A life at sea is a complicated thing. Some people get caught up in maritime work after a chance job or two lead to a career, and some people feel a natural calling to the water. People who want to work at sea almost always have options, but security is something that never really exists in an absolute form.
Workers’ compensation that is managed by state funds and collected from employers’ insurance payments do not cover incidents what happens in waters not claimed by the state. A federal law called the Jones Act takes over in these areas, guaranteeing coverage to workers on vessels. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) helps workers with jobs on land that support maritime commerce.
The question of which one covers what is rarely asked, but it is necessary to think about it from a recent case involving a mechanic’s injury. The man was injured when he fell through a hatch on a crane barge moored at a dock operated by his employer. He later filed a lawsuit under the Jones Act after receiving compensation under the LHWCA.
The reason both laws were invoked was the injury covered by the LHWCA and the vessel’s unseaworthiness called into question under the Jones Act. Since a defendant may use a claim under one as pretext to dismiss a claim under the other, these laws must be well-understood.
An attorney can help workers injured on or near the water figure out which law applies to their situation. Legal representation can be also be valuable when filing a claim for workers’ compensation under a law involving maritime labor.