Are you a maritime employer or a commercial diving company and need help understanding maritime employers liability insurance?
Under federal law (The Jones Act also known as Merchant Marine Act), masters and members of the crew are not restricted to statutory compensation acts (State Workers’ Compensation) and may sue their employers for injuries sustained in the course of employment. Maritime employers liability is an important concept to understand. The Jones Act is based on negligence and eliminates many defenses, including assumption of the risk and contributory negligence. However, it includes comparative negligence. For purposes of coverage under the Jones Act the term “seaman” can differ from the definition that generally would apply under general maritime law, it is always a question of fact and is normally determined by application of the following test:
- A seaman must have a connection to a vessel (or an identifiable group of such vessels) that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature. That does not necessarily mean “permanently assigned.”
- The vessel must be in navigation and engaged as an instrument of commerce or capable of transportation on navigable waters. The courts have interpreted this broadly. For instance, the vessel may be considered “in navigation” if moored to a pier, in some repair yard, temporarily attached to some object, or on it anchorage.
- A worker’s duties must contribute to the function of the vessel and assist in the furtherance of the vessel’s mission. However, the worker does not necessarily have to be aboard the vessel when the injury occurs.
The Jones Act gives seamen a right to a trial by jury and incorporates the provisions of the Federal Employer’s Liability Act in maritime law.
To be considered in the employ of the vessel one not need have signed “ship’s articles” (an agreement between the captain and the seaman), so long as one is working aboard the vessel. The general maritime law, however, will not protect a mere volunteer assisting the crew in its activities. While in the general sense the term “vessel” includes all navigable structures intended for or capable of transportation, there is no set legal definition. The meaning of the term is continually being expanded and extended by the courts and even covers mobile offshore drilling platforms.
A worker’s status regarding whether he or she is a seaman or longshoreman/harbor worker is often the subject of litigation and may present an exposure to the employer that he did not anticipate. For example, there have been cases where a worker painting from a raft or skiff was deemed to be a Jones Act Seaman because the raft or skiff was a “vessel.”
A seaman’s rights under Jones Act, as well as under maritime law, are conditioned by the contractual agreement of employment for serving aboard a vessel. This means the seaman’s rights continue while onshore so long as the employee is acting within the course of this employment.
What It Covers
The typical Maritime Employers Liability (MEL) policy covers:
Sums which the Assured, as employer, shall become legally obligated to pay as damages under 46 U.S.C. Section 688 (the so-called “Jones Act”) or under the Death on the High Seas Act or the General Maritime Law of the United States, or for transportation, unearned wages, maintenance and cure and burial expenses, because of Bodily Injury by Accident or Bodily Injury by Disease, including death at any time resulting therefrom, sustained by an employee arising out of and in the course of his employment by the Assured.
- Nature, location and duration of work being performed
- Receipts, payroll and payroll estimates for USL&H and Jones Act exposures
- Average and maximum number of employees exposed at any one time
- Claims history
Masters and members of the crew are not restricted to statutory compensation acts (State Workers’ Compensation) and may sue their employers for injuries sustained in the course of employment. This is stipulated under federal law named “The Jones Act”. A Maritime Employers Liability insurance policy covers employers potential liability under the Jones Act in excess of a deduction or retention. Please contact Accessible Marine Insurance for more details.
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