Railroad Worker Not Covered

Cape May longshore & harbor workers' compensation lawyers will fight when a worker is ruled not covered.When a worker is injured on the job, it may seem obvious that they will be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, this is not always the case. Other laws apply depending on the nature of the worker, the type of work being performed, and the employer. Additionally, in some cases, if a worker is injured due to their employer’s negligence, he or she may be entitled to compensation beyond that provided by workers’ compensation or other no-fault laws.

Cases where workers in maritime or longshore work are injured are not covered by state workers’ compensation laws. Instead they are covered by a combination of similar laws that apply to maritime activities. These include the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), and General Maritime Law. The scope of these laws has been interpreted by the courts for many years.

Determining the Scope of Maritime Work

A recent case helped clarify the scope of maritime work. An employee of the Norfolk Southern Railroad Company was working on a bridge over the Elizabeth River replacing railroad ties. He was seriously injured when the walkway he was standing on collapsed. He filed suit against his employer seeking compensation under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). He claimed that the railroad was negligent in maintaining the walkway and that negligence caused his injury.

The company argued that FELA was not the applicable law and that the remedy for the worker’s claims was only available under the LHWCA. The basis of this argument was a Supreme Court case, Pa. R.R. Co. v. O’Rourke, 344 US 334 (1953), that decided injured railroad workers in maritime employment were exclusively covered by LHWCA. The company said that the injury was “upon navigable waters” and so met the situs requirement. It also claimed that the status requirement of the LHWCA was met by arguing that the worker had been engaged in “maritime employment.” The company won and the case was dismissed.

The worker appealed the case. The appeals court revaluated the nature of the work. It noted that courts have made a clear distinction between working on a structure such as a pier would not be considered to meet the situs requirement of working “upon navigable waters” as required under the LHWCA. The court found that the bridge was not accessible by water or contiguous with water and so was a “far cry” from a shoreside facility integral to or essential for loading or unloading a vessel. The court held that the situs requirement of the LHWCA had not been met and it reversed the decision of the lower court.

In order for an injured worker to recover for his injuries efficiently, it is important that the case is built on the correct laws and within the scope of the interpretation of those laws made by the courts. If you have been injured as a worker in or around water, you may covered by one or more maritime laws.

Cape May Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. Represent All Types of Injured Workers

The Cape May maritime injury lawyers at Freedman & Lorry, P.C. keep up with developments in maritime law to be able to provide our clients with the best possible resolution to their cases. If you have been injured in a workplace accident, call 888-999-1962 or submit an online contact form to arrange a free initial consultation. Our offices in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey serve clients throughout South Jersey, including the areas of Cape May, Gloucester, and Wildwood. We also have offices in Pinehurst, North Carolina to assist clients in the surrounding area.