Just like the sea presents dangerous working conditions it also presents unique legal conditions. Most maritime injuries are not pursuable through state courts or state worker’s compensation. Rather, maritime workers must collect damages under the Jones Act and Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and as result will usually find themselves in federal court if they wish to go to trial.
The Jones Act of 1920
Under this provision, maritime workers injured on the coast, on inland waterways, or at sea, may sue for damages that exceed workers’ compensation. Under this provision, employers have a duty to provide a safe working environment, such as maintaining seaworthiness of a vessel. What this provision does in practice is protect a seaman or other maritime worker’s right to sue their employer for negligence.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore Act is a federal law that functions similarly to state workers’ compensation that provides payment for the cost of medical care and rehabilitation services for employees disabled by on the job injuries sustained on navigable waters or adjoining areas used in the loading, unloading, building or repair of vessels. The Longshore Act also provides payment of survivor benefits to dependents if the injury causes or contributes to the employee’s death. The Longshore Act is attractive because it does not require a worker to demonstrate that an employer is at fault however, the recoverable money damages is much lower than the Jones Act.
Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
DOHSA applies to any death occurring beyond the territorial seas of any state or the United States itself. Liability under DOHSA can be based upon negligence, unseaworthiness if the decedent was a seaman, intentional torts and products liability. Only the named personal representative of the decedent can file a DOHSA claim which is done for the benefit of the decedent’s surviving loved one. Damages under DOHSA are limited to things such as funeral expenses, medical expenses, loss of support, and loss of inheritance. DOHSA does not allow recovery for the decedent’s pain and suffering, mental anguish or the decedent’s lost wages. The exception to this rule is if the decedent is a seaman covered under the Jones Act. The time limit for filing under DOHSA is three years but that time frame may be reduced if the decedent was a passenger of a commercial vessel and subject to a limitation clause in the ticket contract.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a maritime accident, contact maritime injury attorney Benjamin Roberts today at (713) 609-1898. You want an attorney that has experience handling maritime claims and knows what you will need to do to recover not only from your injuries but also recover compensation from those who caused your injuries.