The Mississippi River has played a huge part in the history of Memphis and it continues to benefit the City and its residents today. At almost any time you can see a steady stream of barges and other vessels travelling up and down the Mississippi. Clearly, many people depend on waterways like the Mississippi River in order to make a living. Whether they ply their trade on barges, tankers, freighters, fishing vessels, or any other watercraft, these individuals work hard and deserve some form of protection in the event of a work-related injury. Workers’ compensation, however, is controlled by state law and is not available to river workers. But importantly, a federal law called the Jones Act protects those individuals in the unfortunate event of being injured on the job while working on the river.
In the event of an injury onboard, the Jones Act allows workers to bring a claim against their employer for the negligence of the ship owner, captain, or members of the crew. In order to fall under the Jones Act, an individual must qualify as a “seaman.” The U.S. Supreme Court has said that in order to qualify as a seaman, an individual’s duties must contribute to the function or mission of a vessel, and the individual must have a substantial connection to a vessel in navigation. In other words, if a person’s job requires them to be onboard a boat, barge, or other vessel for most of their time on the job, then they most likely fall under the Jones Act and can sue their employer for work-related injuries caused by the negligence of others.
If you have suffered a work-related injury while working on the river and believe that you may fall under the protections of the Jones Act, please contact our office and we will gladly help you with any questions.