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Harbor Worker Injury Attorney

Working aboard or around seabound vessels is an extremely dangerous job.  Maritime workers can suffer serious injury in countless ways, whether on vessels or while working the harbor.  Injured harbor workers may have one or more venues for recovering the costs of their injuries, but the options are different from those injured in a typical land-based job.  If you are a harbor worker hurt on the job in Orange County, a California worker injury lawyer at Invictus Law, P.C. can help you get the medical care, wage loss benefits, and additional damages you are owed.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act of 1920, also known as the Merchant Marine Act, is a federal law that concerns the operation of vessels in American waters as well as maritime worker rights after a workplace injury.  Whereas workers in most industries must rely on state workers’ compensation laws after a workplace injury, seamen and other maritime workers instead utilize the Jones Act.  Seafaring workers are not technically on state land and thus do not benefit from state-based workers’ compensation protections.  The Jones Act generally covers workers who work on a vessel at least 30 percent of the time.

The Jones Act provides a means for seamen such as merchant marines, marine construction workers, commercial fisherman, tugboat and barge workers, and other people employed on water vessels to sue their employers based on injuries sustained in the course of performing work-related duties.  Injured seamen can sue to recover damages for things like lost wages, medical expenses, and living expenses that arise as a result of a workplace injury.

Workers’ Compensation vs. Jones Act:  Proving Liability

California law guarantees all workers protection from workers’ compensation.  Workers who are injured on the job are eligible for workers’ comp insurance benefits regardless of how the injury occurred or who caused the injury (with limited exceptions).  Even if the worker’s own negligence caused the accident, and the employer bears no fault, injured workers can still collect workers’ comp benefits.

The Jones Act, unlike workers’ comp, does depend on demonstrating fault.  To recover after a workplace injury under the Jones Act, an injured worker must demonstrate that they were injured as a result of the negligence of their supervisor, their employer generally, another sailor, or some other person.  A worker can make a claim if, for example, an accident was caused by lack of safety equipment, inadequate training, or poor vessel maintenance.  A worker who is responsible for their own injury, however, cannot recover under the Jones Act.

Remedies Available Under the Jones Act

With the added burden of proving fault comes certain added benefits under the Jones Act.  Workers’ compensation is limited to medical expenses, disability benefits, and certain lost wages.  The Jones Act, on the other hand, allows workers to sue for a broad range of damages.  Jones Act plaintiffs can essentially pursue the types of damages available in a typical personal injury claim, including:

  • Diminished earning capacity
  • Lost wages, including past, present, and future
  • Medical costs, past and future
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of bodily function
  • Loss of life enjoyment

Talk to a seasoned Jones Act attorney to find out what damages may be available to you and your family after your harbor injury.  If a vessel is deemed unseaworthy, or if your employer wrongfully refused payment or medical care, you might be eligible for additional damages.  Vessel owners owe a duty to workers to keep their vessels safe for use.  When they violate that duty, they should be held liable.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (Longshore Act) is a workers’ compensation program for maritime workers who are injured on navigable waters or otherwise offshore.  The Longshore Act typically applies to people who work on docks, piers, wharves, harbors, terminals, dry dock facilities, and other facilities adjacent to waters used for loading and unloading, repairing vessels, and other maritime-related tasks.

The Longshore Act is more like other workers’ compensation programs, providing a no-fault basis for workers to recover after a workplace injury.  Workers can recover up to two-thirds of their average weekly wage, medical costs related to the injury, and disability benefits.

The Jones Act and the Longshore Act are mutually exclusive remedies for recovery after an injury.  There are differences as to who is covered by each:  The Longshore Act applies to any person engaged in maritime employment so long as the injury occurred on navigable waters or adjoining areas, while the Jones Act applies based on the worker’s relationship to the vessel.

A worker may fall under one or the other act depending on how much time they spend aboard a vessel.  Workers who have the option to pursue remedies under either act benefit more from the remedies available under the Jones Act.  Talk to a knowledgeable maritime worker injury lawyer to discuss your options and how to maximize your available recovery.

If you are a harbor worker injured nearby Orange County or Southern California, Call Invictus Law, P.C. at our offices in Orange or Ontario at 949-287-5711 or 888-9WORKLAW for a free consultation with a seasoned and effective California harbor worker injury attorney. You’ll only pay a fee if we recover benefits for you.

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