There are two federal statutes governing compensation for marine injury claims:
The Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (DLHWC) for workers involved in longshoring and harbor operations includes a ship repairman, a shipbuilder, and a ship breaker. There is a long list of those who are not covered under this federation compensation program.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (the “Jones Act”) covers seamen and other crew members assigned to a vessel or fleet of vessels. Among those covered by the Jones Act are deck hands, captains, engineers, drillers, and first, second, or third mates. It has also been applied to fishing and shrimping boats, oil fields, barges, tug boats, and other maritime workers at sea. As with DLHWC, there are many examples of maritime workers who are not covered under the Jones Act.
Judicial rulings are also used to guide judges as they determine the outcomes of similar cases. Many times the courts carefully consider how much time the worker spends at sea to determine which act should be applied in the case of injury. There is also a gray area in decisions about what constitutes a vessel. For this reason, in addition to considering the federal legislation, employers need to also consider legal precedents set in other cases as they determine which marine business insurance is best for their industry.
Employers aren’t the only ones confused by who falls under which federal compensation act. Marine workers are often just as bewildered, and to protect their own interests, they file claims under both laws. For this reason, it is not unusual for employers in the marine industry to have marine business insurance that offers coverage for both DLHWC and the Jones Act. It is also important to seek advice from an experienced marine business insurance specialist to ensure state-mandated coverage is met, if applicable.
Workman’s compensation is an important concern for marine businesses, particularly in the spring when many marine businesses like yacht clubs, marinas, boat dealers, and other commercial marine enterprises hire temporary employees for the busy season. In addition to ensuring they have adequate marine business insurance, employers should consider:
All staff have proper marine certification and safety training
First aid requirements are met, both with respect to training for staff and first aid supplies on vessels
All staff know how to respond to shipboard incidents such as fires, as well as how to raise an alarm or react in an emergency situation
All personnel have current training in survival and rescue situations
An employee manual outlining all the necessary requirements are kept current
As for marine business insurance, there are different approaches to obtaining coverage as an employer: self-insurance, group self-insurance through a U.S. Longshore Act policy, or statutory workers compensation. There are options for maritime employer liability coverage with various underwriters.
Uncertain which marine business insurance to choose for worker’s compensation claims? Contact the marine insurance professionals at Global Marine Insurance for expert assistance and receive a complementary comprehensive review of your current policy today.