Many people in New York may be aware that there are laws governing maritime passage and commerce in U.S. waterways. One of these is called the Jones Act or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. At nearly a century old, this law today has its share of both supporters and opponents. People in the former category herald the law as an important element in supporting American jobs and national security. People in the latter category suggest the law should be done away with.
New York is one of this country’s major ports and as such, numerous New Yorkers work in the shipping industry in some capacity. If they contract an illness or suffer an injury during their employment, the Jones Act provides the method for them to recover their medical costs, lost wages and daily living expenses from their employer, even if they were not on board their ship at the time of their accident or the onset of their illness.
Going to work every day in Manhattan (no matter the profession) can be difficult for anyone. Any number of challenges and risks could await you. Fortunately, you are typically able to draw some comfort from the knowledge that should something happen to you on the job, there are resources in place to help (such as workers' compensation benefits). You might face a heightened number of on-the-job risks when you work in the maritime industry. For injuries that happen while at sea, you can rely on protection through the Jones Act. Many in your profession may view workers' compensation benefits and those offered through the Jones Act as being the same thing. Yet are they?
There are many laws that dictate what can and cannot be done on U.S. waterways, including in New York. Some of them are looked upon favorably while others may be seen as hindering trade and business. The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 or the Jones Act is one such law that some people see as being good and others see as being an issue. Issues were really brought to light after the hurricanes hit Puerto Rico.
It is a ship owner’s duty to provide a seaworthy vessel, one that is safe for New Yorkers to work on, according to Accessible Marine Insurance. If you are injured due to an unsafe condition, you may claim it is due to the unseaworthiness of the vessel. Offshore drilling rigs, barges, helicopters, floating casinos and more can be classified as a vessel in a broad legal sense.
Regardless of the specific career path, a job in the maritime industry can become more demanding than work in other fields in many ways. Certain laws in the nation aim to protect workers from the dangers inherent in daily shifts, such as heavy machinery, safety risks of ships and unpredictable weather. Many New York maritime workers have a world of questions when it comes to those laws, however, as they have changed continuously over recent decades.
Maritime work is a hazardous occupation, particularly if you are working at sea. Along with accidents and other safety concerns, seafarers are at risk of developing serious health problems due to the type of work they do, including carrying cargo and handling dangerous materials. Long working hours, stress, and endemic or epidemic diseases can also put them at risk, even if they pass a medical test with flying colors before getting underway.
You are not alone if the thought of repetitive stress injuries calls to mind a grocery-store clerk or an office worker who uses a computer for much of their New York job. But this type of injury can happen to any worker—anywhere—who does the same task over and over throughout the day, and that includes seamen, longshoremen and other maritime workers as well. At Tabak, Mellusi & Shisha, we know how important medical treatment can be to your future, financial and otherwise. We work with many people who have been injured on vessels, helping to ensure they get the care they deserve.
Most unions representing seaman, longshoremen and civilian mariners take great care of their members. They work hard to ensure that fair wages are upheld, that working conditions meet state and federal safety standards, and most importantly, that legitimate grievances are properly and promptly addressed.
Like many New Yorkers, you may be employed by a shipowner, working toward career advancements that will ensure you a good income and a job you love at sea. According to the New York Law Journal, Meagan Golden was one such crew member, employed on a vessel owned by OSG Ship Management. Her goals were destroyed when she suffered a career-ending injury while handling cargo on the ship.