Hurt while working on the water. What do I need to know?
In short, the name of an experienced attorney. Injuries that occur at work for those men and women who work on or around the water can be broken into two classes of cases: Longshore and Jones Act. Undoubtedly, you’ve seen attorneys advertise on television about Longshore and Jones Act cases, but what are they? How are they different from one another? More importantly, how do they affect you?
The Longshore and Harbor workers’ Compensation Act (Longshore for short) is a federal law that requires employers to purchase and carry workers’ compensation insurance – the purpose of which is to ensure that injured workers are compensated for their injuries. Longshore applies to land-based individuals who work on or around the navigable waterways of the continental United States, but spend less than 30% of his or her work time aboard a vessel or company-owned fleet of vessels. The period for filing a claim is one year from the date of injury or death, and must be filed with the Longshore and Harbor workers’ Compensation Commission. Benefits under the Longshore Act include payment of medical bills that relate to the injury, as well as disability or “indemnity” payments. These payments are calculated based on 2/3 of your average weekly wage and include temporary partial, temporary total, permanent partial and permanent total disability. The downside to a Longshore case is that there are remedies for which an injured employee will not be eligible, i.e. pain and suffering, punitive damages, etc.; however, the upside is that proving a Longshore case requires only “more than a mere scintilla” of evidence. Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 477 (1951).
The Jones Act, also a federal law, applies to those workers who spend at least 30% of their time working aboard a vessel. For purposes of the Jones Act, these workers are called “seamen.” If a seaman is injured while on the job, as a result of the negligence of his employer or fellow employees, the Jones Act will allow that worker to file a lawsuit and have his claim heard in front of a judge and jury. The period for filing a Jones Act claim is three years from the date of injury or death, and can be filed in state or federal district court. If successful in his claim, the seaman is entitled to monetary compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and future damages. The standard of proof is higher than a Longshore claim, but lower than what one would face in a regular negligence cause of action.
If you or a loved one has been hurt while working on the water, feel free to give our office a call. We can assist in making sure that your rights are protected.