose; and, be more or less permanently assigned to the vessel (or fleet of vessels) (or fleet of vessels).

If you’re not sure if you qualify as a Jones Act sailor, a marine lawyer can help.

What Are You Protected Against?

Military
A schematic view of the marine soldier

The Jones Act provides rights to sailors who are harmed on a vessel as a result of employer carelessness. As a member of a vessel’s crew, you have the right to work in a fairly safe environment. 

You have the right to collect damages if your employer, the vessel owner, or any other firm is liable for creating a dangerous environment that leads you to be hurt.

The Jones Act differs from Worker’s Compensation in that if you can prove blame, you can recover a much wider range of damages than you could under Workers Compensation, which does not need proof of negligence. 

Seamen covered by the Jones Act are entitled to past and future lost pay, medical care, pain and suffering, general damages, and maintenance and cure. Maintenance and cure, as a reminder, is an age-old seamen’s privilege under General Maritime Law, which compels an employer to give an injured seaman with essential medical care and lodging and board in the case of an injury or illness while in service to a vessel, regardless of fault.

Summary

If you’ve been injured or taken advantage of at work as a seaman, you’re not sure what your rights are, or you’ve found yourself in a strange situation and you’re not sure how to move forward, hopefully, this article helped, but if you’re not sure, then be sure to seek legal advice that can tell you exactly where you stand. 

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