When Hurricane Maria barreled down on Puerto Rico in September 2017 and left the United States territory in tatters, the Jones Act quickly became a household name. Also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, this nearly 100-year-old law mandates that shipping that occurs between United States ports must be completed by ships that are owned, operated and built by United States citizens. What doesn’t make headlines as much is another factor of the Jones Act that is designed to protect qualified seamen if they are injured or suffer a loss during the course of their employment. There are a number of provisions, regulations and guidelines that a Houston Jones Act lawyer can help unravel.
Are You Entitled to Compensation Under the Jones Act in Texas?
First, it’s important to note that the definition of a seaman — according to the maritime law — is a person with an employment connection with a shipping company or a particular ship. In order to qualify, you must spend at least 30 percent of your working time with that specific fleet of ships or a particular ship. Your work duties must place you in the position of directly contributing to the functions of the ship and/or its assigned tasks.
This is an important distinction to make as those workers who are employed by shore-based employers and who are injured while they are onboard a vessel or ship don’t automatically qualify for protection under the Jones Act.
“In Navigation” and the Jones Act
Another significant concept to understand when you are trying to determine if the Jones Act affects you is that of a ship “in navigation.” In order to qualify under the Jones Act, the vessel must be floating on navigable waters — such as oceans, rivers and inland lakes that have links to other navigable water or that are shared by two or more states — that are deemed suitable for foreign and domestic trade. In addition, the vessel must able to operate and travel unassisted.
To add confusion to the parameters covered by the Jones Act is the fact that the vessel doesn’t actually have to be moving in order to be considered in navigation. A ship that is docked as cargo is being unloaded is likely to be considered in navigation as it is completing the tasks it was designed to do. On the other hand, a ship that is in drydock and being repaired or retrofitted likely would not meet the legal definition of being in navigation.
As you can see, there are numerous elements that must be considered in terms of the maritime law. Contact a Houston Jones Act lawyer for a free case evaluation and get the answers you need.