To someone who has never heard the terms before, longshoreman and seaman may seem like two words for the same type of worker. In fact, they differ significantly in their duties, location of work, and the laws that protect them from injury.
What Are Seamen? How Are They Protected?
You are considered a seaman if you spend most of your time working on a ship or boat in navigation. Seamen can be either captains or crewmembers of the vessel. A vessel in navigation is the key factor in determining how you are protected from injury. A vessel is considered to be in navigation if it is afloat, in operation, capable of moving, and on navigable waters. You also must spend more than 30% of your time working on the navigable vessel.
If you are a seaman, you are protected from injury under the Jones Act, which was enacted in 1920. This act allows you to sue your employer for negligence if you are injured on the job. You are also allowed to sue the owner of the vessel if it is found to be unseaworthy. Under this act, you are entitled to receive compensation for “maintenance and cure” costs, regardless of fault. Unlike traditional personal injury cases, Jones Act cases will hold an employer responsible for an accident even if they are only minimally at fault. This is also known as a low “burden of fault.”
What About Other Maritime Workers? Are They Protected?
Longeshoremen are protected under a very different Act, known as the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). You are considered a longshoreman if you work on and around water and are not considered a seaman. For example, if you are a dockworker, shipbuilder, or other type of maritime employee, you are most likely considered a longshoreman. The LHWCA limits the distance you can be from the water and still be considered a longshoreman. Generally, if you are within a mile of the water and working a maritime job, you will be considered eligible.
However, there are some strict limitations as to who is eligible. All LHWCA claimants must pass two tests, called the status and situs tests, which identify how you work and where you work. So although you may work as a shipbuilder, you are only considered a longshoreman if you build ships over a certain length. Likewise, marina staff who are not working construction on the marina are not likely to be considered LHWCA eligible.
How Does a LHWCA Claim Work?
The LHWCA is similar to a traditional workers’ compensation claim but designed specifically with more advantages for maritime workers. For example, LHWCA claims allow for permanent disability and 66 2/3% of your average weekly payments, while traditional workers compensation claims only allow for 60% average weekly wage and do not provide permanent disability. LHWCA injury reports must be filed within 30 days of the injury or discovery of the resulting disability.
After initiating a report, you will have to submit to an informal conference in addition to “passing” the status and situs tests. If your insurer will not compensate you fairly, you will need to consult a maritime lawyer to represent your case in front of a judge.
Contact a Maritime and Offshore Injury Lawyer for Assistance
Lapeze & Johns PLLC are maritime and offshore injury lawyers with over 30 years of experience. Based in Texas, we help clients on the Gulf Coast and other coastal areas obtain compensation for maritime industry accidents. We build a personal relationship focused on trust with our clients. We effectively work to obtain the most compensation possible for injured maritime workers. To date, we have recovered over $350 million for our clients. Contact us today to explore your options under the Jones Act or the LHWCA.