The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act, is a federal statute created to provide compensation to seamen who are ill or injured in the course of employment. However, the Jones Act only applies to seamen who’ve spent 30 percent of their career on a vessel, and that vessel must be capable of moving.
What happens if you’re just starting your career and get sick? Maybe you work on an oil drilling platform, which is not covered by the Jones Act, and you get injured. How can you receive medical assistance and compensation?
For other maritime employment positions such as dock and harbor workers, longshore operatives, ship repairers, builders and breakers there’s the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWC).
The LHWC provides compensation for illness, injury, disability and accidental death due to the employment-related occupational hazards. The LHWC Act also applies to overseas defense base workers, outer continental shelf and “non-appropriated fund” employees.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job as a maritime employee, it is important that you seek immediate medical treatment. After all, your health is your most valuable asset. You will need to file a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Division (DLHWC). The LHWC allows you to pick your own physician, so be sure to provide them with all medical records regarding your injury. It is important to note that this Act does not cover injury due to intoxication.
The DLHWC will hold an informal conference between your employer, their insurance carrier and you.
Much like the high seas, navigating the LHWC can be rough. Having an attorney represent you at this informal conference is the best way to protect your right to compensation. This holds especially true if a loved one has died. Insurance carriers are looking out for their bottom line, while an attorney is ethically bound to serve your best interest.
If any party disagrees with the DLHWC’s ruling, forms will be filed (LS-207) and a formal hearing will be called before an administrative judge. This process of document requests, questioning and procuring evidence can take up to a year to resolve. Even then, any dissatisfied party can appeal the Administrative Judge’s decision. Often the simplest decision is to settle, which occurs in the majority of LHWC cases.
Once a settlement is agreed upon, the DHLWC has 30 days to review and if the settlement is determined as reasonable, they will issue a Compensation order. Your employer and their insurance carrier will then have 10 days to ensure that payment is delivered. If for any reason they fail to do so, they will incur a penalty – this means even more money will be owed to you.
The scope of your injury or illness will be the largest determining factor of any settlement by the DLHWC.
You should take comfort in the fact that you don’t have to be a Jones Act seaman to ensure your right to medical assistance and compensation if injured on the job in the maritime industry.
The filing of maritime law is complex, and it differs from a typical workers’ compensation case. The attorneys at Pierce Skrabanek understand this, and we understand what it takes to build a strong case for compensation when a maritime worker is injured on the job. If you’ve been hurt, contact us today for a free consultation.