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Injured marine worker claims complicated

Marine construction workers in Hawaii face the risk of serious injury while using heavy equipment to restore shorelines, dredge harbors, repair bridges and construct docks. They must overcome a complicated legal structure for claim filing, payment of hospital bills and obtaining missed pay.

The federal Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act governs workers around navigable waters at piers, docks, harbors and sea terminals. The workers' compensation laws of Hawaii may also apply to these workers.

The federal Jones Act also governs seaman who work at least 30 percent of their time on barges, oilrigs, shipping boats and other types of sea vessels. This definition can also be expanded under certain circumstances.

Determining which law applies to a case is complicated because workers may engage in different types of jobs. A worker may spend time working on a boat or a bridge. A seaman who operates a boat may leave it and secure the seawall next to the pier.

A dockworker who is injured on a barge by a crane may be covered by the LHWCA as a longshoreman or under the Jones Act because the injury took place on an owned barge. If the barge is owned by another party, the claim may be filed as a Maritime Employee Liability claim within the Jones Act. The state's workers' compensation law would also cover a residential worker who was injured while moving a vessel to a coastal jobsite.

Furthermore, insurance companies have not focused on maritime injuries and very few all-inclusive policies are issued. Marine related companies usually rely on multiple insurance companies to meet all their needs.

Companies must also determine whether to file a workers' compensation, USL&H, P&I or maritime liability claim for the injury and the governing law. During this often lengthy process, the worker must pay costly medical expenses.

The injured worker may not ultimately receive a reasonable payout. Under the LHWCA and workers' compensation, the percentage of average weekly wages and the total amount of the award are restricted and the benefits last only for the injury's duration. The Jones Act, however, treats claims like personal injury cases where wages and medical expenses are granted but pain and suffering may be awarded.

A qualified attorney can help assure that the claims process is reasonable and the proper procedures are followed. They can also help workers receive fair compensation.

Source: Marine Link, "The Complicated Business of Marine Construction Worker Claims," Mark Engel, Oct. 19, 2017

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