Injuries While Working at Sea: Are They Covered?

There was a time in the past when workers in America, including ones that were working at sea, didn't have very many rights. Luckily, multiple labor laws have went into effect over the past century that changed all of this. Workers who are injured on the job, for instance, regardless of whether it was their fault or not, are usually able to recover worker's compensation benefits. There are some industries, however, such as the maritime industry, where different rules may exist. This makes it imperative for any sea worker to understand what rights they have.

Injuries during Maritime Work

Any type of maritime work can put those employed in it in danger. Several authorities have listed commercial fishing, for instance, as the most dangerous job in America. It should be noted, though that any job that occurs while working away from the land has certain hazards that most American workers never have to contend with. These hazards can include being caught between shifting cargo, entanglement in rigging or nets, falls due to inadequate railing and even decompression illness.

It's important to realize that maritime work also has the dangers that typical land jobs do. This includes loss of footing and falls from high points. Regardless of the accident, however, it's often a good idea to speak with an admiralty maritime attorney. These legal professionals are well-versed in maritime injury law, and this is important since, as explained below, the rights of those working at sea are different than in other industries.

Maritime Injuries vs Other On-the-Job Injuries

A pizza delivery driver, or any terrestrial employee for that matter, can receive compensation when injured on the job. This holds true for maritime workers as well, but those who work at sea receive what is known as "maintenance and cure." Just like worker's comp insurance, this compensation will cover a worker's medical bills related to their injury. Sadly, the "maintenance" that they receive is typically a very low compensatory payment, and it's not often enough to sustain a person financially.

Luckily, the Jones Act, which is a portion of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, allows maritime workers who are injured through negligence to recover additional compensation. The law states that if others related to the ship, from coworkers all the way to the ship owners, cause an accident due to their negligence, the injured worker can bring forth legal action related to the incident. This is yet another reason why finding an attorney is so essential.

Covered Maritime Work

There really is no set list of specific jobs that are covered under the Jones Act. In fact, if two workers are injured on a commercial fishing vessel, it's possible that one may be covered while the other one is not. This is because the law states that, for a person to be covered under the Jones Act, they must spend a minimum of 30 percent of their time either working or living on a vessel that goes upon navigable waters. This means that anyone from cruise ship workers to those on platform supply vessels may be covered.

Maritime work is no walk in the park, but those who engage in it usually have a love for the sea that keeps them within the industry. It's a sad fact that these workers weren't always protected, but due to the hard work of those in the industry, that will no longer be the case. Commercial shipping companies may not like it, but maritime workers are likely to hold onto their special rights for as long as there are commercial sea employment opportunities.

Lisa Coleman shares how the law pertains to those who are injured while working at sea.

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