Jones Act protects independent contractors too

Posted on Friday, August 21st, 2015 at 4:57 pm    

For the many men and women that work on the open water, the Jones Act is a pretty familiar term. It offers protection against death or injury while working for an employer while at sea. In that respect, it mimics some of the same qualities as workers’ compensation does for traditional jobs. Just as with workers’ compensation, the Jones Act has a vast list of requirements and regulations for those it governs, in order to be eligible for its protection.

While the general purpose of the Jones Act is to protect the full time employees of a vessel from injury or loss, the umbrella of its protection may extend far past employees to include independent contractors as well. The Jones Act is not without limitations, but so long as independent contractors are directly supervised by the employer, or essentially have their duties controlled by the employer, they may be considered an employee, and the Jones Act may be fully enforced. Great news for independent contractors, but something employers may want to argue when it comes time to cover a claim.

Although the question of who had supervision and control of contractors may be difficult to prove, some other requirements, may help create the link needed between the contractor and employer for the Jones Act to be enforced. If the contractor was paid through direct deposit or, if the contractor could be hired or fired by the employer, enforcement of the Jones Act is valid.

With so many details, loopholes and requirements for Jones Act protection, it is in the best interest of independent contractors to seek legal counsel when looking into a claim. A maritime attorney with maritime law experience may be able to help identify aspects of your employment that grant you the protection of the Jones Act.


What is the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?

Posted on Friday, May 29th, 2015 at 5:13 pm    

Working on the Louisiana docks as a longshoreman can be one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, but it’s also one of the toughest and most dangerous. Employers have an obligation to keep the workplace as safe as possible to avoid injuries on the job, but that’s not always the case. Even with safe conditions, accidents can happen and workers can get hurt. Thankfully, when an accident does occur, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act exists to provide benefits for occupational diseases and injuries to dock workers. The LHWCA provides benefits such as:

  • Hospital, medical and surgical supplies and services.
  • For disabilities caused by an on-the-job maritime accident, the LHWCA provides compensation that equates to 66 ? percent of the normal weekly salary of the employee.
  • In the case of a death, the widower and widow are entitled to up to $3,000 for funeral costs plus 50 percent of the deceased worker’s average wages for one week. These are good for life, or end if the surviving spouse gets remarried. Children under the age of 18 can also receive rewards.

Of course, there are times when insurance companies and employers don’t act in the best interest of the injured employee. When that happens, it may be a good idea to contact a maritime attorney who can represent you and may be able to get you the compensation you deserve. Our page on maritime workplace accidents can give you a better idea of what options are available to you.


The Jones Act and injuries caused by ships

Posted on Friday, January 16th, 2015 at 5:14 pm    

When Louisiana workers suffer serious personal injuries as a result of an accident caused by a ship or other vessel, their claims are governed by the Jones Act, which is a federal component of maritime and admiralty law, rather than under the state’s personal injury laws. Available claims and damages must thus be sought through the nation’s maritime law, which has different procedures and laws than other types of personal injury cases.

Under the Jones Act, it does not matter if the injury suffered occurred on the water or if it occurred on land. If a navigable vessel was involved, maritime and admiralty law governs. The claim must first be presented to the company that owns or operates the vessel, and a civil lawsuit may not be filed until six months after the claim has been presented to the company in writing.

Owners and operators of vessels will be liable to workers who suffered personal injuries due to their actions if they failed to comply with the act’s mandates or when the injury was caused by a known problem with the ship’s steaming machinery or with the ship’s hull. Victims are able to bring suit against the ship’s engineer, master, pilot or mate for personal injury due to negligence or willful action. If a seaman dies in such an accident, his or her estate representative may bring the action on the decedent’s behalf.

Maritime cases have very specific claim filing requirements and applicable burdens of proof for prosecuting a personal injury claim. People who have suffered serious personal injury should familiarize themselves with the requirements as outlined by the Jones Act. In some cases of workplace injuries at sea, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act may apply.

Source: U.S. Government Printing Office, “46 U.S.C.”, accessed on Jan. 16, 2015


What is the Death on the High Seas Act?

Posted on Friday, December 19th, 2014 at 5:14 pm    

The Death on the High Seas Act is a federal law that was passed in 1920 seeking to regulate the process of legal redress for wrongful death actions that have their origin in the international waters between countries. It has been substantially and controversially expanded by President Reagan’s decision in 1988 to extend the aquatic borders of the United States.

There are two ways through which a death at sea may be legally actionable under DOHSA. There are survival actions, under which a representative of the estate of the deceased sues the person, people or organization that they feel is legally liable for damages that the deceased person would have tried to sue them for if they had survived. This may include pain and suffering. There are also wrongful death actions, where the family of someone who died on the high seas sues for the damages that have been done to their family’s economic future and the loss of consortium.

