Many people in New Jersey work in maritime industries. Thus, if they suffer injuries at work, they may be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“the Act”). The Act only applies in certain circumstances, however, as discussed in a recent opinion in which a New Jersey employee’s denial of benefits under the Act was reversed. If you were hurt while working in New Jersey, you might be owed workers’ compensation benefits under the Act or other laws, and it is advisable to meet with a seasoned New Jersey workers’ compensation attorney to determine your rights.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that the plaintiff, who was working on a marine construction project for the defendant, suffered hearing loss due to his work conditions. He then filed a claim for benefits under the Act, which was dismissed by an administrative law judge on the basis that his injury did not occur in navigable waters. The plaintiff appealed the decision, and on appeal, the court reversed and remanded for a determination of benefits.

Eligibility for Benefits Under the Act

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the administrative law judge misinterpreted the definition of navigable waters, and therefore, the ruling was unjust. The court stated that the concept of navigability is vast. Because the Act was a federal maritime law, the court noted it must apply the definition that is used for determining admiralty jurisdiction under Article III.

The court explained that, like the administrative law judge, it would use the standard of navigable-in-fact waters. Thus, a body of water would be deemed navigable if it is one that forms a continuous path capable of sustaining foreign or interstate commerce, either by itself or in conjunction with other bodies of water. The court found, however, that the administrative law judge incorrectly ruled that only a waterway capable of sustaining commercial ships should be deemed navigable. On the contrary, the court found that a body of water capable of sustaining any commerce should be considered navigable under the applicable standard.

Additionally, the court explained that showing present commercial use was only one way to demonstrate navigability, but that it was not the only way. As to the subject body of water, the court stated there was ample evidence that it had previously been traveled by commercial ships, and therefore, it was navigable-in-fact. Thus, the court reversed the administrative law judge’s ruling and remanded the case for the determination of benefits.

Speak to an Experienced New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you were injured while working, you might be able to recover workers’ compensation benefits from your employer. If you filed a claim and your workers’ compensation claim was denied, you may be able to appeal. The New Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys of The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall have ample experience helping people in a variety of professions seek benefits for work injuries, and if we represent you, we will help you seek a just result.  You can reach us through our online form or at 800-999-0897 to set up a conference.