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Do Dockworkers Have Special Laws That Protect Them In the Event Of an Injury?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation, LHWCA on July 13, 2009 at 3:55 PM

Dockworkers and Longshoreman do, in fact, have a specific law which is targeted at protecting them financially in the event that they are injured while on the job. There are a number of laws like this that are profession specific. These laws usually relate to those jobs that are more dangerous or more likely to result in the injury of a worker in order to ensure that people still feel protected enough to fulfill those essential services. In the case of dockworkers and longshoremen, it is the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. Usually you will just see this listed as the LHWCA.

This act provides medical benefits as well as covering the cost of rehabilitation for any injury sustained by these workers by on the job. In fact, this act also provides benefits for diseases that they may contract from their work, or that may be made worse by the conditions in which they work. They also will receive compensation for lost wages so that they can continue to support themselves in a proper lifestyle; meeting a basic standard of living. When this law was originally created, it only covered workers who weren’t already covered by a workers’ compensation law in their state. However, it has now been changed to cover all workers who specifically fall under its guidelines.

It is important to understand who is covered under the LHWCA in order to realize who can receive these types of benefits and who would be required to file a more traditional workers’ compensation claim in the event of an injury while at work. Longshoreman, dock workers, harbor workers, anyone directly working on building or repairing ships, and ship breakers are all considered covered under this law. However, those who might work for a harbor in an office situation as an example, are not covered, and would have to file a different type of claim if injured on the job.

How Many Times Has the Jones Act Been Amended Since Its Creation?

In Jones Act History, Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on July 11, 2009 at 7:35 PM

Since the inception of the Jones Act in 1920 there has been a need for this federal law to be clarified more specifically.  This act does set guidelines for maritime law; however, since the recent advancements in modern day life, there has been a need to reform this law time and time again.

After this bill was passed there was much controversy over how to define seamen and who would be protected by its statutes.  In 1927 Congress tried to clear this controversy up through the passage of the Longshoremen’s and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA).  This amendment still left dozens of unanswered questions.  However, it did work to realize sailors were no longer the primary loaders and un-loaders of ships and that dockworkers had taken over this responsibility.  Although this extension now excluded any crew members of vessels so there was still much to decide after this amendment.

This debate would always resurface and lawsuits would arise such as the South Chicago Coal & Dock Co. v. Bassett case which led to Congress passing the declaration of a seaman not being defined if their duties did not pertain to the ships navigation.  This amendment only left more confusion and was begging for another reform.

A court case in 1955, Gianfala v. Texas Co, saw the Supreme Court state the definition of a seaman would be determined by the jury.  The specification of a “seaman” came to include laborers on floating oil drilling platforms and dredges. There was still too much grey area in a very serious matter that was growing with each passing year and the result was an eruption of Jones Act litigation.  This also led to nearly 100,000 Jones Act lawsuits in a ten year period between 1975 and 1985.

In 1995 the Supreme Court would finally make a better conclusion as to the defining of a modern seaman.  But, after a long bout of people demanding a reform for the maritime law, this amendment was still was not enough.

There has been much debate over this matter and until the Supreme Court can clearly define what makes a sailor a sailor there will be controversy surrounding this maritime law.

Will I Be Covered by the Jones Act If I’m Working on a Moored Vessel?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on July 9, 2009 at 3:46 PM

The definition of what kinds of seagoing vessels are covered by the Jones Act has certainly been cause for confusion in the past. Court cases have continuously emerged over the course of the last several decades that have expanded and refined the definition of which workers are covered under the act and which are not. One example of the fine lines that the courts have drawn is moored vessels. If you happen to work on a moored vessel, you may find the following information very helpful if you are ever injured while performing the duties of your job.

The coverage of an employee working on such a vessel depends mostly on the degree to which the vessel is moored. As the definition has evolved, certain things such as floating oil platforms, which, while moored, are afloat and being worked on while at sea, have been determined to be covered under the Jones Act. So, if you’re working aboard a floating oil rig, a stationary barge, or other similar type of vessel, there is a good chance that you’re going to be able to receive benefits under the terms of the Jones Act in the event that you are injured while at work.

However, there are vessels which are not covered under this act. This includes those which have been permanently moored to the shore or the banks of any body of water. This includes structures like dry docks, wharves, and certain boat structures, which are no longer counted as vessels. This would also exclude any boats which are connected to the infrastructure systems of the city in which they are located, such as a boat which is receiving electricity, water, or telephone connections from the city they are docked in. So again, whether or not your vessel is moored is less important than the degree to which it is considered to actually be a vessel under the terms of the Jones Act, when determining whether or not you could receive Jones Act benefits if injured while at work.