The exact jurisdiction of DOHSA has been the subject of dissent among the legal community. In 1988, Reagan expanded the territorial waters of the United States to 12 miles from the shore. This has caused different interpretations of the law in the case of deaths that occur between the 3-mile limit imposed by DOHSA and the 12-mile limit.

Maritime law is a distinct branch of the legal code with long traditions and ancient origins. If someone has died as a result of an accident on the high seas, then it may be a good idea for the family or the representative of the estate to consult with a lawyer who has practiced in the maritime field. They may be able to help them to understand the precise ramifications of maritime law and to find the best method to seek compensation for the loss of their loved one.

Source: Fordham Law Review, “A Territorial Sea Change: The Death on the High Seas Act and the Extension of the Territorial Sea“, December 19, 2014


How the LHWCA applies to Louisiana workers

Posted on Friday, November 14th, 2014 at 5:15 pm    

Longshore and harbor workers in Louisiana may benefit from understanding the workers’ compensation laws that apply to their position. Many of these individuals are covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. This piece of legislation financially provides for the needs of these workers in the event that they are injured while on U.S. waters or doing work on land that is related to these duties. The act also gives survivors’ benefits to the next of kin of a person who died while performing these duties.

The LHWCA provides other legal protections for the workers under its umbrella. For example, the act stipulates that no employee can be fired or otherwise punished for challenging a workplace policy or fighting the institutional environment in any way. When a worker has a complaint, they will be offered mediation services to deal with the matter. In the event that the worker or the next of kin of a deceased maritime employee do not agree with the findings of a mediator, their dispute may be taken before an administrative law judge. Other legal avenues could be available if the findings are still not palatable to the employee.

The LHWCA covers most workers in maritime occupations. Exceptions include crew members of vessels, employees of the federal government or those of a foreign nation. In the event that a worker is not covered under the LHWCA, similar provisions in other statutes give these workers comparable protections.

If a Louisiana maritime worker is injured on the job, an attorney can help build a case by talking to the plaintiff, employees who were at the scene of the accident, examining official employment reports and finding expert testimony. If any or all of these pieces of evidence prove that the maritime worker’s employer was responsible for the plaintiff’s injury, then a favorable court ruling could be in place.

Source: United States Department of Labor, “Health Benefits, Retirement Standards, and Workers’ Compensation: Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation“, November 14, 2014


Court rules no punitive damages in Jones Act cases

Posted on Friday, October 3rd, 2014 at 5:16 pm    

On Sept. 25, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals filed a decision in the case of McBride v. Estis Well Service, LLC, concluding that punitive damages are not available to plaintiffs of lawsuits filed under the Jones Act. Typically, these suits are filed in connection with injuries or fatalities suffered on a sea vessel while working. With its decision, the court affirmed an earlier U.S. District Court decision in the Louisiana case.

The Jones Act allows for claimants in maritime cases to seek pecuniary losses. The appellate court found that punitive damages are meant to punish employers for willful and wanton behavior and thus do not qualify as pecuniary losses. The ruling means that claimants in personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits brought under the Jones Act are not eligible to recover noneconomic losses deriving from maritime accidents.

In the McBride case, a truck-mounted drilling rig in Bayou Sorrell fell over, pinning and killing one worker while seriously injuring three others. The subsequent suits brought against the owner and operator of the drilling rig were consolidated, and that is when the defendant argued for the punitive claims to be dismissed on the grounds that the plaintiffs were seeking noneconomic damages.

As this case illustrates, civil action that arises from maritime workplace accidents causing injury or death can be exceedingly complex and adversarial. Furthermore, the language of the laws surrounding these cases can be impenetrable itself and difficult to navigate. That, in large part, is why it is imperative for people who suffered damages in connection with such an accident to retain the counsel of a personal injury attorney. The lawyer may help claimants prove that the parties at fault for the accident should be held responsible, in which case claimants may receive compensation for the pecuniary losses they suffered as a result of the accident.


Oil industry lawsuit supporter re-nominated in Louisiana

Posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2014 at 5:16 pm    

A board member for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, who has become known for his support of a lawsuit against the oil industry, was re-nominated for a position on the board on Sept. 18. The controversial suit against pipeline, oil and gas companies alleges that the companies damaged coastal areas that serve as a buffer against hurricanes and that they have not done enough to correct the situation.

The SLFPA-E board member is a geology and marine biology expert. His term formally expired in July, but board members argued that his knowledge of coastal matters and qualifications make him indispensable to the panel. He was re-appointed to the only available technical position, and Governor Bobby Jindal must formally appoint board members who are nominated. The board member’s re-nomination is expected to maintain the 5-4 majority in the SLFPA-E that favors the lawsuit.

Gov. Jindal’s office has opposed the lawsuit based on the belief that it exceeds the protection agency’s authority and that it costs taxpayers money. Oil industry supporters in the state have spoken out against it, and the Legislature voted to stop the suit retroactively. The actions of the Legislature are currently being challenged in court.

