Like any other industry, working on a vessel comes with certain risks. Even when you take certain safety precautions, you could suffer a work-related injury. You could end up spending days, weeks or longer recovering, depending on the severity and nature of those injuries.
Since you don't qualify for workers' compensation benefits, you must rely on either the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. Determining which act applies to your situation means determining whether the law would consider you a seaman.
According to the law, you must meet the following requirements in order to be a seaman and pursue benefits under the Jones Act:
- You must serve as a master, captain, officer or crewmember aboard a vessel in navigation.
- You must spend at least 30% of your time on such a vessel in performance of your duties.
- A vessel in navigation is one that is operational, afloat, on navigable waters and capable of moving.
If your job meets these requirements, then you may pursue benefits for your injuries under the Jones Act. More than likely, you will need to provide proof that you are seeking benefits under the appropriate act before your complaint can move forward.
The question of liability
Now that you meet the definition of a seaman, you need to establish negligence on the part of your employer, which could stem from one or more of the following circumstances:
- Your employer failed to provide you with the proper equipment.
- You did not receive adequate training from your employer.
- Another crewmember assaulted you.
- Your employer failed to properly maintain the equipment provided to you.
- Your employer failed to make sure that the ship's deck is free from oil or other slippery substances.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list. Something as simple as failing to put up a "caution" sign after mopping could establish negligence. The point is that your employer should have done something to ensure your safety, and it didn't happen.
Pursuing the compensation you need after suffering a work-related injury is not the same as applying for workers' compensation benefits. However, it does share some similarities in that, if you make mistakes, the process will take longer. During that time, your financial situation will continue to deteriorate. To avoid this, you may want to work with an attorney experienced in filing claims under the Jones Act.