Does the Jones Act Protect Oil Rig Workers?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on July 6, 2009 at 3:39 PM

oil rigOffshore oil rigs are another one of those murky areas of law when it comes to what regulations and statutes cover workers who are injured while working on one. In fact, it is possible to say that oil rigs are among the most complicated of these situations to analyze. This is because, depending on the type of rig on which one is working, there are different laws that might apply. Therefore, in order to figure out whether or not the Jones Act will protect you if you’re working on an oil rig, it is first important to understand the specifics of the type of rig that you are working on.

If you’re on a floating oil rig or jack up, then you might, in fact, be covered under the Jones Act because you could be considered an employee of a seagoing vessel. This is the specific type of worker that the Jones Act is designed to cover. It is important to have laws in place like this which do cover the rights and protect oil rig workers. Working on off shore drilling rigs has been shown to be among the most dangerous career paths a person can take, which is why the compensation for these workers is high and why there are specific laws in place to protect them.

If the Jones Act does not apply, such as for someone working on an offshore drilling rig which is permanently affixed to the ocean floor, there is another law beyond basic workers’ compensation laws which can protect the rights of the workers on that oil rig. This is the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, or LHWCA. This law covers most maritime workers who are working on or around the water, who for one reason or another aren’t already covered by the Jones Act.

Am I Covered by the Jones Act as a Dockworker?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on July 2, 2009 at 3:37 PM

Understanding Maritime Law can be complicated at the best of times and, as there are many different types of laws which cover the injuries of those who work in and around the water, it can get extremely cloudy as to which laws cover which workers. Dockworkers are especially unclear as to which laws cover them. It is important to know which laws apply to you. Unfortunately, accidents do happen, but if you know what laws are in place to protect you, you can have a good idea of how best to proceed in the unfortunate event of any of these injuries taking place.

If a dock worker has heard about the Jones Act, they are often going to wonder if they are covered under this law. The Jones Act is a federal law which covers the workers and seamen who are employed by a seagoing vessel. The confusion could come from the fact that this law also applies to those employees even when they are not directly on the ship, such as when they are working on the dock. However, for people who are actually dockworkers, and not just seamen who happen to be working on the dock at the time of their injury, there is a separate law.

The law in place to protect dockworkers in the case of an injury is called the Longshoreman & Harbor Workers Compensation Act, commonly abbreviated as LHWCA. This law covers dock workers and enables them to make a claim in the event that they are injured or contract an illness as a result of their work, and also extends to employees of many off shore oil platforms (except for certain types of those which would instead be covered under the aforementioned Jones Act.) The LHWCA pays out benefits for a worker injured on the job in order to help to pay for his medical care and rehabilitation, as well as helping to make up for lost wages.

Will My Family Be Entitled to Adequate Benefits if I Am Injured or Killed While Working at Sea?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation, LHWCA, Maritime on June 26, 2009 at 7:46 PM

The Jones Act, with help from the Longshoremen’s and Harbors’ Workers Compensation Act, helps bring financial security to dependents of seamen who lose their life at sea.  This compensation extends to any dependants on that income and has been mandated to meet the needs of a seaman’s spouse, children, and family.  Due to the high risks and life threatening environment these workers find themselves in on a daily basis, you can see the need for some form of legal protection over these matters.

Knowing what your rights are and getting the most compensation in the tragic event of losing a loved one at sea is something everyone should be entitled to.  The federal law recognizes this, even if sometimes an employer doesn’t.  If you are dependent on someone that is risking their life every time they go to work, you need to know that, if something were to happen, you are going to be taken care of after the grieving is over.

The system is basically designed to give percentages of your weekly wages to qualifying, dependant family members.  The death benefits that surround maritime law are not the most amazing compensation; however, the employers are required to compensate until the family member in question can achieve financial independence, be remarried, or turn 18.  There is even a $3000 dollar funeral expense that is covered under maritime law.

A surviving spouse is eligible to receive half of the weekly wage earned by the seaman.  If there are children involved, then this compensation obviously increases.  This is worked out by compensating the surviving dependants with half of the seaman’s weekly wage.  If you have more than one child you are eligible to get 2/3s the weekly income.  This will be paid until the child, or children, turn 18.  There are specific circumstances that see this get extended, but is normally on a case by case basis.

How Long Do I Have to File a Jones Act Claim?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on June 24, 2009 at 7:50 AM

When people are injured on the job, it instantly opens up a very large can of legal worms that can sometimes be very difficult to sort through. There can be a lot of conflicting information being thrown your way. People will be telling you about their experiences or what happened to a friend or family member, you will hear things on television and the company you work for will be trying to push forms in front of you to sign. Because of this, it can sometimes make it difficult to know who is telling the truth. However, it is important that you stop the confusion by speaking with an attorney that is aware of the laws governing your situation.

You may end up feeling a little overwhelmed with the legal terminology that is being presented to them by your lawyers and your employers, there is also the insidious nature of some injuries, wherein a small incident can actually cause a chronic and long lasting problem, or one that increases in severity of its own accord over time. When workers who were working on a seagoing vessel are injured in this fashion, one of the questions they sometimes ask themselves is how long they have to file a Jones Act claim. Especially if it has been some time since their initial accident when the injury truly begins to affect their life, this can be something they wonder about. The Jones Act does cover almost all people injured at sea; however, it is a complicated legal area, making this a very natural question.

