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Ohio workers on Lake Erie may have hurdles to compensation

Parts of Northern Ohio abut Lake Erie, which opens the state up to unique industrial and commercial opportunities. If your job involves the lake, especially if you are employed in the most dangerous profession, which is the fishing industry, you may have fewer job protections than you might expect.

Depending on where in the lake you work and how much of your time is spent out on open water, you could get hurt on the job without the protection of workers’ compensation for you or your family. Why are your rights and protections different if your job involves one of the Great Lakes?

Maritime law sometimes applies to situations on the Great Lakes

While all the states that border the Great Lakes like to claim them, they are actually international bodies of water with significant legal protections in place. Given that the Great Lakes benefit not only the United States but also Canada, major changes in policy often require government approval. Ohio claims both the water and underwater soil on the lower half of the international border in Lake Erie.

When a company operates in international waters, its actions may no longer fall under the governance of state law but rather federal or even international law. That means that workers who get hurt on the Canadian side of Lake Erie or families that lose a loved one in a tragic fishing accident on the Great Lakes may not be able to seek compensation through the state of Ohio but will instead have to seek compensation under the Jones Act.

If you’re in Ohio when you get hurt, Ohio law applies

The legal nature and massive scale of the Great Lakes complicate situations that would be more straightforward if they took place on a smaller body of water.

The good news is that even if your job responsibilities do take you out onto Lake Erie, if you get hurt on shore or over the United States portion of the lake, there is no question about whether state law applies or not in that scenario.

If you worry about your rights after an injury as someone who works on Lake Erie, talking about your concerns with an attorney familiar with Ohio workers’ compensation can give you a better idea of what options you have.

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