On the job, accidents happen; even in relatively safe industries, countless workers are injured every year. In Texas and every other U.S. state, Workers’ Compensation insurance covers medical bills and lost injured workers’ wages. That applies to workers in nearly every industry, with one notable exception: the maritime industry.
That’s not because the maritime industry has no injuries to speak of. The fatal injury rate of maritime transportation workers was six times that of all other workers in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why, then, are maritime industry workers not covered by state Workers’ Compensation laws? Because they are covered under an entirely different set of laws. These laws are at the federal – rather than state – level, and they come with their own complex rules and guidelines.
State Workers’ Comp vs. Federal Workers’ Compensation
State Workers’ Compensation laws vary, but they generally require employers to purchase workers’ comp insurance that will cover their employees’ on-the-job injuries no matter who is at fault for the accident. These insurance policies will typically provide compensation for medical bills and lost wages while injured workers recover, as well as short- or long-term disability in some cases.
Maritime workers – even those who work at docks, ports, ship terminals, wharfs, and shipyards – are not covered under state workers’ comp policies. Instead, they are covered by a federal policy that is roughly equivalent: The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.
Like a state Workers’ Compensation insurance policy, this federal Workers’ Compensation policy will cover you in the event of a maritime injury. Under the LHWCA, you are entitled to compensation for your medical bills and two-thirds of your income while you are unable to work. Family members of a maritime worker who dies may also be entitled to financial death benefits under the act.
These benefits are similar to the benefits offered by state Workers’ Compensation insurance. However, they apply only to maritime workers who are not covered under the Jones Act.
When the Jones Act Applies
While the LHWCA provides federal Workers’ Compensation benefits to injured maritime employees who work primarily on land at docks, piers, shipyards, and similar environments, the Jones Act applies to seamen who suffer offshore injuries.
Seamen are maritime workers who spend at least 30% of their work time on a vessel at sea. Seamen covered by the Jones Act have a right to sue their employers or the vessel owners if they are injured because of negligence or upkeep on the vessel.
This is a key difference between the Jones Act and the LHWCA. Who is at fault for the accident does matter. If you were at fault, you might only be able to recover a reduced amount of compensation due to comparative negligence laws.
Under the Jones Act, you can sue your employer for any damages you have suffered because of the maritime accident that injured you. These damages may include medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and more. From the moment you are injured at sea, the Jones Act entitles you to what’s called maintenance and cure:
- Maintenance: This is compensation for your day-to-day living expenses, including housing and food costs.
- Cure: This is compensation for your medical costs tied to your recovery, including procedures, specialist visits, and medications.
The Jones Act also entitles you to vocational rehabilitation. This means that you have a right to training for a new type of job if your injuries leave you unable to continue with your previous maritime work.
Why Work With a Maritime Lawyer?
Maritime worker injury laws are intended to help maritime workers when they need it most – after a serious on-the-job injury. Unfortunately, employers, vessel owners, and even government officials often avoid giving injured maritime workers their compensation.
They can do this by trying to pin the fault for the accident on you, arguing that you do not qualify under the LHWCA or Jones Act, or merely delaying your benefits for an unreasonable amount of time. This is unacceptable when you are injured and in need of the compensation you are rightfully owed.
The good news is that an experienced maritime injury attorney can ensure that you are treated fairly and receive the maximum available compensation. We do this by combating dishonest insurer and employer tactics, collecting evidence, and creating compelling arguments to use in court or at the negotiation table. That way, you can focus on getting better while we navigate these choppy legal waters.
Contact The Krist Law Firm, P.C.
To discuss your maritime injury and the possibility of recovering Workers’ Compensation in the maritime industry, reach out to the experienced Houston maritime injury attorneys at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. Give us a call at (281) 283-8500 or contact us online today.