Any American Owned Watercraft That Can be Used to Transport Goods or Passengers can be Considered a Jones Act Vessel.
The Jones Act offers legal protection for maritime workers who are injured while in service to a Jones Act vessel. Among the most important of Jones Act protections is the right to directly sue an employer when injuries are caused by the employer’s negligence. Other workers do not have this right.
To qualify as a Jones Act vessel, a vessel must be owned by an American individual or company. For a maritime worker to be considered a Jones Act seaman, he must be the master or a member of a Jones Act vessel’s crew. How do you know if you work on a Jones Act vessel?
There are many ways to work on the water. While it is easy to recognize a cruise ship or barge as being a vessel, it is harder to decide if an offshore drilling rig or floating dormitory meets that definition.
In 2005, the Supreme Court (Stewart v. Dutra Construction) determined that under the Jones Act, the definition of vessel may include “every description of Watercraft or other artificial contrivance used or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.” This means that any watercraft that can be used to transport goods or passengers can be considered a Jones Act Vessel.
Under this definition, it is easy to recognize cargo ships, supply boats, tankers, freighters, fishing boats, ferries, cruise ships, tugboats, and barges as vessels. But offshore drilling units, jack-up rigs, semi-submersible rigs, dredges, docks, and floating work platforms may also be considered vessels under some circumstances.
The definition of a Jones Act vessel can be a deciding factor in determining the outcome of a Jones Act injury case. If you have any questions about whether you qualify for Jones Act protection, contact a California maritime lawyer.
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