Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) concerns railroad workers who work on interstate railroads or intrastate rails which connect ti interstate systems. The interstate nature of the rail system required a non-state application of workers’ compensation laws.
FELA allows workers to sue their employers for negligence without allowing the employer the traditional common law defenses like assumed risk or contributory negligence. A comparative negligence standard is used.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, better known as the Jones Act, essentially extends FELA benefits and standards to maritime employees. The same recoveries and rights are available to employees and their survivors.
Death on the High Seas Act adds remedy for the survivor family members when an employee dies more than three miles off shore from any state. Seaworthiness of the vessel, negligence, wrongful acts or other torts generally cause this act to be enforced. Remedies are similar to the Jones Act and FELA.
Remedies for injured employees include Maintenance and Cure. Essentially, since the vessel at sea provides food and shelter for the employee, an injured employee is entitled to food, lodging and medical care until the maximum medical cure has been achieved. This standard of care is no fault in nature. The employee does not need to sue to perfect this remedy.
Most companies will not be effected by these special situations; however, consider the globalization trend and worldwide commerce of very small firms. Be aware of maritime compensation or railroad shipping if you plan on using these conveyances, or invest in them. Other industries that cross state or national lines may be subject to specialty remedies in the future.