Working as a seaman or maritime employee isn’t like most 9 to 5 jobs. Sailors, seamen, commercial fishermen, and other at-sea employees may work voyage-to-voyage for different employers on a contractual basis. Even long-term employees may have employment contracts.

Contractual obligations can sometime pose unique issues, including where a lawsuit must be filed. However, the terms in the contract do not eliminate your rights when you are injured on the job.

Maritime Injuries and Contracted Employees in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California

If you’ve been injured on the job but are concerned because of your contract status, or because a contract clause may cause a particular hardship, the maritime contract lawyers at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP can help you regardless of your specific circumstances. We represent maritime employees coast-to-coast, including injuries that occur in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and North Pacific. Call us at 1 (800) 262-8529 to set up a free consultation to discuss your case today.

We represent clients throughout Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska, with offices in Bellingham, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco.

Maritime Contractor Information Center

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Independent Contractors and On-the-Job Injuries


The Jones Act protects seamen’s rights to recover after being injured on the job due to employer negligence. However, many employers will argue that people working for them are not employees, but rather independent contractors.

An independent contractor is a self-employed person who is hired to perform a specific service. In the shipping and maritime industry, seamen may be hired to work on a particular vessel on a particular voyage. The seamen’s service to the company could end when the voyage ends, and they may be working for an entirely different company on a different ship the next week.

After an injury, the employer may attempt to use those arguments to assert that you are not an employee and, therefore, do not qualify for protections under the Jones Act. However, even if you are on contract for a particular job and not a permanent employee, you still may qualify as an employee under the Act.

If you, as an employee, are under contract, the court may look at a variety of factors to determine whether you qualify as an employee instead of an independent contractor, including:

  • The amount of supervision placed on you
  • The control over the details of your work
  • How you were paid
  • The power of the employer to hire and fire workers
  • The nature of your relationship with the employer

If you were on contract, but were under direct supervision, your supervisor had day-to-day control over what you were doing, you were paid by direct deposit and you could not hire someone else to do the work you were contracted to do, there’s a good chance you are an employee for the purposes of the Jones Act.

A similar analysis applies for land-based maritime contract workers under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. Contract maritime employees, under many circumstances, can even recover under maintenance and cure provisions, which allow for workers compensation-like payments and coverage of medical expenses.


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Court Choices in Washington and Oregon Employment Contracts

One major factor that is often dictated by employment contracts is the court in which a case can be brought. Many maritime employment contracts based in Washington State require cases to be brought only in the Federal U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington, with courthouses in Seattle and Tacoma.

Under such a contract, it is likely that your case will need to be brought in the specified court, regardless of where your injury occurred. Your accident may have occurred in the Gulf of Alaska, and you may live in Anchorage and work exclusively in the Alaska coast, but if your employment contract stipulates that the case must be brought in Seattle, it likely must be brought there.

However, that does not mean that you will be forced to spend extensive time in Seattle or wherever your case must be brought. Our Seattle maritime personal injury attorneys at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP can represent you on all legal matters in Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska. It is unlikely that you will even be required to come to Seattle to testify, though each case’s circumstances are different.

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BOATLAW, LLP | Maritime Attorneys for Contract Employees

Your contract does not have to stand in the way of you recovering for an on-the-job injury. The maritime contract lawyers at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, LLP will fight for you. Call us today at 1-800-262-8529 for a free consultation.