When is a commercial diver a seaman? 3 factors to consider


The Jones Act of 1920 is a crucial piece of maritime legislation that can affect the fate of commercial divers who are injured. As attorneys Delise & Hall mention on their website, the Act gives divers some legal protections in the event of injury. However, to determine if an employee is covered, they need to be designated as a seaman, which may be complicated.

Even if a diver is working for a marine company, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are included in the language of the act. So, who exactly does the law include as a seaman, and in what situations? Here are three factors that can influence this status and therefore dictate whether or not the law applies: 

  • Connection with a vessel: To qualify as a seaman, a commercial diver has to be involved with vessels and be actively working, although not necessarily for one ship in particular. While this seems like a broad piece of criteria, it can be useful in classifying divers that change employers frequently or work in a freelance capacity.
  • Nature of a craft: The diver isn’t the only party who has to pass legal requirements. The Act depends upon their work being performed in the service of a “vessel,” which could exclude work platforms or permanently moored ships. The source identifies the key phrase “vessel in navigation” as a way of differentiating between vessels and platforms. 
  • Work function: Does the diver contribute significant work to a vessel? They have to be involved in the “mission” of the craft to be eligible, which could require a thorough legal assessment.

Commercial diving insurance can accommodate workers in intensive, specific fields, and also provide compensation that matches their legal status as a marine worker under the Jones Act.






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