Can Injured Seaman Collect Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
If you are a seaman who has been injured on a ship, barge, boat, drilling rig or other vessel or offshore structure, you may be wondering if you can collect workers’ compensation benefits from your employer. The short answer to this question is no – injured seaman are generally not eligible to file a workers compensation claim under state law. Instead, injured seaman have the right to collect benefits in the form of Maintenance and Cure under the Jones Act, which is a federal statute designed to protect seamen who are injured in the scope and course of their employment.
What is the Difference?
While both the Jones Act and state workers’ compensation programs provide important benefits to workers who have been injured on the job, there are many differences between the two.
Workers Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation is a state-regulated insurance program purchased by employers to cover work related injuries and illnesses. The specific benefits provided under the workers’ compensation program are governed by the laws of the individual state. In most jurisdictions, the workers’ compensation program will provide replacement income, compensation for medical care, compensation for permanent injuries, retraining costs, and benefits to survivors if a worker is killed on the job. Injured employees are generally entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits no matter who was at fault for the accident or injury. It is important to understand, however, that because these benefits are part of an insurance program, employees who collect workers’ compensation benefits are not permitted to sue their employers for their injuries.
Jones Act Benefits
Under the Jones Act, seamen who are injured while in the service of a ship or vessel are entitled to receive maintenance and cure benefits from their employer. Similar to state workers’ compensation benefits, a seaman is entitled to automatically collect these benefits from his or her employer, regardless of who may be at fault for the injury or illness. “Maintenance” payments are designed to cover the seaman’s basic living expenses and “cure” payments are meant to compensate the injured seaman for the costs of reasonable medical care necessary to treat the illness or injury. Employers are required to pay these benefits up until the time that the seaman is able to return to work or a physician determines that the seaman’s injury or illness will no longer improve despite additional medical care. Unlike workers’ compensation benefits, maintenance and cure payments are not the sole remedy available to injured seamen. Seamen who have been injured on the job are also permitted to file a negligence lawsuit against their employers to recover other monetary damages for their injuries and losses.
It is Important to Speak with a Jones Act Workers Compensation Lawyer
Jones Act and workers’ compensation cases are best handled by an experienced maritime injury lawyer. The laws are confusing and these cases are not always clear cut. Depending upon the circumstances of your work and your accident, you may be covered under other laws and statutes, such as the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). Willis Law firm is dedicated to helping injured seamen and maritime workers collect the compensation they deserve. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.