Many Washington residents work in the maritime industry. Those employed as crew members or captains often experience injuries on the job. These maritime workers may be entitled to compensation for their losses, but how they go about seeking relief is different than it is for most people.
Different laws protect maritime workers
Generally, when a person suffers a work-related injury or illness, they file for workers’ compensation benefits. This is insurance provided by an employer to cover lost wages, medical expenses and costs associated with disability — among other things. Maritime workers who spend at least 30% of their time on a vessel in navigation do not file for workers’ compensation in the same manner. Instead, they may seek relief by filing civil claims against their employer under the Jones Act.
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a law that requires maritime industry employers to provide safe working environments. If they fail to do so and an employee suffers an injury, the employee only has to prove unsafe working conditions existed to file a claim and seek compensation for their losses. A few examples of unsafe working conditions include:
- Slippery substances on deck
- Insufficiently trained crew or captain
- Lack of proper equipment
- Poorly maintained equipment
- Lack of caution signs
Filing a claim under the Jones Act is much like filing a workers’ compensation claim. It still involves officially reporting the incident and seeking medical treatment. The difference is maritime compensation is either settled through negotiations or litigation directly against one’s employer — workers’ compensation does not allow for suing an employer. It does not matter how minor a role the employer played in the incident; they can be held liable. Washington maritime workers who would like assistance seeking relief after suffering injuries on the job can turn to legal counsel with experience handling Jones Act claims.