There are a variety of laws designed to protect you in the event you are injured at work on, in or near the water. The laws that apply to your case depend on the location of the accident and circumstances surrounding your injuries.
Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act
If the mishap took place within a state's territorial waters, workers' compensation may apply in accordance with the state's statutes. Provisions in the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) may apply if the accident occurred in federal waters or in certain cases in which the states' workers' compensation does not apply.
The Jones Act
Among the most important and widely encompassing protections afforded to many who work on, in, or near water is the Jones Act. The proper title of what has come to be known as the Jones Act is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Senator Wesley L. Jones of Washington sponsored the bill to provide U.S. seamen with rights not afforded by common international maritime law. It allowed them to sue ship owners based on claims of negligence and unseaworthiness.
One difficulty that has since confronted courts wrangling with maritime injury cases is the definition of "seaman". After some disparate rulings by lower courts, the Supreme Court reinstated a district court's ruling that a jury determined the status of a seaman. The definition came to include workers on dredges and certain oil drilling platforms.
In 1995 in Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, the Supreme Court established that to qualify as a sailor, among other requirements a worker "must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission". This allowed seamen whose work required going ashore to file a claim under the Jones Act.
As the interpretation and enforcement of the Jones Act has changed, so has the complex interplay between the various legal protections for those who work on, in or near water. In fact, some workers who were previously classified as covered under the LHWCA may now be afforded protections under the Jones Act.
For this reason we suggest that if you or a loved one has been injured doing maritime-related work, you should consult with a maritime lawyer or personal injury attorney who not only has recent experience in maritime cases, but is well-versed and has kept current in maritime legal issues.
Please search our directory of attorneys to find an admiralty and maritime injury lawyer who can handle your case.