Unlike most civilian employees in the United States who are covered under state workers' compensation laws, injured individuals employed in maritime roles are protected by federal legislation. The Merchant Marine Act and the Longshore Act provide special compensation for qualifying individuals who are hurt while performing their jobs. However, to understand what specific protections are available to each class of employees, it is critical to accurately interpret the law to determine who qualifies for protection. Below is a concise guide to knowing who is protected by each act:
How to know if you are protected by the Merchant Marine Act
This comprehensive piece of legislation, passed by Congress in 1920, is also popularly known as the Jones Act. It is intended to provide specific legal protections for injured seamen. While it may seem self-evident that anyone who works on a boat or ship is a seaman, the Merchant Marine Act spells out who is a seaman. As such, not every employee on board a ship is a seaman. Here are the qualifying criteria, all of which must be in place simultaneously:
Significant amount of time spent in employment as a ship's crewmember - While this requirement is open-ended, courts have generally agreed that approximately one-third of the time an employee spends performing all their duties is the minimum qualifying criterion. This factor disqualifies employees who seldom take sea voyages as a part of their work duties, even if they perform seaman's work while out at sea.
Duties must be contributory to ship's mission - To qualify as a seaman, the work performed by an employee must contribute to the overall mission of the vessel. Since almost any type of task performed will contribute to the mission, there are few sea individuals on board a ship who will not qualify under this criterion.
The employee's ship must be "in navigation" - A ship must be operating in navigable waters, which includes most bodies of water that can be utilized for shipping between states or other countries. In addition, the ship must also be in operable condition, able to move on its own and floating. This disqualifies ships in dry docks, as well as any ship that has partially sunk or is grounded on land.
How to know if you are protected by the Longshore Act
For individuals who are not employed as seamen but who are still involved in maritime work, another special piece of legislation provides protection in case of injury. The Longshore and Harbor Worker's Act of 1927 exists to provide compensation and assistance to qualifying maritime workers. However, as with the Merchant Marine Act, not every individual is covered. Below are the criteria that must all be in place for an employee to be protected by the Longshore Act's provisions:
Not covered by the Merchant Marine Act - Any employee who is eligible to be protected as a seaman under the Merchant Marine Act cannot also be simultaneously covered by the Longshore Act.
Work must be maritime in nature - The employee who seeks protection under the Longshore Act must perform work that is directly related to the water or transport by ship. Anyone working exclusively inside an office environment, even if it is for a company or agency that does maritime business, is not covered by the Longshore Act.
Work must be near navigable waters - If the work performed is not near navigable waters, even if it is on a ship or is of a nature exactly like that of someone covered, the Longshore Act will not protect an employee.
What happens if you are not protected by either act?
Should you be injured on the job, but not able to apply for benefits and compensation under the Merchant Marine Act or Longshore Act, keep in mind you are still covered by your state's workers' compensation laws. That means you are owed protection, and an employer cannot deny your rights to pursue such assistance. For help in making determinations about your qualifications to receive injury benefits, contact an attorney who specializes in workers' compensation law at a law office like Shaw Leslie Law Office; they will be able to provide you with guidance regarding what types of benefits are owed as a result of an on-the-job injury.Share
15 August 2016
Ten years ago, I was injured in a car wreck while commuting to work. When a driver rear-ended my car, I hurt my back. Unfortunately, I had to undergo a couple of weeks of physical therapy. Even after receiving physical therapy, my back never felt as good as it did prior to the wreck. Have you been injured in a car wreck recently? Consider talking with an experienced accident and personal injury lawyer. This type of attorney can help you decide whether filing a lawsuit is your best course of action to take. On this blog, I hope you will discover the benefits of speaking with an accident and personal injury attorney soon after getting injured in a car wreck. Enjoy!