Maritime law involves a lot of regulations. Issues that arise regarding the effects of oil, gas and other industries on local water supplies are a leading reason of why an environmental suit may be filed. Those who wish to file such a lawsuit could contact an attorney with experience in environmental litigation. He or she could provide assistance and advice to plaintiffs through legal proceedings.

Source: Daily Journal, “In defeat for Jindal, panel backs supporter of oil lawsuit for seat on flood control authority”, Kevin McGill, September 18, 2014


Levee board looking to hold gas and oil companies to their word

Posted on Friday, September 5th, 2014 at 5:17 pm    

According to the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, the equivalent of roughly one football field of land is lost to the sea every 38 minutes. This figure was obtained from research done by the United States Geological Survey. It is projected that a landmass equivalent to the size of Rhode Island could be lost by 2050 if nothing is done to stop it.

Lawsuits have been filed against gas and oil companies that worked in the wetlands. The contention is that these companies were only permitted to work on the coast as long as they repaired the land to its original condition. A suit filed by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East contends that 97 oil and gas companies have all contributed partially to the weakening of the Louisiana coast. While no one company is singled out in the suit, each company is asked to repair its share of the damage.

There has been opposition to these lawsuits from both Governor Bobby Jindal and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association. Jindal passed SB 469 in June, which attempts to protect oil companies from lawsuits related to land erosion and other coastal damage. In addition, Jindal has been stacking the levee board with members who are against suing oil companies.

Oil and gas companies that violate maritime law may be held financially responsible for their actions. It may be possible to compel the companies to clean up damage done to coastal areas or provide funds for third parties to do the work. In addition, it may be possible for businesses or individuals affected by such damage to win compensation to the extent that they were harmed. An attorney could help businesses or individuals with legal action as either a single case or part of a class-action lawsuit.


Maritime laws in Louisiana

Posted on Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 at 5:17 pm    

Louisiana maritime laws like the Jones Act were designed to provide employees with protection if an injury occurs while working out at the sea. The legislation enables employees who have suffered an injury due to someone else’s carelessness to seek restitution for damages.

Under maritime law, if you were injured whole loading or unloading commercial vessels on the docks or during a boating accident, you may be entitled to recover compensation for subsequent medical treatment and other related expenses. Additionally, injuries suffered offshore at an oil rig or while receiving transportation via helicopter or boat to the oil rig are also covered.

Furthermore, the Harbor Workers’ Compensation and the Longshore Act may provide additional coverage for workers who are out to sea. The Death on the High Seas Act could apply to families whose loved one died while performing work out at sea. Maritime legislation is complex, but our lawyers might be able to determine which law provides the appropriate protection for the injured sea worker.

Injuries suffered while on the job could seriously and negatively affect your quality of life. An attorney with knowledge of maritime laws might be able to scrutinize the evidence surrounding your case to determine which law applies to your situation. The compensation awarded through a claim could account for wages lost while recovering, medical expenses and vocational rehabilitation under some circumstances. Anyone who is interested in learning more about what do if an employee is injured out at sea, please visit our page on maritime law.

Source: Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson LLC, “Louisiana Maritime Law Attorneys”, August 20, 2014

Source: Veron, Bice, Palermo & Wilson LLC, “Louisiana Maritime Law Attorneys”, August 20, 2014


Plaquemines hopes to keep case against oil companies in Louisiana

Posted on Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014 at 5:18 pm    

A judge will not rule until after Sept. 12 in a case that is part of a larger series of 21 lawsuits against 18 oil companies in Louisiana. While the judge in the case typically rules from the bench after hearing arguments, he is only hearing three of the cases while the rest are being heard by other judges.

Therefore, his rulings could have an impact on how other judges rule in the other cases, and he wants to have his ruling in writing. Both sides were asked to submit a final brief in the case by Sept. 12. One of the key issues in the case being heard by the judge has to do with diversity, or whether plaintiffs or defendants are from more than one state.

This could be important as those who are bringing the lawsuit want them heard in state court while the energy companies want them heard in federal court. If the cases are heard in federal court, federal energy laws could be friendlier to the oil companies, and jurors could be picked from areas that are not as familiar with the damage that may have been done by the companies named in the suit. The attorney for the oil companies also argued to have the case removed to federal court due to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and other maritime law.

In a case such as this one, oil companies could be held liable for any business losses, the cost of medical treatment due to contaminated water and other costs related the damage that it may have caused. If the state prevails in its case against the oil companies, those who have been injured may then have a right to ask for financial compensation under a payment plan that will likely be determined by a court.

Source: Nola.com, “Plaquemines argues for state court jurisdiction of suit against oil companies“, Mark Schleifstein, July 02, 2014

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