Recently, this blog looked at the question of when a diver is considered a seaman under the Jones Act. A recent post in Texas Lawyer by F. Daniel Knight poses a similar question: can a crewmember sue his or her employer after being fired for a claim experienced while disembarking from a vessel? Instead of presenting a simple answer, Knight gives several different factors to consider when assessing a seaman's status.
Opinions on what constitutes end of service varies depending on the court circuit involved, Knight writes. Sometimes there isn't a clear moment when a seaman becomes ineligible, such as whether or not the person in question was "in the service of the vessel" during the time of the claim.
Among the considerations Knight says are important for such a distinction, a seaman needs to be described with the correct terminology, such as "passenger," after being dismissed.
"Such status still gives rise to a General Maritime Law negligence claim, as well as any state law remedies," he writes. "While even the least salty Admiralty proctor knows such a claim is far more defensible than a Jones Act claim for negligence, it is better to have a life preserver than nothing if your life boat springs a leak."
On their website, diver attorneys Delisle & Hall address this related issue of diving contractor negligence. As they say, proof of an action or lack of action on behalf of the diver can cement whether a company is deemed responsible for negligence. Diving-related accidents and injuries may not show themselves immediately, so clearly identifying negligence could be useful for cases in the future.
Marine insurers will provide more information for dive managers that need coverage for personnel and equipment.