Does the Jones Act Apply to Marine Construction Workers?
When people think of the Jones Act and the benefits it offers to maritime workers, they often think of crews on commercial fishing vessels, oil platforms, barges, and jack-up rigs. These may be the most well-known in the offshore industry, but there are other maritime workers who are at just as high of a risk of harm and who need the protection that the Jones Act and other applicable laws have to offer.
Marine construction workers have dangerous jobs. They face the hazards of construction along with the risks of working offshore, putting them at risk of experiencing serious or even fatal injuries.
Some of the main maritime construction jobs include:
- Offshore oil rig construction
- Dredge work
- Bridge construction
- Building jetties
- Dock construction
- Building or renovating piers
The laws that govern maritime construction injuries are varied and complex, but you have the opportunity to learn more about your rights and options by reading this blog. We’ve included basic information regarding the Jones Act and how it and other maritime laws apply to offshore construction workers. However, if you have been harmed or have lost a loved one in a construction accident offshore or on land, the best way to find out what to do is by speaking with an attorney.
Your consultation with our offshore injury law firm is free and private. Call (888) 346-5024 today.
The Hazards of Offshore Construction Work
The construction industry is so dangerous that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tracks the leading causes of construction fatalities as the industry’s “Fatal Four.” Construction workers are at risk of falling, being struck by objects or equipment, being caught in or between equipment or trenches, and electrocution. They perform physically demanding tasks that require their full focus to make sure no mistakes are made. They work with and around cranes, winches, and other heavy equipment that poses an additional danger if misused or poorly maintained.
Offshore construction workers face these same hazards every day, but with an added challenge: they are on or near the water. Heavy weather and rough seas put marine construction crews at a higher risk of harm. When you also consider the fact that access to emergency medical care or rescue personnel will be delayed if a vessel is at sea, maritime construction accidents can be particularly serious.
The following are examples of marine construction accidents and injuries:
- Burn injuries in fires or explosions
- Electrical shock and electrocution
- Struck by falling/flying object, equipment, or machinery
- Falls from heights onto the deck or into the water
- Drowning, near-drowning, and hypothermia from falling overboard
- Crush injuries and amputation
- Slip and fall accidents on slippery decks or walkways
- Crane accidents
When the dangers of construction are combined with the dangers of offshore work, it’s obvious that maritime construction workers need and deserve protection.
Marine Construction Injury Claims
When a maritime construction worker is injured, the type of claim they can make will depend on a few factors. One of these is where the injury occurred. Another is the type of work the person was performing. Determining which laws apply to a worker will be crucial in determining what options and rights they have in seeking medical treatment and financial compensation.
Generally speaking, two laws may apply to maritime construction injuries: the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
Jones Act Coverage for Marine Construction Workers
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a law that grants offshore workers the right to seek compensation for work-related injuries caused by employer negligence or an unseaworthy vessel. To make a Jones Act claim, a person must be considered a member of the vessel’s crew. They must be employed in direct relation to the vessel and at least 30% of their time must be spent in service of the vessel. The vessel in question must also be in navigable waters for the Jones Act to apply. It may be anchored, but if it is moored permanently or drydocked for repairs, the LHWCA may apply instead.
The Jones Act offers a number of advantages for injured seamen, and it may offer a viable way for an injured marine construction worker to seek fair compensation for an on-the-job injury. Even though the worker must prove negligence or unseaworthiness to win a Jones Act case against a maritime employer, the burden of proof is fairly low. As opposed to the proof “beyond a shadow of a doubt” required in criminal cases, proof in a Jones Act claim is based on a preponderance of the evidence, or that it was “more than likely true” that the employer’s negligence caused the worker’s injuries.
A Jones Act claim for a maritime construction injury may provide compensation for:
- Lost earnings
- Medical care
- Emotional trauma
- Ongoing treatment
- Loss of potential/future earnings
Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act for Marine Construction Workers
When maritime construction workers are doing their jobs on a dock, moored ship, or any situation not in navigable waters, they may qualify under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. The LHWCA provides coverage for work-related injuries on a no-fault basis, meaning the injured maritime construction worker would not need to prove employer negligence in order to recover benefits. The only requirement is that the injuries were sustained in the course of employment.
Call Arnold & Itkin for Help After a Maritime Construction Injury
Oil and gas companies and other maritime employers have a responsibility to their employees. They must maintain seaworthy vessels, and they must implement safety standards that provide their workers with reasonably safe worksites. That includes construction workers. Maritime construction work may be inherently dangerous, but this does not excuse accidents that are caused by lax safety standards, poorly maintained vessels or equipment, improper training, and the like. Maritime employers must be held accountable for their wrongdoing under the Jones Act and other applicable laws.
At Arnold & Itkin, we’re focused on helping maritime workers receive the compensation they need after suffering from a work accident. We fought for one-third of the crew of the Deepwater Horizon, helping them recover life-changing settlements that helped them rebuild and move on. We helped three widows of the El Faro find answers and see justice served after their husbands’ vessel was lost in a hurricane. After the worst maritime disasters, we stand for survivors and families, fighting to set things right.
While the information above is a useful starting point to determine if you have a case, you should call our team right now to find out more. We’re ready to provide you with a free consultation so you can discover your options after a maritime construction accident. Best of all, if we take your case, you pay no upfront costs and only pay legal fees if we win.
Call our team of marine construction accident lawyers today at (888) 346-5024 for help.