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. There are specific qualifications to be eligible under the Jones Act, however, including 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?
The answer will vary on a case-by-case basis, but the general rule of thumb is that foreign maritime workers may be considered Jones Act seamen if they work on vessels owned or operated by U.S. companies. If a foreign seaman works for a company that is based out of the United States, they may qualify for Jones Act coverage.
There are also scenarios where a non-U.S. citizen may qualify under the Jones Act even if they work on a vessel owned by a foreign company – if that company meets certain thresholds for doing business in the United States. Examples may include companies that have U.S. office locations or conduct a certain amount of business in the United States.
One of the earliest examples of this was the decision in Stewart v. Pacific Steam Navigation Co in 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 may 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.
For more information on maritime injuries in foreign waters, see the following:
- Why the Flag of a Vessel Matters for Workers Injured at Sea
- How Are Foreign Water Maritime Cases Handled?
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.