Jones Act or LHWCA? Know Your Rights When You Spend Part of Your Workday on a Vessel
The Jones Act protects you if you spend your days working onboard a vessel; and, if you work in the maritime industry but spend your days on land, you can file for benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) when you get injured on the job. But, what if you do both? For example, what if you clean or repair boats for a living? Or, what if you are a supervisor or inspector who spends some (but not all) of your time onboard vessels? Miami maritime lawyer Keith Brais explains:
Qualifying for Benefits Under the Jones Act
To understand whether you should file a claim under the Jones Act or the LHWCA, you can start by assessing your eligibility under the Jones Act.
The Jones Act applies to maritime workers who qualify as “seamen.” One of the key requirements for being classified as a seaman is spending a “substantial” amount of your workday onboard a vessel in navigation.
What is a “substantial” amount of time? Most courts follow a 30-percent rule. If you spend at least 30 percent of your time onboard a vessel in navigation, this is enough to qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act.
You may have noticed another key requirement in this discussion as well. Not only must you spend a substantial amount of your time onboard a vessel, but you must do so onboard a vessel “in navigation.” But, to be considered “in navigation,” a vessel does not have to be underway on the open water. Instead, a vessel is considered to be in navigation as long as:
- It is floating;
- It is operable;
- It is able to travel unassisted by other vessels; and,
- It is located in navigable waters.
Based on this definition, even if a vessel is moored to a dock, it can still be considered a vessel “in navigation” under the Jones Act.
Qualifying for Benefits Under the LHWCA
If you are not eligible under the Jones Act, then you most likely qualify for benefits under the LHWCA. The LHWCA applies to land-based workers in maritime occupations. This includes longshoremen, ship repairers, shipbuilders and harbor construction workers, among many others. If you perform work on a vessel (or vessels) but spend most of your time on land at a marina, dock, port or harbor, you may not qualify as a “seaman,” but you may be able to file a claim under the LHWCA.
Knowing whether you are entitled to benefits under the Jones Act or the LHWCA isn’t always easy. But, it is always extremely important. If you’ve been injured on the job, you need to make sure you file the right type of claim, and this means that you should seek advice from an experienced Miami maritime lawyer.
Which Claim Should You File? Find Out from a Miami Maritime Lawyer Today
Our lawyers have decades of experience helping maritime workers collect benefits under the Jones Act and the LHWCA. To discuss your legal rights with a Miami maritime lawyer for free, please call 800-499-0551 or tell us how we can contact you online today.