Company Asks Court to Determine Whether Injured Worker Is Seaman

An Assumption Parish man and Viral Investments, LLC (doing business as DHD Offshore Services) can’t agree on whether the man is an “injured seaman” within the meaning of the Jones Act. In fact, the company has filed a complaint for a declaratory judgment, which essentially means that it is asking a court to say that the Jones Act does not apply to the injured worker.

The Lawsuit

A man named Tony Morgan alleges that he was injured in February while working as a rigger aboard a vessel that was on dry dock. Morgan claims that he is a seaman within the meaning of the Jones Act, while Viral Investments claims that he is covered under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act.

Why does this matter? The two federal laws provide for different kinds of compensation for injured workers, and Viral Investments doesn’t want to pay the maintenance benefits that Morgan would be entitled to under the General Maritime Law and be subjected to paying for the damages allowed under the Jones Act.

The Jones Act vs. the Longshore Act

The Jones Act is a federal law that allows American workers who qualify as seaman to recover damages against an employer. The Longshore Act is a federal law that provides limited rights and remedies to injured maritime workers.

The most important distinction between the Jones Act and the Longshore Act is the scope of coverage. The Jones Act only applies to seamen, but seamen are not covered under the Longshore Act. Coverage under the Longshore Act extends to longshoreman, or other person engaged in longshoring operations, and harbor workers, including shipbuilders, ship repairmen and ship-breakers.

Another important distinction, which is relevant in this case, is what kind of compensation workers are eligible to receive under each act.

The Longshore Act provides several types of benefits to injured workers, including:

  • Permanent and temporary total disability;
  • Permanent and temporary partial disability;
  • Reasonable and necessary medical expenses, including surgery, medicine and crutches, administered or prescribed by an authorized physician;
  • Partial and limited Lost wages; and
  • Vocational rehabilitation benefits if the employee is unable to return to work.

A seaman is entitled to receive  maintenance benefits; this is a general maritime law right to  receive daily compensation for necessities like food and shelter. Under the Jones Act, a  seamen is entitled to receive compensation for lost earnings and lost of earning capacity (i.e., the money the seaman would have received from his employer and any future employer had he not been injured), past and future medical expenses, and damages for pain and suffering.

Who Qualifies as a Seaman?

A seaman is someone—man or woman—who performs a certain amount of work on a vessel, such as drill ships, jack-ups, floating barges, diving vessels, cruise ships, tankers, cargo ships and fishing boats. Seamen include everyone from the most junior crew member to the captain of the vessel. Note that you don’t have to do all of your work on the vessel to qualify as a seaman.

In some cases, as here, it’s difficult to determine whether a person qualifies as a seaman, which is why it’s important to contact an experienced maritime injury attorney who can help you with your case.

Reach Out to Us for Help

Contact Patrick Yancey Law Firm today if you are an injured seaman or have sustained any kind of offshore injury. We will help you decide what type of damages to pursue and help ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for an initial consultation about your case.