Commercial Diver Injuries Are Common, Coverage May Be Complex

If you or a loved one are employed as a commercial diver, you have rights to medical care and other help in case of an on-the-job injury or job-related health condition. That much is certain.

Knowing exactly what those rights are, how you go about securing them, and the best strategy to take if you need to fight for them can require more detailed information and often considerable expertise.

A unique job with unique dangers

Experts studying the issue agree that commercial diving is one of the more dangerous professions a person can choose. In addition to dangerous, it requires very rare skill, bravery, and commitment to service. As heroes go, commercial divers are particularly unsung. They deserve, at the very least, to be taken care of in case of job-related health problems.

Some common causes of injury or death relate specifically to diving, such as drowning (especially when entrapped or entangled), hypothermia, low visibility, or having to ascend in emergencies. Others happen while doing the underwater task itself, which often involves heavy equipment, explosives, radioactive or other toxic materials, as well as welding or using power tools and the like.

Where workers’ comp, LHWCA, and the Jones Act meet

Any number of sources of benefits and compensation may cover your diving-related health issue. Exactly which applies to you should depend heavily on the specifics of how often you dive, where, and why. It should, but some employers instead try to cover you using systems that do not fit your work, but which are financially attractive to the employer’s bottom line.

Among others, you may be covered by:

  • Kentucky’s (or another state’s) workers’ compensation program, which covers those who do not work on or near navigable waters, very generally speaking.
  • The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA), which generally covers longshoremen, shipbuilders or breakers or repairers, and other harbor workers.
  • The Jones Act, which covers seamen who spend about 30% or more of their work hours in the service of a vessel in navigation.

The borders between these types of coverage can be fuzzier than most people might suspect.

Because workers’ compensation benefits tend to be lower and less encompassing than LHWCA, companies will sometimes try to keep the injury within the state’s workers’ comp program. Moreover, the Jones Act is more than a type of workers’ compensation. It allows a seaman to seek damages and compensation of several types and choose whether to file their claim in state or federal court.

An expert in maritime law can help you sort out the right kind of compensation to seek, whether it is wise or possible to seek it through one or more of these systems and the potential rewards and risks of choosing one path over another.