As a way to save money, more and more maritime employers are hiring contract employees to serve aboard their vessels. If you’re a contract worker who’s been injured while working aboard a vessel, what are your rights when it comes to seeking compensation for your injuries? Are contract maritime employees who work aboard vessels protected by the Jones Act and other maritime laws?
Along with maintenance and cure benefits, the Jones Act gives seamen the right to sue their employers for any on the job injury caused by the negligence of a ship’s owner or its crew. In order to qualify for protection under the Jones Act, you must first meet the definition for being a seaman.
Qualifying for Jones Act Protections as a Contract Maritime Worker
To be considered a seaman under the Jones Act, you must:
- Be employed or engaged aboard a vessel that navigates on the water;
- Spend at least 30 percent of your working time aboard a vessel; and
- Make a significant contribution to the function of the vessel.
Your position aboard the vessel doesn’t matter as long as you meet these criteria. Cooks and stewards are considered seamen as long as they meet the qualifications. The Jones Act does not distinguish between contract and non-contract employees.
Independent Contractors Versus Contract Employees
Additionally, a “borrowed service doctrine” allows for contract employees to be considered seamen under the Jones Act. This means there can be an employer-employee relationship even though the employee technically works for a land-based staffing agency or other independent contractor.
Are you an independent contractor or a contract employee? An independent contractor works on their own and is not directed by an employer or the party that has contracted their services. A contract employee takes direction from their employer or the party that has contracted their services. They don’t work independently. If you were taking orders from the Captain or other officer, or from the owner of a vessel, you are considered to be an employee, not an independent contractor.
In these types of cases, the burden of proof is on the injured employee. Not only must you be able to show:
- The vessel’s unseaworthiness contributed to your injuries;
- You qualify as seamen under the Jones Act; and
- There was an employer-employee relationship between you and the ship’s owner when your injuries occurred.
Hiring an experienced Jones Act attorney to represent you is a smart move to make in these circumstances. Even if you don’t qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, there may be other legal options available to you.
Injured Contract Maritime Workers Have Rights
If you were employed as a contract worker aboard a vessel and became injured as a result of the vessel’s unseaworthiness, contact The Lambert Firm without delay. Our maritime attorneys will review your case to determine if you are qualified to seek damages under the Jones Act and/or other maritime laws.
Headquartered in New Orleans, The Lambert Firm has been protecting the rights of injured seamen and other maritime workers for over 40 years. We’ve obtained hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements for our clients. Don’t miss out on getting the compensation you deserve because you think your status as a maritime contract worker prohibits you from seeking damages for your injuries.