A person employed on board a vessel whose labor contributes to the main objective of the vessel; a sailor or mariner, commonly excluding the officers of a ship.
One of the central questions in any maritime injury case is whether the injured party is a seaman, since only a seaman can recover under the Jones Act. A seaman is a member of the crew of a vessel or someone who assigned to a vessel or a fleet of vessels. For example, those who work on tankers, freighters, jack-up rigs, semi-submersibles, towboats / tugs, supply boats, crew boats, barges, lay barges, and fishing vessels are members of the crew are considered seamen. Those who are crewmembers on movable or jack-up drilling rigs are seamen. Officers and crew are all considered seamen. Longshoremen, pilots, and those who work on fixed platforms are not seamen, but have other maritime remedies available for injuries. Often there is a dispute as to seamen status and whether the seaman was working on a vessel when he was injured. It is very important to allow the maritime attorney to study the facts surrounding the accident and the "vessel" to help make the determination of seaman status.
The essential requirements for seaman status are:
- (a) An employee's duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission;
- (b) A seaman must have a connection with a vessel in navigation (or to an identifiable group of such vessels), that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature;
- (c) The duration of a worker's connection to a vessel and the nature of the worker's activities, taken together, determine whether a maritime worker is a seaman because the ultimate inquiry is whether the worker in question is a member of the vessel's crew or simply a land-based employee who happens to be working on a vessel at a given time.
- (d) A distinction must be made between sea-based workers and land-based workers who have only a transitory or sporadic connection to a vessel in navigation.Land-based maritime workers do not become seamen because they happen to be working aboard a vessel when they are injured, and seamen do not lose Jones Act protection where the course of their service to a vessel takes them ashore. In evaluating the employment-related connection of a maritime worker to a vessel in navigation, courts should not employ a "snapshot" test for seamen status, inspecting only the situation as it exists at the instant of injury; but rather, the total circumstances of an individual's employment must be weighed to determine whether he has a sufficient relation to the vessel.
- (e) Jones Act coverage( seaman status ) depends not on the place where the injury is inflicted, but on the nature of the seaman's service, his status as a member of the vessel, and his relationship as such to the vessel and its operation in navigable waters.