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Working as a seaman or maritime employee isn't like most 9 to 5 jobs. Sailors, seamen, commercial fishermen, and other at-sea employees may work voyage-to-voyage for different employers on a contractual basis. Even long-term employees may have employment contracts.
Contractual obligations can sometime pose unique issues, including where a lawsuit must be filed. However, the terms in the contract do not eliminate your rights when you are injured on the job.
If you've been injured on the job but are concerned because of your contract status, or because a contract clause may cause a particular hardship, our Bellingham, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco based maritime contract lawyers at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski can help you regardless of your specific circumstances. We represent maritime employees on contract coast-to-coast, including injuries that occur in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and North Pacific. Call us at 1 (800) 262-8529 to set up a free consultation to discuss your case today.
We represent clients throughout Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska, with offices in Bellingham, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco.
The Jones Act protects seamen's rights to recover after being injured on the job due to employer negligence. However, many employers will argue that people working for them are not employees, but rather independent contractors.
An independent contractor is a self-employed person who is hired to perform a specific service. In the shipping and maritime industry, seamen may be hired to work on a particular vessel on a particular voyage. His or her service to the company could end when the voyage ends. He or she may work for an entirely different company on a different ship the next week.
After an injury, the employer may attempt to use those argument to assert that you are not an employee and therefore, do not qualify for protections under the Jones Act. However, even if you are on contract for a particular job and not a permanent employee, you still may qualify as an employee under the Act.
If you, as an employee, are under contract, the court may look at a variety of factors to determine whether you qualify as an employee instead of an independent contractor, including:
If you were on contract, but were under direct supervision, your supervisor had day-to-day control over what you were doing, you were paid by direct deposit and could not hire someone else to do the work you were contracted to do, for instance, there's a good chance you are an employee for the purposes of the Act.
A similar analysis applies for contract workers under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act if you are a land-based maritime employee under contract. Contract maritime employees, under many circumstances, can even recover under maintenance and cure provisions, which allow for workers compensation-like payments and coverage of medical expenses.
One major factor that is often affected by employment contracts is the court in which the case will be brought. Many maritime employment contracts based in Washington State require cases to be brought only in the Federal U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington, with courthouses in Seattle and Tacoma.
In such a case, it is likely that your case will need to be brought in that court, regardless of where your injury occurred. Your accident may have occurred in the Gulf of Alaska, and you may live in Anchorage and work exclusively in the Alaska coast, but if your employment contract stipulates that the case must be brought in Seattle, it likely must be brought there.
However, that does not mean that you will be forced to spend extensive time in Seattle or wherever your case must be brought. Our Seattle maritime personal injury attorneys at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski can represent you on all legal matters in Washington, Oregon, California, and Alaska. It is unlikely that you will even be required to come to Seattle to testify, though each case’s circumstances are different.
Your contract does not have to stand in the way of you recovering for an on-the-job injury. The Seattle, Bellingham, and Portland based maritime contract lawyers at Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski will fight for you. Call us today at 1 (800) 262-8529 for a free consultation.
This article was last updated on Tuesday, July 10, 2018.