Seamen working on a vessel are subject to a unique set of dangers, so qualified seamen can file a Jones Act claim if an injury happens while working at sea. Otherwise called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, this federal statute grants a number of extra rights to seamen, giving them the protections they need while operating in risky marine industries. In general, these extra protections give workers more power in filing suits for damages. This presses employers and vessel owners into maintaining better safety controls and guarding the health of their workers.


In the wake of an accident, only a qualified seaman may receive protections under this federal statute. In 1995, during the case of Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, the U.S. Supreme Court determined what constitutes qualification under the statute. To qualify, a seaman must spend a minimum of 30 percent of their time working on an operating vessel. As a result, many employers will seek to manipulate their employees’ work schedules and records to push them under this 30 percent threshold and avoid further liabilities under the statute.

That is why an experienced team of personal injury lawyers should be contacted following an accident. Attorneys familiar with maritime law can help prove an injured employee’s work history, giving them the protection they need under the statute.


Qualified seamen have two major rights under the statute:

  • All qualified seamen have a right to “maintenance and cure,” which is medical treatment, support, room and board while a worker is in convalescence. This must be covered by the employer and must continue until the worker has recovered or until he or she will no longer benefit from additional medical treatment.
  • Qualified seamen also have the right to file a lawsuit for compensation against their employer or against a vessel owner if negligence or a ship’s unworthiness was the cause of the injury. Compared to workers in other industries, this is a major departure from the standard. Workers have to abide by the worker’s compensation laws in their state of residence, most of which do not allow employees to file injury suits against employers. In cases where multiple parties may be responsible for an injury, a qualified seaman may file a separate suit against all of them. That usually involves suits filed against the vessel owner and employer for a single injury. Qualified seamen have a right to a trial by jury during any injury suits.

Those who think they have just cause to file a suit should consider contacting Terry Bryant to explore their options