When you get injured on the job in your maritime industry, you have rights. You have a right to compensation to cover associated costs, and you have a right to sue your employer if you are being denied that compensation. The maritime laws are there to protect you and the people who depend on you, but it can be complicated. There are time limits on when you can file a claim or start a lawsuit.
Knowing which law applies to you, what the statute of limitations is, how to file a claim, and what to do next is not always obvious. An experienced maritime lawyer is the professional you need to make sure you take all the right steps to get your money. One of the most important mistakes you want to avoid is being too late to file a claim. Each law has its own statute of limitations, so when you get injured on the job, you or your representative must act quickly to ensure you don’t miss out on your benefits.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act is the federal maritime law that allows seamen to sue or file a claim against an employer when that employer’s negligence contributed to an accident with an injury or death. If you qualify as a seaman, have been hurt on the job, and can show that your employer’s failure to act in some way contributed to that injury, you can file a claim under this law, but there are limitations.
The statute of limitations for the Jones Act is pretty reasonable, so there is no excuse not to file a claim during this time period. You have three years from the time of the accident that caused your injury or illness to file a claim or start a lawsuit. There are some exceptions. For instance, if an incident triggered an injury or illness, but symptoms did not become evident until later, you have three years from the time of the onset of symptoms to file, not from the time of the incident.
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, or LHWCA, is a federal workers’ compensation program that applies to many maritime workers not qualified under the Jones Act. Unlike that law, you do not have to prove any negligence to get benefits under the LHWCA, but you do have to qualify as a longshoreman or harbor worker to apply for those benefits.
The statute of limitations on this law is one year after the time at which you discovered an injury that was caused by your job, or were diagnosed with an illness found to have been caused by your job. If your employer has already started paying for your medical expenses and other costs, your time limit begins as soon as those payments cease, and it extends to three years if your employer refuses to pay your benefits.
The Death on the High Seas Act
DOHSA, the Death on the High Seas Act, is a federal law that covers expenses for seamen who have died while on the job and out to sea. The compensation from this law goes to the dependent members of the deceased’s family, usually the widowed spouse and any children. The law also applies to aviation accidents that occur 12 or more nautical miles from the U.S. coast. As with the Jones Act there is a three-year time limit on filing a claim under the DOHSA. Time is needed to investigate the fatality and to calculate the compensation owed to the family.
The Outer Continental Shelfs Land Act
The Outer Continental Shelfs Land Act has many purposes, but for workers on platforms and rigs, and other semi-permanent or permanent structures in offshore areas, it acts like a workers’ compensation program for on-the-job injuries and illnesses. If you work offshore, you can file a claim under this law to get benefits. It was extended to cover workers like you, who were previously not covered under the Jones Act or LHWCA. The limitations on filing under this law depend on the location. You may have between two, three, or four years to apply depending on which state’s coast was nearest to where you worked and were injured.
Maintenance and Cure
Maintenance and cure is an old maritime law. It provides seamen with the right to maintenance, or living expenses, and cure, or medical expenses, while injured and unable to work. The law is based on the fact that seamen, when on the job, have their living and medical expenses covered by their employer. If you can’t work because of an injury, you are still entitled to that coverage. The statute of limitations on maintenance and cure is not set in stone. Typically, a period of three years is all you have to file, but that can be extended if you can prove there was a good reason for the delay.
The Doctrine of Unseaworthiness
The doctrine of unseaworthiness falls under general maritime law and applies to any situation in which a worker can prove that the vessel on which he worked was unseaworthy. This is a broad claim and can mean anything from a ship that leaks to a ship staffed by untrained workers. The limitation on filing a claim under this part of the law is three years.
Getting Help from a Maritime Lawyer
As you can see, there are many laws under which you may be able to file a claim, and many different rules to follow under those various laws. The best thing you can do if you are injured on the job is to hire an experienced maritime lawyer and do so quickly. To ensure you do not miss out on your benefits, be sure you find a lawyer to help you as soon after you experience an injury or illness as is possible. If you wait too long, you may miss your window of opportunity and never be able to file that claim, start that lawsuit, and get the money you are owed.