Written by Faith Anderson on July 30, 2013
Under the Jones Act, workers injured while working aboard a vessel at sea may be entitled to a substantially higher amount of compensation than those who file a workers’ compensation claim. Contact an experienced Jones Act attorney today to discuss your legal options.
The Jones Act is part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which addresses the rights of seamen injured on the job while at sea. Before the Jones Act was established, being injured, falling ill or dying at sea were considered occupational hazards for maritime workers. Today, the risks maritime workers expose themselves to every day are seen in a different light, and workers injured on the job while at sea may be entitled to significant compensation through the Jones Act. Although the Jones Act provides compensation for injured seamen, it is very different from the Workers’ Compensation Act and other maritime laws like the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. One of the most important things to note about the Jones Act is that if an injured maritime worker files a workers’ compensation claim after suffering injuries, he may lose his right to ever file a Jones Act claim. If you were injured while working on a vessel at sea, contact a Jones Act attorney to determine whether you are eligible for compensation under the Jones Act.
The Jones Act vs. Workers’ Compensation
The major difference between the Jones Act and workers’ compensation benefits is that the Jones Act requires an injured seaman to prove employer negligence in order to qualify for benefits, while workers’ compensation payouts are available to injured workers as a matter of right, regardless of whether the employer was negligent or not. Workers’ compensation benefits are typically paid through the employer’s workers’ compensation policy, and are designed to provide temporary financial assistance to workers until they are able to return to work. According to the Jones Act, the employer negligence that resulted in injury doesn’t have to be significant; even minor negligence on the part of an employer which results in injuries to a maritime worker can qualify a worker for compensation via the Jones Act.
Jones Act Claims and Benefits
The Jones Act offers injured workers access to significant payouts that are considerably larger than those offered by workers’ compensation claims. Jones Act claims, however, are only available to workers who suffer injuries while in service to a vessel on navigable waters. According to the Jones Act, the term “vessels” includes ships, barges, boats, cruise ships, tugs, mobile offshore drilling rigs, and many other types of watercraft. In some cases, injured maritime workers may even be able to collect compensation for injuries that occur while in transport to the vessel or while the vessel is docked. Jones Act claims should adequately cover an injured seaman’s medical expenses, loss wages, pain and suffering, and even provide compensation for diminished quality of life.
Injured seamen may also be able to file a Jones Act claim against the vessel’s owner on the basis that the vessel was not seaworthy. It is the duty of the ship owner to keep the ship, as well as all appliances and supplies, in working order and seaworthy. If a vessel is deemed unseaworthy, liability for injuries may shift to the ship owner, protecting seamen from dangerous conditions that are beyond their control. In order to collect compensation for injuries caused by the unseaworthiness of a vessel, the seaman must show that a defect in the vessel or equipment existed and that the defect was the cause of the individual’s injuries.
Jones Act – Maintenance and Cure
Under the Jones Act, an employer may also be held liable for failing to provide an injured maritime worker with adequate medical care. Maintenance and Cure are provisions under the Jones Act that entitled an injured seamen to cure, or appropriate medical care, and maintenance, or payments made by the employer to the injured worker in the approximate amount of what it would cost for the worker to live on land in the same manner that he lived offshore on the vessel.
Contact a Jones Act Attorney for Help
Employers may try to take advantage of their injured worker’s misinformation, convincing them to file a workers’ compensation claim instead of a Jones Act claim after sustaining serious injuries. The Jones Act is specifically designed to offer protection for injured maritime workers though, and offers far more compensation in most cases. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries while working on a vessel at sea, you may have grounds to file a Jones Act claim to seek considerable financial compensation. You are not at fault for any injuries caused by another person or party’s negligence, and you should not be held accountable for the resulting consequences. With the help of an experienced Jones Act lawyer, you can protect your legal rights and collect the reimbursement you are entitled to under the Jones Act.