Seamen have federal protection under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Otherwise known as the Jones Act, the legislation aims to protect the naval interests of the United States, including every worker onboard a maritime vessel.
Injured seamen are not entitled to workers’ compensation, but the Jones Act ensures they can sue for damages. See below to learn more about the Jones Act and if it protects your line of work.
Who qualifies as a maritime worker?
Not everyone who works on a maritime vessel qualifies as a seaman. Your job must contribute to the tasks onboard a ship, though not necessarily to its navigation and operation. For example, you might work as a cook or operate a shop onboard the vessel.
Are all vessels covered?
The vessel must be seaworthy to receive coverage under the Jones Act. However, permanently anchored vessels such as casinos do not always fall under Jones Act coverage. Usually, the vessel must navigate the water at some point. Otherwise, the watercraft legally becomes dry land, and the Jones Act no longer applies. Most casinos and other riverboat businesses do not want the added liability of the Jones Act, so they remain permanently moored.
Can I use my doctor?
Your employer might want you to see the company doctor, but you are under no legal obligation to receive treatment. You may need to consult the company doctor, but if you have your physician, feel free to use their services instead.
Workers at sea have strong federal protections under the Jones Act. The burden of liability rests mainly with the employer after an injury occurs. If you receive an injury while working onboard a vessel, start working on a Jones Act claim to avoid prohibitive medical costs.