Maritime Construction Workers
1-800-621-1091 – Maritime Lawyer with 30 Years of Success
Maritime injury lawyer James Beard has been representing injured maritime workers in claims for negligence and unseaworthiness for over 30 years. Beard concentrates his practice on Jones Act injury claims including maritime construction workers who qualify for legal protection under Federal laws governing seamen.
Determining a marine construction worker’s legal status is critical to the amount and type of maritime benefits that the injured worker may recover. Where a marine construction worker has been injured as the result of negligence, defective equipment, or unseaworthiness of a vessel, a careful analysis should be undertaken to determine whether the injured worker is covered under the Jones Act or Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. A claim under the Jones Act may provide a maritime construction worker, in many cases, far greater compensatory damages than are available under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act.
The captain and members of a ship’s crew are seamen whose rights to compensation when injured are governed by the Jones Act. To determine whether an injured worker is a Jones Act seaman, a member of a “vessel’s crew,” the analysis begins with whether or not the worker has an employment related relationship to a vessel. The vessel must be in navigable waters, and the vessel must be capable of navigation. Vessels anchored are still in navigation. A vessel that is permanently removed from navigation does not qualify as a vessel under the Jones Act. The Supreme Court of the United States has described a boat as anything that floats. The definition of a vessel includes anything that is capable of transportation upon water. To be a vessel it need not be motorized. The injured worker must have a more or less permanent connection to a vessel or fleet of vessels and must contribute to the vessel’s mission. Seamen, at least to some degree, must do seaman-type duties for their vessels. A rough gauge is that a worker who spends 30% of his time working aboard a vessel may have qualified legal status under the Jones Act.
Every marine construction worker injured while working on a vessel, barge, platform or other floating device should have his or her claims analyzed to determine whether they are a Jones Act Seaman or a Longshoreman under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. There are significant differences in the benefits and compensation that may be available to you under the Jones Act as compared to the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. The two Acts are mutually exclusive; you either have legal status as a Jones Act seaman or you have legal status as a Harbor Worker.
For a marine construction worker who has the legal status of a seaman, claims for injury compensation are governed by the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a fault based system where the injured worker can recover for past and future lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life. In comparison, a Longshore Harbor Worker who is injured on a vessel, barge, or work platform on navigable waters does not have to prove vessel negligence or unseaworthiness. However, where there is negligence or unseaworthiness which causes a worker’s injury, the Jones act usually provides greater compensatory damages than the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. A Jones Act seaman may elect to have his damages decided by a jury trial.
Jones Act seamen receive maintenance and cure while they are recovering from their shipboard injuries. They also are entitled to bring a lawsuit against their employer for unseaworthiness or negligence. In a Jones Act type case, a seaman may seek compensation for provable damages such as past and future lost wages, past and future medical bills, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and psychological stress.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act system provides an injured worker temporarily with 2/3 of his average weekly wages until the worker is medically fixed and stable. The injured worker is then provided scheduled benefits or an amount based on the 2/3 of the impairment to his earning capacity. The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act is a no fault system. In a Longshore Harbor claim, the Longshoreman’s benefits are determined by an Administrative Law Judge; there is no right to a jury trial.