The maritime industry is more diverse than the average person even realizes, but there is one thing in common between most sea work: danger. Of course, the work can be rewarding and fulfilling, but there is always the chance for injury when working with dangerous equipment or even while at sea.
The case is no different for dredge workers. Luckily, our team at The Maritime Injury Law Firm in Louisiana is here to tell you everything you need to know about the rights you have that are outlined in the Jones Act.
What is the Jones Act?
Before we begin, it’s important that every maritime employee knows what the Jones Act is. This law is one of the most comprehensive ones in the United States, and it is designed with sea workers like you in mind.
The Jones Act is one section of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which was passed to regulate maritime shipping in the United States. It was originally passed after World War I to boost the shipping industry.
Under the Jones Act, sea workers who are injured on the job are entitled to two types of benefits: maintenance and cure.
What are maintenance and cure?
While both maintenance and cure are benefits outlined in the Jones Act, there are differences between the two. What’s more, injured sea workers are entitled to both benefits. Therefore, you are able to collect multiple types of financial compensation if you sustained an injury on the job.
Maintenance benefits compensate injured workers for their cost of living while they are recovering from an accident. This includes:
- Mortgage and rent
- Utility bills
- Property taxes
- And more
Alternatively, cure benefits cover the cost of medical care and treatment. It is important to note that cure benefits include not only medical bills themselves, but can potentially include the cost of transportation to and from medical appointments as well.
Cure benefits are typically paid directly to your doctor, while maintenance benefits are paid directly to you, the injured dredge worker.
How does the Jones Act affect me as a dredge worker?
You might find yourself wondering if you are entitled to Jones Act benefits as a dredge worker. In the Jones Act, there is a difference between seamen and longshoremen.
That difference is:
- Seamen: Maritime employees who work in service to a “vessel in navigation,” or a ship that is actively sailing waters.
- Longshoremen: Maritime employees who work on docks and shipyards.
As a dredge worker, you can probably see how this leaves you in a gray area. However, the Supreme Court decided once and for all in Stewart vs. Dutra Construction Company (2005) that dredge workers are considered “seamen” under the Jones Act.
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision, Jones Act benefits were definitively extended to dredge workers. Before that, dredge workers were only guaranteed benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
What is the difference between the Jones Act and the LHWCA?
Workers’ rights under the LHWCA are less comprehensive than they are under the Jones Act. So the Supreme Court’s 2005 decision was life-changing for injured dredge workers who were simply seeking the justice they were owed by their neglectful employers.
The main differences between the Jones Act and LWCHA are:
- More lenient burden of proof requirements
- The right to a jury trial
- The right to maintenance and cure even if the employer did not display negligence
- Ability to take legal action if a vessel is deemed unseaworthy
Do I have to prove employer negligence led to my injury as a dredge worker?
There are several factors that contribute to the Jones Act being one of the most protective workers’ rights laws in the United States.
However, one of the biggest reasons is that injured seamen can collect maintenance and cure even if it isn’t proved their employer’s negligence led to their injury. This is because the job is considered to be dangerous enough to waive that barrier to compensation.
However, if you are able to prove employer negligence contributed even some percent to your injury, then you can receive even more compensation from your employer.
Some examples of employer negligence include:
- Requiring seamen to work in dangerous weather conditions
- Failure to provide adequate training
- Failure to provide adequate equipment
- Failure to maintain equipment
- And other means of enabling dangerous conditions for workers
Contact a Jones Act lawyer at the Maritime Injury Law Firm today
If you’re an injured dredge worker, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced, knowledgeable maritime lawyer today. You deserve every ounce of compensation for your life-changing injury, and it takes someone who understands this unique area of law to fight for your rights.
The Maritime Injury Law Firm is here to level the playing field for dredge workers like you. Contact us today to schedule your free, private consultation.