In maritime law, two crucial pieces of legislation play a pivotal role in determining compensation for workers— the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) and the Jones Act.
These acts, though related, serve distinct purposes, and understanding their differences is important for those working in maritime industries.
What is the Jones Act (Merchant Marine Act of 1920)?
The Jones Act, formally known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a cornerstone of maritime law in the United States. Administered into law to protect the rights of maritime workers, it applies to seamen injured while in the service of a vessel. The Jones Act extends its protections exclusively to “seamen,” a term broadly encompassing individuals contributing to the vessel’s mission.
A distinctive feature of the Jones Act is its allowance for seamen to seek compensation for injuries resulting from the negligence of the ship’s owner, operator or fellow crew members. To seek compensation under the Jones Act, a claimant must establish their seaman status, prove employer negligence and demonstrate that such negligence contributed to their injury.
In contrast to the Jones Act, the LHWCA addresses a broader spectrum of maritime-related occupations. Its primary purpose is to provide compensation to maritime workers who are not classified as “seamen” under the Jones Act. The LHWCA covers diverse employees, including longshore workers, harbor workers, ship repairers and other non-seamen engaged in maritime activities.
Compensation under the LHWCA is more structured and includes benefits for medical expenses, rehabilitation and disability. Unlike the Jones Act, negligence is not a prerequisite for claiming benefits under the LHWCA.
While the Jones Act and the LHWCA both address maritime injuries, their scopes, eligibility criteria and compensation structures differ significantly. For workers in the maritime industry, a clear understanding of these acts can help ensure they pursue the appropriate avenue for compensation in the event of injury.