Sailors, Maritime Workers Protected by Special Laws for On-the-Job Injuries

People who get injured are very often are entitled to payment for damages and for harm done, whether involved in auto, truck, train, airplane or boat accident. In some cases, though, procedures to seek justice are vastly difference because the rules of recovery of based on totally different laws.

For several years railroad workers had specific rights under federal law to collect damages for injuries occurring while working on the job. Those rights were extended to sailors with passage in 1920 of the federal Merchant Marine Act, also known as the Jones Act (named after Sen. Wesley Jones, the Act’s sponsor). Some maritime workers, not covered by the Jones Act, are protected by the Longshoreman’s Act.

The Jones Act specifically allows for sailors to make claims and collect from their employers for the negligence of the ship owner, captain, or crew members. The protection applies to any one who spends 30 percent or more of their working time “in the service of a vessel on navigable waters.”

While most Americans injured on the job file for workman’s compensation to obtain justice, sailors instead must seek justice by filing for relief under the Jones Act. In addition to payments for damages sailors may file to cover death benefits, health care costs and lost wages associated with the injury. The benefits can be extremely higher than benefits for workers on land, if a skilled and knowledgeable attorney is involved.

Claims may injuries resulting from working on offshore rigs, tugboats, barges, tankers, cargo ships, ferries, fishing trawlers, workboats, water taxis, or for dockworker injuries or international maritime injuries. Anyone who thinks they might be covered should contact an attorney familiar with the Jones Act for advice.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, commonly known as the Longshoreman’s Act, was enacted in 1929 and covers certain maritime workers including most dock workers and shipyard workers not covered by the Jones Act. Generally speaking, a worker injured who is covered by the Longshoreman’s Act is entitled to temporary payment of two-thirds of his weekly wage while undergoing medical treatment and for payment of damages.

The Longshoreman’s Act provides employment-injury and occupational-disease protection to some 500,000 workers who are injured or contact occupational diseases on the navigable waters or the U.S. or on ports or docks.

There are risks involved with the Longshoreman’s Act. An injured worker, for instance, who quickly agrees to take the insurance adjuster’s advice to “see our doctor” is legally bound to that choice, an action which often decreases the worker’s chance for fair compensation. The wisest step is to consult with an attorney before signing any documents handed to you by an insurance adjustor, who is not getting paid to look after the worker’s best interests.

There are many horror stories of auto and truck accident victims who give away their birthrights by signing documents flashed in front of them by insurance adjusters. The same thing is true of injured sailors, longshoremen or other maritime workers injured on the job, whether covered by the Jones Act or the Longshoreman’s Act.

All injured workers must always remember that insurance companies are not your friend. If you want someone to represent your best interest that would be your attorney. There are sufficient protections for injured and killed sailors and other maritime workers so please make sure you do not give those rights away but instead receive the justice you are entitled to receive.


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