When a worker is injured in the maritime industry one of the first questions asked is whether the maritime worker should file a claim for Jones Act workers’ compensation or Jones Act claim benefits. While state workers’ compensation insurance programs and the Jones Act both provide injured workers with important benefits and compensation, the two should not be confused.
Worker’s compensation programs are state regulated programs and the benefits provided to injured workers are established by the laws of the individual state. The Jones Act is a federal statute that provides certain rights and protections to seamen who are injured in the scope and course of their employment. It is important to understand that injured maritime workers do not have the ability to choose whether they want to pursue a workers’ compensation claim or a Jones Act claim – the law will dictate whether your claim should be filed under a state workers’ compensation system, the Jones Act or other federal and state laws that provide compensation and benefits to injured maritime workers. These worker’s compensation laws can be hard to navigate and it is always best to consult with a lawyer who has extensive experience handling maritime accidents, Jones Act insurance compensation, and Jones Act claims.
Benefits Under A State Workers’ Compensation System
In the vast majority of cases individuals working in the maritime industry will not be eligible to collect state workers’ compensation benefits when they are injured on the job. Rather, injured seamen and maritime workers will typically need to file their claims under the Jones Act, or various other acts that protect maritime employees such as the Longshore Harbor & Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA). If, however, your lawyer determines that your accident or injuries are covered by a state worker’s compensation program, you will generally be eligible to collect certain benefits such as:
- Compensation for medical bills
- Replacement income (weekly compensation payments)
- Compensation for permanent injuries
- Vocational rehabilitation/job retraining
- Survivor benefits when a worker is killed
Benefits Received After a Jones Act Workers Compensation Claim
If you are a maritime workers who is classified as “seamen” pursuant to the Jones Act you will be afforded certain legal rights and protections under the Act. These rights and protections include:
- Maintenance & Cure Payments – When a Jones Act seaman is injured on a ship or vessel, the maritime employer is required to pay the seaman maintenance and cure benefits. Maintenance benefits cover your cost of living on the land while cure benefits are meant to compensate you for the reasonable medical care you need to treat and recover from your injuries.
- Unearned Wages – Jones Act seamen have the legal right to collect unearned wages from their employers when they are injured. Employers must pay these wages from the time of the accident up until the completion of the voyage.
- Right to File a Jones Act Negligence Lawsuit – When a seaman’s injuries are caused by employer negligence or the negligent actions of a co-worker, the seaman has the right to file a negligence lawsuit against his or her employer. In a Jones Act negligence lawsuit the maritime employee is generally able to seek damages similar to those in a traditional personal injury lawsuit, which may include past and future medical care, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, mental anguish, disability and disfigurement and the loss of enjoyment of life.
Does My Employer Need to Have Jones Act Insurance to Cover My Worker’s Comp Benefits?
If you are injured in a maritime accident, your own insurance company is not required to pay for your injuries. Instead, your employer should have a Jones Act insurance policy that covers workplace accident claims under the Jones Act. Typically, your employers insurance will cover your Maintenance and Cure benefits, as well as “transportation and wages” if you must remain at sea while you are injured. In order to recover compensation for negligence, however, you will need to file a lawsuit.
Do You Have Questions About Your Jones Act Workers’ Compensation Case? We Can Help
If you have been injured at work on a vessel and have questions about the Jones Act claim benefits or workers compensation and which you may be eligible to collect from your employer, the Willis Law Firm can help. We have decades of experience advising and representing injured maritime workers across the nation. We’ll help you pursue compensation from your employer’s Jones Act insurance plan or through damages in a lawsuit. When you schedule a free consultation with our firm a maritime injury attorney will carefully examine your case and explain all of the benefits you may legally entitled to.