Law Office of James M. Hoffmann Articles Are Commercial Divers Covered by Workers Compensation Insurance?

Are Commercial Divers Covered by Workers Compensation Insurance?

By James Hoffmann  Sep. 5, 2019 12:12p

Commercial divers have one of the most dangerous career paths, with countless risks surfacing at every corner: drowning, hypoxia, fractures, amputations, etc.

When a commercial diver gets injured on the job, they may be entitled to file workers compensation. But there’s an additional act that covers them: the Jones Act.

What Is It?

The Jones Act is a maritime law that protects the rights of injured seamen, among other things. It makes an employer responsible for damages a worker sustains as a result of the company’s negligence, the negligence of another employee, or a malfunction of the vessel. Those who are protected by the Jones Act can seek compensation for medical costs, pain and suffering,lost wages, and other damages.

To be recognized as a Jones Act seaman, commercial divers must meet the following criteria:

  • Their job must contribute to the function of the vessel or its mission;
  • They must have a substantial relationship with the vessel, both in nature and in duration, which usually means they have to be employed by the company, and not work as a freelancer;
  • Their work must take place on the vessel;

Do I Also Have Workers Comp?

If you do not qualify as a ‘seaman’ and worry that the Jones Act does not apply to you, then you may file aworkers compensation claim to cover the costs of your treatment. Missouri law states that companies with 5 or more employees are required to carry workers' compensation insurance. It can cover you even if your work doesn't take place on the ship.

However, these laws only apply if you are an employee of the company. It’s not important whether you work full time or part-time, but this dynamic is essential. Freelancers or independent contractors are not covered by workers' compensation laws and have to pay for this type of insurance themselves.

What If I’m Not Covered?

Injured divers who are covered neither by workers comp nor the Jones Act may have the option of suing the employer for negligence. If they failed to create a safe environment, and either their actions or lack of actions got you hurt, then you can take the matter in front of the judge.

However, you’ll need proof of negligence. A St. Louis workers comp lawyer can help you gather evidence and build a strong case, but only if there is any negligence to speak of. If the incident was not foreseeable (meaning that, reasonably, the employer had no way of knowing you’d get hurt), then there’s not much you can do. It may be possible to cover the costs of your medical treatment through your health insurance.

Work with a Lawyer

Before you decide what to do, it’s best to get in touch with an experienced workers compensation lawyer first to see what legal actions are best suited for your case.

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