Who is Covered by the Jones Act if Injured in a Maritime Accident?

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly called the Jones Act, was designed for workers who are injured while on a job that requires them to spend at least part of their time on the water, because workers’ compensation laws apply only to accidents and injuries on land. But determining whether someone qualifies for compensation under the Jones Act can be complicated, because several factors are involved.

The Jones Act covers workers who spend at least 30% of their time on a “vessel in navigation” on navigable waters. This clearly includes the captain, crew and others who work aboard ships, boats, barges, tugs, dredges, supply boats, etc. Shore-based workers, deckhands and guests aboard vessels likely do not qualify under the Jones Act, but may be covered by a different maritime law.

A “vessel in navigation” does not mean a ship has to be moving at the time you’re injured. It basically means a boat has to be floating, in operation, capable of moving, and on navigable waters. But this can lead to some complicated scenarios. For example, a ship can be tied up at a dock and still be covered under the Jones Act, but a ship in “dry dock” for repairs is not. A riverboat casino may qualify, but a floating barge casino that doesn’t sail around may not. An injured worker on a stationary oil platform typically won’t qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, but she will if she spends 30% of her time on a moving vessel owned by her employer or if the platform is towable.

Finally, what’s considered “navigable waters”.  Obviously, ocean and rivers. But navigable waters can also include lakes, ponds, streams and canals that are connected to other navigable waterways…and even landlocked lakes if they extend into another state, thereby allowing interstate commerce.

If you’re a worker in the maritime industry who’s been injured in an accident in or around the water, find out whether you qualify for compensation under the Jones Act or other maritime law. Call The Cochran Firm Mid-South at 901-523-1222 today for a free consultation.