Maritime workers may be entitled to compensation if they are injured at their jobs. But maritime law has different coverage based upon their work. There is a substantial difference between the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and the Jones Act.
What the laws do
The Jones Act allows injured seaman, including masters or members of vessel crew, to file a personal injury negligence lawsuit. The Longshore Act provides workers’ compensation coverage for land-based maritime workers who suffer work-related injuries.
There may be overlap. Employers must have the proper insurance coverage and injured workers need to select the correct legal remedy.
Under the Longshore Act, a covered employee is any person engage in maritime work. These workers include any longshoremen and any person doing longshoring operations, and other harbor workers such a ship repairmen, ship builder shipbuilder. This act also covers other related occupations such as maintenance and repair workers, construction workers, contractors, and anyone whose work requires them to be on navigable waters.
Claims under the Longshore Act must occur upon the United States’ navigable waters or adjacent land area used by the employer for unloading, repairing, building, or dismantling a vessel.
An occupational coverage test applies to Jones Act claims. The worker’s duties had to contribute to the vessel’s function or to the accomplishment of its mission. The workers must also have a substantial and long employment connection to a vessel engaged in navigation or an identifiable group of vessels under common ownership.
Courts typically use a 30 percent rule that requires a careful factual review for coverage. Generally, workers are not Jones Act seamen if they spend less than 30 percent of their total work time aboard a vessel or in the ship’s service.
In addition to meeting coverage requirements, injured workers need to consider their options. The U.S. Department of Labor operates the Longshore Act and adjudicates claims. Like workers’ compensation, this law allows prompt wage and replacement benefits without proving fault.