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Jones Act / Maritime Law

The Jones Act is part of a set of employment regulations specific to employment on water vessels. It extends the provisions of another piece of employer liability legislation, the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), to seamen and other workers who do work contributing to a vessel’s function or mission. This may mean individuals not working on a vessel. Determination of whether an individual qualifies as a seamen under the Jones Act is best made by a qualified attorney. In some cases it works in concert with the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (see below).

Employers may be liable under the Jones Act for failing to provide a safe work environment, failing to provide adequate medical care, failing to provide competent crew and coworkers, or failure to attempt search and rescue for a seaman overboard. Other conditions may produce employer liability as well.

Other factors may affect Jones Act cases: whether the seamen bore responsibility for his or her own injury, the increased duty of care owed seamen under the Jones Act, etc. Assumption of risk by the seamen in performing the duties which lead to injury will not affect compensation awards.

Three years after injury are allowed for filing a Jones Act claim. There are several avenues for filing claims; a lawyer should decide where to file the claim as this choice can affect the amount of the recovery.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act allows for workers’ compensation benefits for injured maritime workers who do not qualify as seamen under the Jones Act. Benefits operate in much the same manner as state workers’ compensation benefits, and may include disability payments, rehab services, medical expenses, death benefits, etc. They are not necessarily dependent on finding the employer at fault.

In general, “maritime employment” applies to loading, unloading, repairing, and building vessels. This may include work done on “navigable waters” as well as on piers, wharfs, dry docks, or other related areas.

An employee who is injured on the job has just 30 days to give the employer notice of the injury. When the employee develops a disabling condition or illness that is work related, notice also must be provided. A formal Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act claim for benefits must be filed with the Department of Labor within one year from the date of injury. An employer can dispute the claim or begin voluntary payment within fourteen days of the accident. If an employer disputes the claim there is a conciliation procedure designed to help the parties come to an agreement about how the dispute should be resolved. If the parties cannot resolve the problem, an administrative law judge (ALJ) working for the Department will conduct a hearing and render a decision.

An injured worker wishing to make a claim under the Longshore Act must report any injury to their employer within 30 days. Formal filing of a Longshore Act claim must be made with the Dept of Labor with in one year. Subsequent procedures are similar to other workers’ compensation processes and are best done with a qualified attorney.

If you or a loved one is in need of legal assistance, call Heavens Law Firm at 1-866-HEAVLAW, submit a free online consultation, or contact us. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to handle your case, we will work on a contingency fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary recovery of funds. In many cases, a lawsuit must be filed before an applicable expiration date, known as a statute of limitations. Please call right away to ensure that you do not waive your right to possible compensation.

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