Everyone should have the right to seek compensation for injuries caused by negligent parties. Before 2005, however, dredge workers were the exception. That, thankfully, has changed since the Supreme Court’s decision to rightfully categorize dredgers as “vessels” and its crew as “seamen.”

This means that the Jones Act can help victims who were injured — or the families of victims that perished — as a result of dredge work. This law allows victims to seek out financial recovery from the negligent ship owners or companies that may be liable for their injuries.

Trust in the experienced Gulf Coast maritime lawyers at Lapeze & Johns to successfully litigate your claim. With over $400 million collected for our clients, we know how to get the job done right.   

What Is the Jones Act?

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 — now known as the Jones Act — was designed to provide a form of a protective network for merchant mariners within the U.S. after World War I. The act required that all shipped goods transported between U.S. ports should do so on U.S. vessels operated by Americans. This act provided peace of mind in the form of increased national security during a very dangerous time.

Over time, the Jones Act began to encompass maritime responsibility with a focus on the safety and well-being of those that worked in the maritime industry.

The Jones Act now protects seamen from exploitation and provides a means of compensation for maritime workers that have sustained an injury as a result of another party’s negligence. It enables victims to seek compensation for past and future pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, medical costs, lost wages, and vocational retraining.

How Does It Affect Dredge Workers?

Before 2005, the verbiage within the Jones Act did not define exactly what dredge workers were in terms of maritime titles. Because dredge workers technically did not work on a “vessel in navigation” but on a work platform, they were not considered “seamen” but “longshoremen.” Longshoremen are not covered under the Jones Act.

Instead, longshoremen had to seek out compensation from the Longshore Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). Confusion would then stem because LHWCA covers stationary platforms, and most dredgers are not stationary unless they are dredging. Therefore, the crew manning the dredger are longshoremen. Of course, if a dredger is in transit, it technically isn’t stationary, so it must be a “vessel in navigation”.

What would result when workers were injured would be a legal ping pong match. That is until a decision made by the Supreme Court on February 22, 2005, finally cleared up the whole matter in the Stewart vs. Dutra Construction Company case. The case was about a dredge worker that was injured on a dredge, and he could not get adequate compensation since, at the time, dredges were not considered to be vessels.

The Supreme Court’s decision would then go on to declare that a vessel is a means of transportation over water, which is something that a dredger also does. This now gives dredge workers the ability to properly file Jones Act claims as seamen if they ever got injured while working on a dredger.

With this change, dredge workers are now able to benefit from the protection offered by the Jones Act if they have been injured while on the job.  

Are you a dredge worker that has been injured on the job? Have you lost a loved one who worked on a dredger? Our maritime accident lawyers want to hear your story.

The Texas maritime accident attorneys of Lapeze & Johns have worked hard for decades to become one of the premier legal team in the Gulf Coast region. With over 30 years of combined experience, our maritime accident lawyers can accurately represent you, strengthen your case with compelling evidence, and talk to experts in the medical and engineering fields to fully understand the extent of your injury.


If you need strong representation to get you the compensation you deserve, contact us right now at (713) 766-4855 to schedule your FREE legal consultation with our Houston dredger accident attorneys.

About Keith Lapeze

Keith Lapeze co-founded Lapeze & Johns with the focus of delivering dependable legal services to individuals hurt in accidents caused by negligence. After graduating third in his class from Louisiana State University Law Center, Mr. Lapeze continued his calling through commercial, environmental, and tort litigation where he is admitted to practice in both Texas and Louisiana, the United States Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Read more about Keith Lapeze here.