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Reassignment and Jones Act Seaman Status

Because of the special protections and remedies afforded to injured seaman under the Jones Act, one of the most important issues in a maritime claim is determining Seaman status. Ordinarily, to qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, a maritime employee must spend a significant amount of time working as a crewmember of a vessel in navigation. Significant time has been interpreted to require an employee to spend 30% of their total work time in service to the vessel.

But what about maritime employees who are injured shortly after being assigned to offshore duty? If the employee has not spent a significant amount of time working as a crew member of a vessel, can they qualify as a seaman?

Yes, in some instances they can. In Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, the Supreme Court recognized that the status of an injured maritime employee is properly assessed on the basis of their work assignment at the time of their injury and that reassigned maritime employees should not be denied seaman status if injured shortly after reassignment to a vessel.

To qualify under the exception, a reassigned maritime employee must show that at the time of the injury:

  • The nature of the employee’s new duties substantially contributed to the vessel or its mission;
  • The reassigned employee’s connection to the ship would be regular and continuous; and
  • The workers presence on the vessel was not transitory or sporadic.

The more substantial that the duties are in service to the ship or its mission and the more permanent the position, the more likely the maritime employee will qualify under the exception. Therefore, even if a maritime employee has recently been reassigned to an offshore position when they are injured, the employee may qualify as a Jones Act Seaman.

Maritime law is confusing for injured maritime workers. It can present a labyrinth for the uninitiated lawyer. It is critical you obtain an experienced maritime attorney to navigate the issues in your maritime claim to obtain the best recovery. Contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling 713-396-3964 or toll free at 1-800-594-4884 for your free consultation today.

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