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Successful maritime injury claims depend on applying right law

The Houston area provides many different opportunities for work in the maritime industry. There is the usual commercial work involving the shipping of goods and transport of people around the region. Oil platform and oil rig work is another route many may take.

In most land-based situations, state workers' compensation laws look to provide the protections that society deems appropriate to make sure that workers who are hurt on the job get the health care and financial support they need. But mixing work and water is a little like looking at the refracted image of a straw in a glass. The picture changes because different compensation models apply.

Generally speaking, there are two laws that provide for the compensation of injuries to maritime workers. They are the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act.

The U.S. Department of Labor observes that the two laws are intended to be mutually exclusive. The LHWCA is meant to apply to those doing work on or near navigable waters, such as dockworkers, ship maintenance workers or harbor construction crews. By contrast, the Jones Act is meant to apply to employees of vessels actually plying the waters.

But insurance industry observers make the claim that sometimes the lines can be blurred because courts in some states have determined that workers may qualify for benefits under both laws. In addition, some state workers' compensation laws allow for overlaps of coverage that might normally apply only under the LHWCA.

That laws should overlap or in some cases seem to even conflict is not new. The law is a living thing and it is changing all the time. That's why working with an attorney is always advised. It provides confidence that you follow the right route to obtaining needed benefits when a worker has been hurt on the job.

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