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The complex statute of limitations in Jones Act claims

| Jun 11, 2020 | Maritime Law |

Workers compensation for maritime workers in California is much different from those who suffer work injuries on the mainland. Workers compensation laws in the 50 states are based on a different payment schedule that precludes the opportunity to file for long-term general damages for pain-and-suffering. While maritime workers do have the legal standing to file for general long-term impact damages, the amount of time they have to file a claim is different from mainland employees. The difference is established in the Jones Act, which is 1920s legislation that controls work injury claims for those working on the high seas. There are specific stipulations regarding who is covered by the Jones Act, with the statute of limitations being one of those modifications.

Most Jones Act injury claims occur immediately following an incident at work on the water where documentation is readily available. However, certain occupational injuries such as exposure to harmful chemicals or a back injury that manifests over time can result in a delayed claim filing. One year is the typical time frame as established by maritime law with the Department of Labor. Maritime claims are federal in nature and do not fall under any state laws in most cases.

There are two different limitations for maritime injury claims. Beyond the standard one year filing period, there can be instances where the statute is extended to two years when specific material case facts can be applied. These include mental incapacity of the injured worker or a delay in the amount of time it takes for the injury to fully develop. Medical testimony and diagnostic reports can be used as documentation establishing any alteration of the statute of limitations, including “tolling” the time frame based on specific medical issues and injury realization.

The technicalities associated with maritime work injury claims are such that it takes comprehensive representation from a dedicated maritime law attorney who focuses their practice specifically on these unique workplace injury claims. Expertise is not only required in establishing the claim but also in determining an equitable amount of general damage compensation for long-term injuries.