Do Foreign Maritime Workers Qualify Under the Jones Act?

When a maritime worker is injured because of the negligence of the owner or operator of the vessel or another seaman, they have the right to seek compensation under the Jones Act. To qualify, claimants must meet specific requirements, including receiving classification as a “seaman.” A seaman is a person who is employed by the vessel owner or operator and spends at least 30% of their time on the vessel, directly contributing to its function in some way.

But how does this definition apply to foreign seamen? Do they still qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, even though it is a law of the United States?Whether the Jones Act covers a foreign worker will depend on the facts, but the rule of thumb is that the Jones Act covers foreign maritime workers if they work on vessels owned or operated by U.S.-based companies.

The following points must be considered prior to proceeding with a Jones Act claim for a non-U.S. worker:

  • The nationality of the injured person
  • The country where the employer is based
  • The registration of the vessel

However, there are scenarios where the Jones Act covers foreigners working on foreign-owned vessels if the owner/operator is found to be “U.S.-based” by the court. For instance, companies with U.S. offices or who do significant business here often qualify as “U.S.-based.”

An early example of this was Stewart v. Pacific Steam Navigation Co (1924), where a British seaman was able to file a Jones Act claim for an injury he had sustained on the deck of a vessel owned by a British corporation while in the Panama Canal.

What About Injuries in Foreign Waters? Are Non-u.s. Citizens Covered?

The Jones Act is not limited by geographic location. Seamen injured in inland waterways, U.S. waters, or foreign waters could qualify for compensation under the Jones Act. This is true for non-U.S. citizens as well, as long as they meet the requirements of being a seaman.

Injured seamen often benefit from taking their cases to United States courts for trial. Other countries implement different laws and strategies that can make obtaining compensation difficult; meanwhile, the Jones Act offers the most rigorous maritime worker protections in the world. On average, the recovery in U.S. courts is higher than you’d find in other national legal systems.

Who Has Jurisdiction Over a Foreign Offshore Accident?

Jurisdiction over a maritime accident in foreign waters is unique to the facts of each case. You’ll need an offshore injury lawyer to analyze your case to determine the best path to recovery. However, free cases are black-and-white. It isn’t a matter of whether you qualify, but a question of whether the court will recognize that you qualify.

The advantage of the Jones Act is that it allows seamen to claim compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, long-term health costs, diminished earning capacity, and pain and suffering. Seamen who were injured outside of U.S. waters may still be protected under the Jones Act, but for complex situations involving foreign workers on foreign-owned vessels, you’ll need a lawyer to argue why the Jones Act should cover you. That takes a level of experience, preparation, and credibility that you can only get from a proven offshore injury law firm.

Up to 25% of Seamen on U.S. Vessels May Be Foreign Workers

Section 27 of the Jones Act requires vessels that move cargo between United States locations to be owned and built by American citizens. 75% of their crews must also be U.S. citizens. This means that up to one in four seamen on these vessels may be foreign maritime workers. These numbers are higher on offshore platforms and vessels located outside of U.S. waters.

Foreign maritime workers are often paid less than their American counterparts, particularly in offshore drilling operations and on vessels that operate in non-U.S. waters. Some may earn anywhere from 15–70% less than American seamen, but this does not mean that they should be denied the same rights under the Jones Act and other maritime laws. Their safety and their lives are just as important and must be protected. If they are injured, they should be able to recover fair compensation that will help them get the treatment they need while providing for their lost earnings.

Jones Act Compensation for Foreign Seamen

If a maritime worker from another country qualifies as a Jones Act seaman, they may be entitled to compensation for medical treatment, lost earnings, and more. Their eligibility must first be determined, however, and that may depend on the flag of the vessel, whether their employer is a U.S. company, how much business their employer conducts in the U.S., and more.

At Arnold & Itkin, we are recognized as leading offshore injury attorneys. We have handled some of the biggest cases in maritime law and have never wavered in our advocacy for injured seamen and the families of those who have been lost at sea because of the carelessness and greed of big corporations more interested in production than safety. If you are a seaman from another country and want to know if you qualify under the Jones Act, we are here to listen to your story and share our insight regarding your options and rights. To get started, call (888) 346-5024 or contact us online. Your consultation is free and confidential.

Don’t hesitate to contact our firm to learn more about how we may be able to help you!

Contact Us

Get a Completely Free Evaluation of Your Case

  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.