The Jones Act vs. The Longshore Act
Which law applies to an injured seaman, the Jones Act or the Longshore Act? This is a question that many seamen face after suffering an injury. Both Acts offer certain benefits and protections, but there are some key differences. In this blog post, we will take a look at those differences and help you determine which law applies to you.
Before the Jones Act, injured maritime workers in the United States were not entitled to sue their employers for damages related to injuries or deaths at sea. The Jones Act is a part of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act.
Maritime law provided that a vessel’s owner must maintain a seaworthy vessel for a seaman to work upon and “maintenance and cure” to an injured seaman. Maintenance and cure included medical care and a small amount for living expenses until the seaman reached maximum medical improvement. Seamen had no other recourse for compensation if they were injured on the job.
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What Compensation Does the Jones Act Pay an Injured Seaman?
With the enactment of the Jones Act, an injured worker could sue an employer for lost wages, medical care, diminished earning capacity, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. In addition, surviving family members can sue for compensation related to wrongful death.
Seamen covered under the Jones Act include:
- Crew members
- Harbor pilots
- Ship-board technicians
- Workers on supply boats, tugboats, barges, and ships
- Workers on jack-up offshore oil rigs and semi-submersibles, if the vessels are unattached or detachable from the ocean floor so they can move in navigable waters
- Cruise ship workers
- Underwater welders on navigable vessels
However, the Jones Act is not perfect. For example, the Jones Act does not clearly define the term “seaman.” Therefore, courts had to interpret what Congress meant when they said “seaman” in the language of the Act.
It was a crucial oversight in the language of the Jones Act because state workers’ compensation law does not cover these employees either. Therefore, longshoremen, dock workers, shipbuilders, contract workers, ship repairers, harbor workers, and other similar workers were overlooked. As a result, they had no right to file a claim for damages under the Jones Act.
To protect these overlooked workers, Congress passed the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act of 1927. The Act provided benefits to these workers if they sustained an on-the-job injury. While the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) have some similarities, they cover an entirely different category of workers.
What Does the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Provide?
Generally, the benefits of the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“Longshore Act”) cover workers involved in loading, unloading, repairing, or building seagoing vessels. In addition, the Act covers injuries that occur on a shipping terminal, wharf, pier, or on board of a vessel on navigable waters.
Under the Longshore Act, an employer is responsible for payment of all reasonable medical bills for a qualified employee injured on the job. The employer must also provide rehabilitative expenses and two-thirds of the worker’s weekly wages as long as the worker remains disabled.
Surviving family members may receive death benefits. For example, a spouse receives up to 50 percent of the average weekly wages earned by the deceased worker. If there are children, an additional 16 percent is added to the benefits.
Employers cannot retaliate or discriminate against workers who file claims under the Longshore Act. As with other workers’ compensation benefits, it is not a fault-based system.
Common Longshore Injuries and Claims
Longshore work is dangerous as it involves heavy machinery and equipment. A small mistake or safety violation could result in a catastrophic injury or wrongful death. Common causes of injuries to longshoremen include, but are not limited to:
- Slips, trips, and falls
- Explosions and fires
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Co-worker negligence
- Crane accidents
- Malfunctioning or defective equipment
- Accidents involving forklifts
Fortunately, longshoremen can file claims under the Longshore Act when they are not covered by state workers’ compensation insurance or a Jones Act claim.
Filing a claim under the Longshore Act requires that workers notify their employer within 30 days of the injury. Additionally, a formal claim must be filed with the U.S. Department of Labor within one year of the injury.
What Should a Worker Do After a Maritime Accident?
Maritime law can be confusing and difficult to understand. For example, are you covered by the Jones Act or the Longshore Act? Do you notify your employer or file a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor?
Doing nothing is the one thing you want to avoid. You could miss your opportunity to recover compensation for maritime injuries by not taking action. The best way to protect your right to the compensation you are entitled to receive is to talk with a maritime injury lawyer.
An attorney evaluates your case, determines what laws apply given the facts of your case, and advises you of your rights and options for filing claims and receiving compensation.
Five things to do after a maritime injury include:
- Seek medical attention for your injuries. It is crucial that a medical professional examine your injuries as soon as possible.
- Notify your employer of the injury. If possible, notify your supervisor immediately. If the injury is severe, seek emergency medical care and notify your supervisor and employer from the hospital.
- Gather all information and evidence regarding your injury. Under the Jones Act, you must prove negligence. Therefore, it is wise to gather evidence of the accident as soon as possible.
- Do not sign anything or make statements until you speak with a lawyer. The comments you make could be used against you during your case. It is best to seek legal advice first.
- Document your injuries and damages by keeping detailed records. Take pictures of your injuries and write down all comments and statements made to you by co-workers, supervisors, insurance representatives, or employers.
Schedule A Free Consultation With Our Houston Jones Act Atorneys
A maritime injury attorney will investigate the cause of your accident. The lawyer will gather evidence and may retain one or more experts to assist with the investigation and case. Your attorney will handle all aspects of your maritime injury claim, including filing claims, monitoring deadlines, preparing documents, researching laws, and handling insurance companies, employers, and other at-fault parties.
Having a trusted legal advocate on your side after a maritime injury in Texas can mean the difference between winning your case or losing the money and benefits you should receive after being injured on the job.