What Can (and Can’t) Your Employer Do When You File a Jones Act Claim?

Jones Act Oct 31, 2023

When you file a claim under the Jones Act, it is important to know what you should expect (and what you shouldn’t expect) from your employer. Unfortunately, while employers have clear obligations under the law, they don’t always meet these obligations in good faith. As a result, you need to be very careful to protect your legal rights, and this starts with putting an experienced Houston Jones Act lawyer on your side.

So, what can (and can’t) you expect from your employer when you file a Jones Act claim? Here is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Investigating Your Injury and Dealing with Evidence of Liability

Your Employer Can Conduct an Investigation to Determine the Cause of Your Injury

When you file a Jones Act claim, your employer does not have to take you at your word. It has the right to conduct an investigation to determine the cause of your injury—and it has the right to deny coverage if valid grounds exist.

Your Employer Can’t Cover Up Evidence of Liability

But, while your employer can investigate, it can’t cover up evidence of liability. If it does, your lawyer will be able to use various legal mechanisms to obtain the evidence you need during the claims process. If you believe your employer is trying to cover up evidence of why the accident happened, you should discuss this with a Houston Jones Act lawyer as soon as possible.

2. Denying Maintenance and Cure Benefits

Your Employer Can Deny Maintenance and Cure if You Were Intoxicated or Intentionally Injured Yourself

Injured “seamen” are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits in most cases. However, there are certain circumstances in which on-the-job injuries aren’t covered under the Jones Act. For example, if you were intoxicated when you injured yourself, or you injured yourself intentionally in order to claim benefits, these are both valid grounds for denial of maintenance and cure.

Your Employer Can’t Deny Coverage Because It Wasn’t at Fault

But, one reason your employer can’t deny coverage is because it wasn’t at fault in the accident. Under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure benefits are available to injured seamen on a “no-fault” basis. This means that your employer must pay regardless of the role it played (if any) in causing your maritime injury.

3. Terminating Coverage for Your Medical Expenses

Your Employer Can Stop Paying When You Get Better or Reach Maximum Medical Improvement

When you have a Jones Act claim, it is critical to make sure you receive the full medical benefits (or “cure” benefits) to which you are legally entitled. If you don’t, you could end up being forced to choose between paying your own medical bills or going without the treatment you need. Fortunately, under the Jones Act, employers are required to provide coverage until injured seamen fully recover or reach their maximum medical improvement.

Your Employer Can’t Tell You Where to Go for Treatment or Terminate Coverage Prematurely

While your employer is required to cover your medical expenses as an injured seaman, it cannot tell you where to go for treatment. You have the right to choose your own doctor under the Jones Act, and you should make sure you choose a qualified physician who will treat you with your best interests in mind. Additionally, no matter where you go for treatment, your employer cannot terminate your coverage prematurely—although this happens much more often than it should.

4. Fighting Your Claim for Jones Act Negligence

Your Employer Can Assert Good-Faith Defenses to Liability for Jones Act Negligence

In addition to claims for maintenance and cure benefits, many injured seamen will also have claims for Jones Act negligence. If you have a Jones Act negligence claim, you can seek financial compensation above and beyond the benefits available through maintenance and cure.

Since Jones Act negligence claims are based on fault, your employer can assert defenses to liability in good faith. But, even if your employer disputes your claim, an experienced Houston Jones Act lawyer will still be able to seek full financial compensation on your behalf.

Your Employer Can’t Mislead You About Your Legal Rights

While your employer can assert defenses in good faith, it cannot mislead you about your legal rights. For example, it cannot tell you that filing for maintenance and cure is your only option, and it cannot tell you that you aren’t allowed to hire a lawyer. If you feel like you are being misled, you should discuss this with a Houston Jones Act lawyer as soon as possible as well.

5. Terminating Your Employment

Your Employer Can Terminate Your Employment for Reasons Unrelated to Your Jones Act Claim

Your employer has the right to terminate your employment for reasons unrelated to your Jones Act claim. If your employer is downsizing or would have terminated your employment for other reasons, regardless of your injury, filing a Jones Act claim will not protect your job. This is true even if you are on leave and receiving maintenance and cure benefits at the time of your firing.

Your Employer Cannot Retaliate Against You

But, your employer cannot retaliate against you for asserting your legal rights. If your employer fires you because you filed a Jones Act claim, this is against the law, and a Houston Jones Act lawyer may be able to secure additional compensation on your behalf. While most employers know not to retaliate, some don’t, and some will try to come up with alternate excuses for illegal retaliatory firings.

Request a Free Consultation with a Houston Jones Act Lawyer

If you have questions or concerns about filing a Jones Act claim in Texas, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation about your legal rights. We can explain everything you need to know and help you make smart decisions about your next steps. To speak with an experienced Houston Jones Act lawyer in confidence as soon as possible, please call 800-468-4878 or tell us about your claim online today.

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