The Rule of Thumb in Seaman Status Disputes

Aug 9

The seaman’s status is often put to a two-part test, questioning whether the maritime worker qualifies as a seaman. See why your vessel employer might lead this dispute and what rule the court applies to solve it. 

Why Vessel Employers Dispute Your Seaman’s Status?

Under certain circumstances, marine and energy employers, vessel owners and operators, and their insurers will vigorously fight whether you are a seaman. The maritime employer’s goals are against injured seamen’s interests. They are well aware of the fact that a Jones Act seaman has special protection under the law. If they can show that you do not qualify as such, they will not owe you any of the unique rights and remedies seamen are entitled to.

One important issue often arises in maritime personal injury lawsuits. Generally, the focal point of all seaman status disputes is whether the maritime worker’s connection to the vessel was both substantial in duration and nature. How does this rule apply to your connection to the vessel?

The Rule to Solve the Seaman Status Question

The rule of thumb in answering the question is that a maritime worker who spends less than 30% of his time in the service of a vessel in navigation will likely NOT qualify as a seaman. 

Let’s take a look at the roles of a port captain, a repairman, and a shoreside employee as not all of their duties are related to onboard activities. 

When not in command, the port captain ensures all safety and security measures are taken at the harbors and waterfront facilities. However, this doesn’t take him away from the vessel for too long. No doubt, he qualifies as a Jones Act seaman. 

The repairman usually spends most of his day inspecting, repairing, or maintaining his employer’s fleet of vessels moored at its shoreside facility. He, too, would probably be considered a seaman.

On the other hand, a shoreside employee in the safety department who sparingly works aboard his employer’s vessels likely will NOT qualify as a seaman. How about a maritime electrician? Explore whether the rule of thumb helps in deciding the electrician’s status.