Building and maintaining offshore wind farms is expected to create 83,000 new jobs in states like Louisiana by 2030, but many of these workers will not be protected by existing workers’ compensation programs. These programs were put into place to ensure that injured workers receive compensation and protect employers from personal injury lawsuits, but those who work on ships, offshore structures and areas used to build or load oceangoing vessels are not usually covered.
The Jones Act
Congress addressed the issue of maritime commerce in 1920 when it passed the Merchant Marine Act. Section 27 of this law is known as the Jones Act, and it gives crew members who are injured in workplace accidents the right to sue their employers based on the civil tort of negligence. However, it provides few remedies for workers injured in accidents not caused by negligence. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act covers harbor and longshore workers, but it does not cover ship crews and only applies when accidents occur on ships or in harbor areas.
A patchwork of federal laws
Another federal maritime law dealing with these issues is the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, which extends LHWCA protections to workers on ships, artificial islands and offshore structures up to three miles beyond state waters. While this patchwork of federal laws will cover most workers engaged in building and maintaining offshore wind farms, none of them provide the same level of protection as state workers’ compensation programs.
Pursuing compensation for injured workers
This complex legal landscape could be bewildering to injured workers who are unable to earn a paycheck and face mounting medical bills. An attorney with experience in this area may help a worker in this situation by studying the facts of their case to determine what law applies and what the available legal remedies are.