Jones Act vs. USL&H Coverage for Maritime Workers

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It’s no secret that maritime work can be dangerous. Of the 67,000 workers in U.S. water transportation, 11,000 nonfatal occupational injuries occurred from 2011-2017. An additional 87 people suffered fatalities. (Source: CDC, Marine Transportation)

Injury and disability rates are high in the maritime industry. Injured workers need to know where they can turn and what is available when injured on the job.

Our maritime workers explain the Jones Act (Merchant Marine Act of 1920) vs. USL&H (Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act) coverage for maritime workers.

What’s The Difference Between the Jones Act and USL&H?

Differences between the Jones Act and USL&H – at a glance:

Jones Act

  • Who is covered?: Captain and crew of a ship
  • Is negligence required?: Yes, except for maintenance and cure
  • Jury trial?: Yes
  • Damages: May include pain and suffering and lost quality of life
  • Lost wages: Available; based on actual damages
  • Test for coverage: The injured party must work towards the function of the vessel or its mission; the relationship must be substantial

USL&H

  • Who is covered?: Other maritime workers not assigned to ships
  • Is negligence required?: No
  • Jury trial?: No
  • Damages: Limited to medical expenses and a portion of lost wages
  • Lost wages: Limited to 66 2/3% of average weekly wages with maximum limits
  • Test for coverage: The person is engaged in maritime employment, and an injury occurring on navigable waters of the United States or adjoining land

How Are the Jones Act and the USL&H Related?

The Jones Act is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It is a federal statute. Among other things, the Jones Act authorizes negligence claims for people injured in maritime employment.

USL&H is the United States Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. It creates a worker’s compensation-type system for injured maritime workers.

At first glance, it looks like there are two competing systems. Which one applies? Do they both apply? How are they different?

Comparing the Jones Act and USL&H

There are two laws – and two systems for helping injured sea workers. The Jones Act and the USL&H are both laws that provide recourse to maritime workers who are injured on the job. The two laws cover two different sets of workers. As a maritime worker, you’re most likely covered by one or the other.

Getting the appropriate benefits and compensation means determining which law the victim falls under. Then, determine the rights and procedures under that law.

Who Does the Jones Act Apply To?

The Jones Act applies to the captain and crew of a ship. The worker must spend 30% or more of their time on the vessel. Ships are covered as well as boats, oil rigs and other types of vessels.

Who Does the USL&H Apply To?

The USL&H applies to maritime workers who engage in support operations for seafaring operations, including those who work on piers, docks, wharves, terminals, and coastal platforms. It is for workers in the maritime industry who aren’t necessarily working on a single vessel but perform other operations. See 33 U.S. Code § 902 for a definition of the term employee.

With the Jones Act providing for traditional personal injury compensation, including pain and suffering, a worker should explore application of the Jones Act. 

Note: Some states allow concurrent jurisdiction of USL&H claims and worker’s compensation benefits. Texas is not one of those states. (Source: The American Equity Underwriters, Inc., Concurrent Jurisdiction) See Sun Ship v. Pennsylvania, 447 U.S. 715 (1980) (holding that the USL&H does not replace state worker’s compensation laws, it supplements them).

Who Qualifies for Compensation?

How are the Jones Act and USL&H different in terms of who qualifies for compensation?

To receive compensation under the Jones Act, the injured party must prove that their employer acted negligently.*

The Jones Act provides more benefits and compensation to the injured worker than USL&H. However, the injured worker must prove negligence to access these benefits. On the other hand, USL&H benefits are no-fault – the worker need only prove that they are injured.

*Except for maintenance and cure benefits

What Benefits Are Awarded?

Under the Jones Act, a worker can receive benefits akin to someone filing a traditional personal injury negligence claim. Benefits may include:

  • Maintenance and cure*
  • Personal injury compensation
  • Lost income
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages in full
  • Future damages

Note: Proving employer negligence is not required to receive maintenance and cure. Maintenance covers the victim’s day-to-day living expenses while cure is medical treatment. Maintenance payments are a dollar amount per day to cover living on the land. Cure benefits continue until the victim has achieved maximum medical cure.

What benefits can a worker receive under the USL&H?

Under the USL&H, the injured worker may claim compensation like most state workers’ compensation claims. Medical care should be completely paid for by the employer (usually through their insurance carrier). The victim may receive 2/3 of their average weekly wage, up to 200% of the national average weekly wage. Total and permanent disability benefits are available. A victim who challenges the denial of benefits may claim attorney fees. Death benefits are available to qualified survivors.

Filing a Claim

How do you file a Jones Act claim?

To file a Jones Act claim, immediately report the accident to your employer. Seek medical attention. The ship captain or senior officer should file CG-2692 – Report of Marine Accident, Injury, or Death. Contact a Jones Act attorney as soon as possible. It’s best to work with a lawyer before making any statements, but in any event, you should contact a lawyer immediately. Your lawyer can assist you with filing a legal claim in the appropriate court of jurisdiction. (See 28 U.S. Code § 1333 – Admiralty, maritime, and prize cases).

How do you file a USL&H claim?

To file a USL&H claim, the victim should notify the employer as soon as they are hurt on the job. They should give written notice within 30 days of the injury or knowledge of the disability, using Form LS-201. The victim should receive needed medical care.

A victim has one year to file a written claim from the date of injury or last payment, using Form LS-203. A claim for death benefits should be made using Form LS-262. Forms can be uploaded to the dedicated case creation site, faxed, or sent to the address for filing USL&H claims with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Attorneys for Jones Act and USL&H claims

Do you have questions about the Jones Act or USL&H? Have you been injured in maritime work? We are experienced maritime attorneys handling Jones Act and USL&H claims. Contact us today for a consultation regarding your claim.

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