The statute of limitations on a Jones Act case is actually three years. This means that you have up to three years from the date of your injury to file a Jones Act claim. A Jones Act lawyer can better counsel you on the specifics of how this works, but the message here is that you shouldn’t let your employers pressure you into signing anything or agreeing to anything because they insinuate that time is running out. You have plenty of time to file your Jones Act case, so do not allow that to be used as means to leverage you into signing something that you don’t have to.

My Boss Told Me That if I File a Claim, I’ll Lose My Job

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on June 20, 2009 at 7:46 AM

Unfortunately, after the unfortunate circumstances of getting injured on the job, you are not likely to receive a lot of support from your employer. It can become very clear, very quickly, that they are in fact a company and, even if you get along well with a manager or immediate superior, if you are injured, the situation will quickly become a case of the company as an entity trying to protect their assets. That usually means hanging you out to dry.

As soon as a company has an employee at sea injured who would be covered under the Jones Act, the first thing they do is tell their lawyers. Those lawyers are immediately going to want to do two things: 1.) talk to you, and 2.) have you sign certain documents. These discussions and forms will often be used by the company’s attorneys in order to try entrapping you into a lie if your story varies even a tiny bit at some time in the future. They can sometimes even be up to worse things than that with the statements and documents they are requesting from you, such as signing away any responsibility of the company whatsoever. The most important thing you can do is to do absolutely nothing; not until you have talked to a Jones Act or maritime law lawyer.

If you refuse to give a statement or sign anything, you will quite often be threatened with termination. This, again, just emphasizes the need for you to get in contact with a lawyer. If they, at any time, threaten you with termination while trying to get you to perform any action after you have been injured on their sea going vessel, the best thing you can do is to refuse to have any further dialogues with them at all until you have an attorney present. That does mean ANY dialogue at all, because even the most innocuous sounding remark can be used against you in the future.

What Type of Attorney Should I Seek to File My Claim?

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on June 16, 2009 at 7:41 AM

When someone is injured at sea, they have the right to make a claim in order to receive benefits to help them compensate for the cost of their injury. Injuries that happen at sea are handled in a slightly different manner than injuries which happen while working for a regular company on dry land. If you are injured while working on an American vessel, you are in fact covered by the national law, “The Jones Act” which is designed to protect the safety and the livelihoods of American Seamen.

The Jones Act, a federal law which applies to all American vessels, is an incredibly convoluted and complicated portion of the law. It can at times be even considerably more complicated than the laws and claims which are covered under standard workers compensation laws. This is why a regular workers’ comp lawyer is generally not who you want to hire in order to make a Jones Act claim. Instead you should hire a lawyer who specializes in the Jones Act, or in maritime law, as they are going to be better prepared in order to ensure that you receive a fair compensation for your injuries.

Seeking a Jones Act attorney will give you the best chance possible to receive a fair payout for your injury. Payouts under the Jones Act can potentially be much higher than those which are paid under a regular workers compensation claim. However, the convoluted nature of these laws can make it very difficult for you to make a successful claim without the help of a qualified specialist attorney. If you are injured while at sea, please do yourself a favor and immediately seek out the assistance of a Jones Act attorney. It’s preferable if you can find one that can prove their experience with a proven track record of successful claims.

My boss wants me to sign this form…

In Jones Act Law, Legal Representation on June 14, 2009 at 7:40 AM

One of the most common reasons that people lose their chance to make a valid claim under the Jones Act is because they sign something after their injury without fully understanding what they may be signing.

This isn’t meant to insult anyone’s intelligence, it is merely meant to put things all in their proper perspective. After you are injured on the job while at sea, your employers are immediately going to see the possibility of a Jones Act claim being laid against them. While you likely do not have the services of a full time Jones act lawyer on your staff, as a company which employs several people at sea, it is a safe bet to ensure that your employers do. In fact, many larger shipping companies have entire legal departments, staffed with several experts in this area.

Many times, immediately after you are injured your employer and their lawyers are going to overwhelm you asking you to sign various documents, which may either state that the events occurred in a certain way or that waive certain portions, if not all, of your rights. It is always good advice to never sign legally binding documents without first having a lawyer review them, but this is doubly important in this type of a situation.

When you’re injured on the job, your ability to earn income and sustain your standard of living can be seriously in jeopardy unless you have a means of being paid fairly for an on the job injury. That is why you need to seek the services of a lawyer who specializes in Jones Act cases as soon as you can following your injury; especially if your company is trying to make you sign documents of any kind after the accident. The most basic and safest rule to follow whenever you sustain an injury on the job, whether on dry land or sea, is to never sign anything until you consult with a lawyer who specializes in your type of on the job injury.