As a general rule, the Jones Act protects seamen who have an “employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation”. The Jones Act is a law that requires maritime employers to pay for a seaman’s medical and living expenses if he is injured while working at sea. This is fine for seamen who are permanently stationed on a vessel; however, an interesting question arises when an employee’s work duties are performed both on land and offshore.
In a case argued by offshore lawyers before the U.S. Supreme Court, McDermott Int’l, Inc. c. Wilander, 498 U.S. 337 (1991), the Court said that in order to qualify for Jones Act benefits, “a seaman’s job need not be limited to transportation-related functions that directly aid in the vessel’s navigation.” Unfortunately, this case said nothing about seamen who also work on land.
In a later Supreme Court case, Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347 (1995), offshore lawyers represented Antonios Latsis who was responsible for maintaining an entire fleet of ships. This meant that he split his time between working in an office, which was located on land, and working on the ships that he maintained. Latsis suffered an eye injury while he working on a ship that was out at sea. He saw the ship’s doctor who diagnosed him with a detached retina; however, the ship’s doctor failed to advise Latsis to seek emergency medical treatment. Latsis ended up losing 75 percent of his vision in his right eye.
Latsis contacted offshore lawyers once his ship returned to shore to discuss his injury. The offshore lawyers filed a claim on Latsis’s behalf under the Jones Act. The offshore lawyers argued that Latsis was entitled to compensation because a substantial portion of his work occurred on a vessel at sea. The Supreme Court held that “the employment-related connection to a vessel in navigation that is necessary to qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act is comprised of two basic elements: The worker’s duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission, and the worker must have a connection to a vessel in navigation that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature.” Employees who meet this test may qualify for benefits under the Jones Act.
If you are injured and your work is split between a land-based location and a vessel, you should contact the offshore lawyers in your area to have your case evaluated. Offshore lawyers are generally experienced in this area of the law and can help you determine which type of compensation claim you may be eligible to receive.