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Why All Marine Workers Should Take the Seaman Status Test for Jones Act Benefits

Seaman Status Test

A Dangerous Job

Your job is much more dangerous than other careers, so it makes sense that you should have special benefits to cover you after an injury. The Jones Act provides compensation—including funds for medical treatment and a wage stipend—for marine workers who cannot earn a living due to an injury. However, most employees are unaware of how much they could be owed after an injury simply because they do not know they are eligible.

How Does the Seaman Status Test Affect Me?

The first thing workers should know is that not all employees qualify for coverage under the Jones Act. To get benefits, employees must be able to prove that the conditions of their employment qualifies them as a seaman, also called the "Seaman Status Test."

The Three-Part Seaman Status Test

U.S. courts use a three-part test to determine an employee’s seaman status. In order to be considered a seaman who can get Jones Act benefits, a maritime worker must meet all of the following requirements:

1. Be assigned to a vessel in operation on a navigable waterway.

For the first part of the test, you must prove that you were employed to work on a vessel that was still in active operation and was not permanently moored at the time of your injury. You must also prove that the accident occurred when the vessel was traveling on a navigable waterway. A court will examine both the body of water upon which your vessel was traveling (as well as the waterways connected to it) in order to determine if it is navigable.

2. Contribute to the vessel's function.

You must show that your duties are vital to the daily operation or overall mission of the vessel. There are many ways in which crew members of all occupations may contribute to a vessel’s operation, including engineers, deckhands, stewards, entertainers, and kitchen staff.

3. Have a substantial dedication to the vessel.

Under the last requirement, you must show evidence that you spent a significant amount of time and effort on the vessel. Establishing a permanent connection to the vessel is important because it shows that your workplace is the vessel itself, rather than an offsite location that you occasionally visit. For example, if you are an independent mechanic who occasionally performs maintenance on ships, you are likely not covered by the Jones Act because the bulk of your professional duties takes place on land rather than at sea.

How to Gather Evidence to Prove Your Seaman Status

Unfortunately, proving that you are a seaman is not always a straightforward process. You will have to provide proof of all three elements of the test in order to receive benefits—and if you are unable to gather enough evidence, it is likely that your claim will be denied.

If you are a crew member, vessel mechanic, or cruise ship worker coping with a recent work injury, you should call an experienced Jones Act attorney right away to protect your rights. Fill out the contact form on this page to find out how we can help you and your family get the benefits you deserve.

Call 619-304-1000

Disclaimer: Please understand these discussions and/or examples are not legal advice. All legal situations are different. This testimonial, endorsement and/or discussion does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter, your particular case/ situation and/or this particular case/ situation. 

William Turley
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