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Injured workers’ claims arising out of the Transocean’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup will be governed by three sets of laws: the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, and state workers’ compensation laws. Here is a detailed analysis of when each set of laws might apply to an injured workers involved in the oil spill clean up.

The Jones Act will be used to compensate seamen who are injured during the cleanup. In order to be classified as a seaman a worker’s duties “must contribute to the function of the vessel or the accomplishment of its mission,” and the employee must have a “connection to a vessel in navigation (or to an identifiable group of such vessels) that is substantial in terms of both duration and nature.” The workers who are hired for the seaside portion of the oil spill cleanup should meet these requirements because the mission of the vessel will be to aid in the cleanup efforts and the employees will presumably be working for a single boat or a single company with a fleet of boats.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act presents a more complicated question. In order for a worker to be covered by the Longshore statutes he must satisfy both a geographic and a job requirement. The geographic requirement is satisfied if the worker is injured “upon the navigable waters of the United States (including any adjoining pier, wharf, dry dock, terminal, building way, marine railway, or other adjoining area customarily used by an employer in loading, unloading, repairing, dismantling, or building a vessel.” The job requirement is satisfied if an employee is “engaged in maritime employment, including any longshoreman or other person engaged in longshoring operations, and any harbor worker including a ship repairman, shipbuilder, and shipbreaker.” It is not a requirement that the injured worker be performing longshoring or shipbuilding activities at the time of the injury, but it is a requirement that those activities make up some portion of his job.

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