Compensation for an offshore or maritime injury incurred by a worker in the course of his or her employment is driven by a number of factors. For purposes of determining appropriate compensation for a maritime injury, workers fall into two groups. The first group consists of “seamen” employed by a United States-flagged vessel and supporting its operation, while the second group consists of someone who works on navigable waters or adjacent to them on a dock, pier, warehouse, or similar facility. A member of the first group is entitled to compensation under the federal “Jones Act,” while a member of the second group is compensated under a different federal law, the United States Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (USL&H). Injured workers not falling into either group may still be eligible for compensation under applicable state worker’s compensation laws.
Compensation of injured seamen under the Jones Act
Seamen seeking compensation under the Jones Act must prove negligence on the part of the seaman’s employer and its agents, including officers and other seamen, or that the vessel on or in connection with which the injury occurred was unseaworthy (a very broad term meaning that the vessel was significantly deficient in some respect that endangered the seamen employed on it). This is unlike USL&H and state worker’s compensation laws, which provide for compensation without requiring that negligence or other fault be proved. The Jones Act damage recovery may be reduced if the seaman is shown to have been partly to blame for the accident, also unlike USL&H and state workers’ compensation.
Even without showing either negligence or unseaworthiness, the seaman is entitled to compensation during the period of recovery, in the form of:
Maintenance-payment of the seaman’s living expenses during the period of recovery; and
Cure-payment of the medical and related cost of recovery from the injury.
The right to maintenance and cure most closely resembles state worker’s compensation rights.
To the extent the seaman can show either negligence or the vessel’s unseaworthiness, the seaman can recover damages under the Jones Act for loss of earning capacity due to permanent, partial, or full disability, future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and even punitive damages under some circumstances. Again, that recovery may be reduced to the extent the seaman’s own negligence was to blame for the accident.
The U.S. Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act
The United States Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (USL&H) is a federal worker’s compensation law that offers compensation to injured maritime workers employed on or adjacent to the United States’ navigable waters, such as on or in docks, warehouses, piers, and similar facilities. USL&H generally offers a higher rate of compensation for a maritime injury than state worker’s compensation acts do for the same injury, and therefore an injured worker will often seek to make a claim under USL&H rather than under the state workers’ compensation statute, even when the worker’s status as someone entitled to USL&H damages is open to dispute. Like state workers’ compensation statutes, USL&H compensates the worker at predetermined rates, with no requirement that employer negligence be proved by the injured worker.
A legal team that understands the industry and the law
Baggett McCall understands that our clients work in some of the most dangerous occupations. While there are laws in place to protect the safety of workers, it is important to work with an attorney who knows how to employ those laws to your benefit. For more information about a maritime injury, offshore oil rig accident, or a Jones Act or USL&H claim.