shipping workers and workers' comp

Nearly every state, including South Carolina, has workers’ compensation laws requiring most employers to provide compensation for medical expenses and wages when their employers are injured at work or while performing work duties. However, one group of workers that is excluded from workers’ compensation benefits is those involved with the shipping industry.

The shipping industry is a major source of employment in South Carolina, which could make this fact alarming. However, shipping workers are only excluded from workers’ compensation because they are already protected under other laws.

Offshore Workers

Injured workers who qualify as seamen are protected under the Jones Act.

To qualify as a seaman, the worker must spend at least 30% of his or her time on a navigable vessel, meaning one that is capable of moving under its own power and in navigable waters. For example, while being tied up at dock counts, drydock does not. The worker must also contribute to the work of the vessel.

While workers protected by workers’ compensation laws do not need to prove that their employers’ negligence caused their injuries, workers protected by the Jones Act do. However, they do not need to prove that their employers knew about the dangerous condition that caused their injuries, only that the dangerous conditions existed.

Examples of causes of injuries could be:

  • Providing inadequate training or enforcing of safety rules
  • Providing improper or faulty equipment
  • Hiring unqualified crewmembers
  • Failing to maintain the vessel to safe standards

Under the Jones Act, injured seamen can get compensation for “maintenance and cure.” Essentially, they should receive compensation for the cost of living–including for groceries, their rent or mortgage payment, utilities, and so on–as well as for all medical treatment costs until they are as recovered as they can expect to become.

Waterfront Workers

Just about all other workers who work on or near the water but not on it, such as dock workers, and who are not protected by workers’ compensation laws, are protected by the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). To qualify, their work must contribute directly to the water or marine transport. So someone who loads and unloads a ship or transports shipping containers would qualify but someone who does clerical work for a shipping company would not.

Under the LHWCA, injured workers can receive 2/3rds of their salary while recovering, and all medical treatment deemed necessary, which can include transportation costs to receive medical treatment and even vocational training if they can’t return to their previous work.

Maritime Work Is Dangerous; Make Sure You Know Your Rights

Workers’ compensation laws, the Jones Act, and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act all exist to protect our nation’s workers, but they can’t work unless we know what rights we are entitled to and unless we exert those rights.

If you or a family member has been injured while working in the South Carolina shipping industry, you are likely eligible for compensation, and you deserve to get it. Speak to our team of South Carolina maritime accident lawyers today to learn how you might be qualified to receive benefits for your injuries and partial recovery of lost wages.

We’d be pleased to discuss your situation with you to make sure you file for the appropriate benefits and get everything you need and are entitled to. And at Joye Law Firm, your initial consultation is always free.

About the Author

Ken Harrell joined Joye Law Firm in 1994, and has been the managing partner since 2006. With 30 years of experience, he protects the rights of injured South Carolinians, including cases involving workers’ compensation, car accidents, and defective products. Ken also leads the firm’s referral practice, helping to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation. He is a past president of South Carolina Injured Workers’ Advocates, and has served as the co-chairman of this organization’s legislative affairs committee for 12 years.

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