Maritime work is rewarding, but dangerous, work. Whether you work onshore or on a vessel offshore, if you are injured on the job, you may be entitled to compensation. Maritime workers who are injured on the job typically are protected by one of the following federal laws: The Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Let’s review the key aspects of each of these laws.
The Jones Act
Who is covered?
The Jones Act protects “seamen,” which is generally defined to mean maritime workers who spend a significant amount of their work time on a vessel in navigable waters – that is, workers whose main job function takes place offshore. Essentially, if you spend at least 30% of your work time on the water, contributing to the work of a navigable vessel, you are covered by The Jones Act.
What conduct is covered?
The Jones Act establishes a right to compensation for injuries that occur in the course of your employment, as a result of your employer’s negligence. “Negligence” means unreasonably careless conduct. Some examples of negligent conduct by an employer that might result in a seaman being injured include:
- Failure to maintain equipment in proper working order;
- Failure to repair broken or malfunctioning equipment;
- Failure to provide proper safety training or equipment;
- Failure to maintain a safe working environment (e.g., non-skid deck surfaces); or
- Failure to warn of an unsafe condition.
The employer’s negligence may result in injuries caused by, for example, a slip and fall accident; a falling object; an explosion; a chemical leak or other exposure to a toxic substance; or a mishap with heavy machinery.
What compensation is available?
If you are able to establish that you were injured as a result of your employer’s negligence, then you may be entitled to compensation for:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Past and future lost wages and benefits; and
- Physical, mental and emotional pain and suffering.
To ensure that you recover the full amount of compensation and benefits to which you are entitled, consult with an experienced Gulf Coast maritime injury lawyer before you sign anything or make any statements.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
Who is covered?
Not all maritime workers are seamen. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) protects maritime workers not covered by the Jones Act. More specifically, the LHWCA protects maritime workers who work on or near the water, but whose primary job functions take place on the land – for example, harbor workers, dock workers, ship builders and repairers, and harbor crane operators and construction workers. Just because you work at a shipyard or shipping terminal, however, does not mean you are covered by the LHWCA. You must be actively engaged in maritime work; thus, for example, office workers and individuals who build, maintain or repair recreational boats are not covered.
What injuries are covered?
If you are a covered maritime worker, and you are injured on the job, on or at a facility near navigable water (e.g., at a harbor or wharf or anywhere ships are loaded or unloaded), then you may be entitled to disability benefits and compensation for medical treatment. Likewise, you may be entitled to benefits and compensation if you contract an “occupational disease,” which means an illness contracted as a result of exposure to harmful substances or conditions during your employment.
What types of benefits and compensation are available?
Depending on the nature and severity of your injury, you may be entitled to recover benefits for:
- Temporary (total or partial) disability; or
- Permanent (total or partial) disability.
For purposes of the LHWCA, you are “disabled” if you are unable to earn the same wages you earned before your injury. Benefits are paid based on your “average weekly wage” at the time you were injured.
The LHWCA also provides for medical benefits, including compensation for “reasonable and necessary” medical treatment, medical supplies, diagnostic tests, physical therapy and other medical services, including reimbursement for the cost of travel for all such treatment.
Depending on the nature of your injuries, you also may be entitled to receive vocational rehabilitation services.
What should you do if you are injured?
If you are injured on the job, you should seek medical treatment right away. In addition, in order to obtain LHWCA benefits, you must report the injury to your employer and file a written claim for compensation. Strict deadlines apply to the reporting and filing requirements, so do not delay. If your employer challenges your claim for compensation and medical benefits, you may be asked to submit additional documentation in support of your claim and may have to engage in a formal hearing process to resolve the dispute. This process can be time-consuming and frustrating. Our experienced Gulf Coast maritime injury lawyers can help. We can complete the paperwork and deal with your employer and the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, so that you can focus on taking care of your health and your family.
If you work on or near the navigable waters of the Gulf Coast, and you are injured in the course of your employment, you may be entitled to compensation and benefits. Our experienced maritime injury lawyers can assess your situation and help you navigate the legal process. Call us today or use the Contact form on this page to reach us by email.