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Lawsuits are necessary when workers get hurt on the Great Lakes

On Behalf of | Jan 18, 2023 | Maritime Law

When people think of maritime work, they often picture professional fishermen working in the Puget Sound area or maybe ferryman who runs ships up and down the east coast. Others may think of the Mississippi River, which is a navigable waterway and the source of much industry.

Few people stop to think about the Great Lakes as a source of maritime employment. However, they are one of the largest sources of maritime work in the country, accounting for roughly 20% of the employees who are covered under the Jones Act.

If workers get hurt on the job in Illinois, typically they just file for workers’ compensation benefits. However, if they work out on the Great Lakes, standard workers’ compensation won’t be an option because of jurisdiction complications. Instead, a civil lawsuit may be the best option for recovering losses like wages someone couldn’t earn because of an injury and their medical expenses.

How the Jones Act protects workers

Without workers’ compensation benefits, employees might end up completely shouldering the burden that results from an injury on the job. They could become unemployed and left responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, maybe even more.

Obviously, that is not an ideal outcome for someone who has performed hard and likely very dangerous work for a living. The Jones Act or Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 creates a system through which those hurt because of maritime employment can seek compensation from their employers. Workers hurt because of regulatory non-compliance or negligence on the part of their employer can file a lawsuit to recover their personal losses.

How can you tell if you might have a case?

As someone working on the Great Lakes, you may have suffered a brain injury due to a partial drowning or a severe physical injury because of a broken bone caused by heavy machinery inside a ship. Typically, to have a valid claim under the Jones Act, an injured maritime worker has to have verifiable losses and some evidence indicating their employer is to blame for the situation.

Discussing the circumstances that led to your injury might help you evaluate whether you are in a position to seek compensation for your recent maritime injury.