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Are Barge Workers Considered Seamen Under the Jones Act?


Posted in Get To Know Maritime Law on January 15, 2019


The truth is that there is no easy answer when it comes to the question of whether a barge worker is a seaman under the Jones Act. Many factors come into play when defining a seaman under the Jones Act and each individual claim has its own specific conditions.

That’s why it is important to seek out the expert legal help of the Houston maritime lawyers at Lapeze & Johns. Our experienced Gulf Coast attorneys know the nuances of the Jones Act and are ready to guide you through the complicated legal processes of maritime accident claims.

Because we believe that knowing is half the battle, we have prepared some information to help guide you through understanding whether or not you – as a barge worker – are considered a seaman under the Jones Act.

The first thing to know is how a seaman is defined according to the Jones Act. In order to prove seaman status under the Jones Act you will need to:

  • Establish your employment-related connection to the vessel you were on when the accident occurred:
    • An employment-related connection to a vessel happens when the worker’s duties contribute to the functioning of the vessel and/or to the vessel’s objective.
    • The connection must also be substantial in both time duration and nature of the worker’s duty.
    • Prove you were working in navigable waters at the time of the incident.
  • Demonstrate you were on a navigable vessel.
    • The vessel or structure must have had an original objective to transport cargo or people regardless of its current state of transit or purpose.

Barge Worker and Seaman Status

Barge workers are able to perform a wide variety of duties. Some help in the navigation of the barge, while others work performing necessary vessel maintenance. Additionally, there are barge workers who work on other vessels next to the barge or help with the loading and unloading of the cargo.

Due to the variety of duties, chances are some barge workers could be considered seamen, if at the time of suffering an accident, they were working on a vessel and on navigable waters. An expert maritime lawyer can help you sort out the details to define if you have a case. In this situation, the Jones Act would protect the barge worker as a seaman and the only requirement left would be to demonstrate some level of negligence either from a co-worker, employer, or both.

Unfortunately, not all accidents and injuries suffered by barge workers are covered by the Jones Act. Due to the many factors which define a seaman under this act, it can be complicated for barge workers to fulfill all the parameters of being a seaman in every scenario.

However, there is still hope. As a barge worker, even if you were not protected by the Jones Act, you could be covered by the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act.

We invite you to seek the guidance of our experienced Houston maritime lawyers at Lapeze & Johns to see what options are available to you. We will fight for your rights and provide the justice you deserve.

If you have been injured while performing your duties as a barge worker contact Lapeze & Johns today at 713-739-1010 for a free case review.