Regardless of what industry you work in, your employer must provide you with a safe work environment. This applies even if you work on a water-going vessel. Many Louisiana employers do their best to meet this requirement, but that doesn't eliminate the potential for accidents.
If you do suffer an injury aboard a vessel, your options for medical and wage replacement benefits are different than the benefits available to other types of workers. Specifically, you will turn to either the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) or the Jones Act to get the benefits you need.
Do you qualify under the Jones Act?
If you spend at least 30 percent of your work life on navigable waters, you will look to the Jones Act for compensation. In order to determine whether you are on a "vessel in navigation," consider whether the vessel is:
- Capable of moving
- On navigable waters
If you answered yes to these questions, and meet the 30 percent criteria, then you can pursue a claim under the Jones Act for your injuries.
What constitutes negligence on the part of your employer?
When you file a claim under the Jones Act, you will need to show some measure of negligence on the part of your employer, a co-worker or superior, such as the captain of the vessel. Fortunately, the threshold of proof is not as high as it would be in an ordinary personal injury claim. Negligence may be evidenced by the following unsafe conditions:
- Poorly maintained equipment
- Failure to provide the proper equipment
- Insufficient training
- Assault by a fellow crew member
- Slippery substances on the deck
If any of these or other unsafe conditions exist, you may be able to successfully prove negligence. You should automatically receive "maintenance and cure" after your injury, however. Cure encompasses the payment of your medical expenses related to the injury. Maintenance includes payment to help with your daily living expenses as long as you need medical care for your injuries.
Make sure not to sign a release of any kind before talking to an attorney. Your employer cannot require you sign a release in order for you to receive your benefits. Even if you meet the criteria for filing a claim under the Jones Act, you may have another source of compensation. Depending on your particular situation, you may also be able to make a claim under the LHWCA.