Alabama has some of the most scenic coastlines in the country. With over 600 miles of tidal shorelines, it’s easy to enjoy the many beautiful rivers, bayous, and bays that line our coast. The Gulf is also a source of income for many Alabamians, with over 12,860 of our friends and neighbors working on the water. Industries like fishing and boating are some of our most valuable here in Alabama, but they’re not without risks.
When the unthinkable happens, and you or someone you love is hurt while working at sea, you should know your legal options. One of the biggest considerations after an accident is the statute of limitations, or the amount of time victims have to file a personal injury lawsuit.
In this blog, we’ll review the statute of limitations for maritime injury claims and how it affects workers who’ve suffered injuries while working at sea. Keep reading to learn more.
Protect Your Rights After a Maritime Accident
Alabama has the tenth most maritime-related jobs in the nation, according to the Transportation Institute. The industry contributes $2.8 billion to the Alabama economy, $729.4 million of which is in the form of workers’ wages.
Because the rights of maritime workers are of such high value, there are a few laws in place that protect their wellbeing. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is one of them. This federal law provides compensation, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation to workers hurt in United States’ waters or places or jobs connected to the maritime industry, including dock work. When someone is hurt, a self-insured employer or an insurance company should pay for these benefits.
There is another federal law that protects certain maritime workers: the Jones Act. You may know the Jones Act already, as it states that ships going between U.S. ports must be at least 75% owned by U.S. citizens, manned by U.S. citizens, be built or re-built in the U.S., and registered in the U.S.
The Jones Act also says that a person injured while working at sea (or who dies from their injuries) can bring “bring a civil action at law,” or sue their employer for negligent actions that caused them to get hurt on the job.
What Is the Difference Between the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
Together, the Jones Act and LHWCA offer protection to a diverse group of injured maritime workers. However, they have different rules and cover different populations.
- LHWCA: Covers harbor workers, dock workers, longshoremen, workers on docked casino boats, roughnecks on oil rigs, and other individuals who do not work on navigable, open waters
- Jones Act: Covers seaman, captains, and others who work on or operate boats in navigable waters
If you need help determining which law applies to your case, contact an experienced maritime lawyer right away.
Both laws exclude workers for other reasons too. For example, the LHWCA does not protect government employees. You also typically cannot receive compensation if you intentionally caused your injuries.
If you have questions about your options after being injured at sea and want to know more about your rights under the Jones Act or LHWCA, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced maritime lawyer right away. A maritime lawyer can help you understand your rights and help you appeal your employer’s denial of benefits.
Need Compensation? You Must File Your Claim Within the Statute of Limitations
The filing deadlines in maritime cases are very complex. To protect yourself, you should always act quickly, notify your employer immediately of your injuries, and seek medical care. However, sometimes you may not realize the severity of your injury right away. In these cases, you should report your injury to your employer and ask to see a doctor as soon as you identify the issue.
The filing deadline in your maritime injury claim will depend on which law covers your employment.
LHWCA: You Must Give Notice Within 30 Days and File a Claim Within a Year
First, you must notify your employer in writing of your injury within 30 days of the incident or from the time you identify the injury’s connection to your work. However, if you miss this deadline, it may not be the end of your claim. The LHWCA will still let you pursue your maritime injury claim if you have a good reason for missing the 30-day notice deadline or if your employer wasn’t seriously harmed by your late notice. (If you didn’t notify your employer of your injury within the 30-day deadline, it’s a good idea to consult with a maritime lawyer.)
Second, you must file a written claim with the Office Workers’ Compensation Program (OWCP) within one year of your injury. The OWCP is a federal agency that oversees all LHWCA claims. If you miss this filing deadline, you may lose out on your right to compensation – so act quickly and consult a lawyer who understands LHWCA claims.
Jones Act: You Must File Your Lawsuit Within 3 Years of Your Injury
The Jones Act has a simpler statute of limitations. If this federal law covers your case, you typically must file a lawsuit within three years of your injury (or from the time you identified its relationship to your maritime work). While three years may sound like a lot of time, it’s important to act quickly. Your lawyer will need to investigate your claim, collect your medical evidence, and negotiate with the insurance companies. If you wait too long, valuable evidence may disappear, witnesses’ memories may fade, and your lawyer may not have enough time to fully prepare your claim.
Hurt Working at Sea? Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys Is Here to Help
The Andy Citrin Injury Attorneys team is proud to call Alabama and the Gulf Coast home. We know this community and are proud to fight for the hardworking people who are part of the maritime industry. If you or someone you love was hurt working at sea, or in one of Alabama’s rivers or waterways, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. We can meet with you in a free, private consultation to help you understand your options and what to do next.
46 U.S. Code § 30104. (2008). Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/46/30104
Douglass, S. (2012, December 18). Alabama’s Coastline. Encyclopedia of Alabama. Retrieved from http://encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-2049#:~:text=Alabama’s%20shoreline%20along%20the%20Gulf,about%20100%20of%20those%20miles.
Jones Act. Transportation Institute. Recovered from https://transportationinstitute.org/jones-act/#1571078934266-92728558-bc3b
Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation (DLHWC) Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act Frequently Asked Questions. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dlhwc/faq/lsfaqs.htm#content
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.