Maritime law refers to the collection ofstatutory (written) andcommon (derived from custom and previous court decisions) law that a country accepts as its definition of what is legally binding on all its citizens. Maritime laws is sometimes seen as a part of the broader body of law known asadmiralty law, the “law of the sea.” For the purposes of this page, maritime law will refer to that portion of the law that governs the conduct of businesses and their employees on waters that are recognized as being under the control of the United States.
In this article, the maritime injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm explains how the services of a maritime lawyer can be invaluable in assisting an injured maritime worker, and the worker’s family, in securing the full amount of compensation they are entitled to receive following an injury.
Who Is a Maritime Worker?
For our purposes, we may define a “maritime worker” to be 1) a member of a ship’s crew (a “seaman”); 2) someone who loads, unloads, or transfers a ship’s cargo; 3) someone employed as a ship builder, a ship-breaker, or a ship repairer, or 4) anyone who is employed on a stationary offshore platform dedicated to the exploration and/or production of crude oil or natural gas.
Despite the often hazardous nature of their work and working conditions, under federal law injured maritime workers arenot eligible for a state’s Workmen’s Compensation benefits. Instead, injured maritime workers are eligible for benefits that are similar to Workmen’s Compensation but are administered by the federal government rather than the individual states.
Most injured seamen, harbor, and offshore workers will fall under the jurisdiction of one of three acts of Congress:
Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
The Jones Act applies to those ship’s crew members (seamen) who are injured while preforming duties that contribute to the success of their vessel’s mission. You are considered a “seaman” if at least 30% of your total work time is spent on a qualified vessel or a fleet of vessels.
To qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, you must have been a seaman on a vessel that was considered to have been “in navigation” at the time your injury occurred. A vessel is “in navigation” if it is:
afloat, meaning that it is actually in the water andnot in drydock or ashore undergoing repair
in operation, by transporting cargo and/or passengers
capable of moving under its own power
on “navigable” waters that are used in interstate or international commerce
If you were injured aboard a qualified vessel, you are entitled to receive “maintenance and cure” while you are unable to work. “Maintenance” is intended to provide an injured seaman with living expenses until he or she is able to return to work. “Cure” is the payment of all medical expenses related to the injury until 1) the seaman is able to return to work or 2) the maximum level of recovery has been reached.
Maintenance payments are typically much less than a seaman’s regular wages. The Jones Act allows a seaman to file a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the vessel where the injury occurred. Such lawsuits can demand lost wages, anticipated future medical expenses, and compensation for “pain and suffering” as well as punitive damages.
Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA)
The LHWCA is an extension of the Jones Act to those employed at a harbor. It applies to longshoremen, stevedores, shipbuilders, shipbreakers, and other maritime-related workers.
In general, the LHWCA provides an injured worker:
2/3 of the workers average weekly wages
payment of all medical expenses related to the injury
vocational rehabilitation, if necessary
payments for partial or permanent disability
Unlike seamen covered under the Jones Act, workers covered under the LHWCAdo not have the right to sue their employers alleging negligence. In this respect, the LHWCA resembles a state-administered Workmen’s Compensation program. However, the injured worker is free to file a lawsuit against a “third party” if that party contributed in any way to the worker’s injury.”
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)
The OSCLA basically extends the LHWCA to those who work on offshore facilities such as oil and gas drilling platforms. It also applies to workers who are traveling to or from their offshore work locations.
Compensation of Injured Maritime Workers
At first glance, the benefits available to injured seamen and maritime workers appear to be almost identical to those provided by traditional Workmen’s Compensation programs.
The key differences between these programs can be summarized as:
under the Jones Act, an injured seaman is allowed to sue his or her employer for negligenceor for an unseaworthy vessel
wage compensation payments are usually higher under LHWAC and OCSLA
all three programs allow payment for permanent partial disability, which is not allowed under Workmen’s Compensation
Given the complexity of compensation programs that may apply to an injured maritime worker, it is essential that an injured worker consult a maritime injury lawyer as soon as possible after their injury.
How a Maritime Injury Lawyer May Help an Injured Worker
As we have seen, there are several compensation programs that are available to injured maritime workers. Since many maritime workers are unaware of the type, and amount, of compensation they are entitled to receive, it is strongly advised that an injured maritime worker seek advice from an experienced maritime accident injury lawyer. One such lawyer is the maritime injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm, a nationwide personal injury law practice with offices in major cities throughout the county
When you contact the maritime injury lawyer at the Doan Law Firm to arrange a free review of your maritime injury case, your first consultation with our firm is always free of any charges and does not require that you hire our firm as your legal counsel. If you decide that we should manage you maritime personal injury case, we are usually willing to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for trial in exchange for an agreed-to percentage of the final settlement that we will win for you.