Workers’ Compensation vs. The Jones Act

A common question raised by injured maritime workers concerns whether or not they are entitled to benefits under a workers’ compensation claim or a Jones Act claim. The Jones Act and workers’ compensation provide injured individuals with compensation, but there are a number of differences between the two. These differences are just one of the reasons it is very important for injured individuals to work with a knowledgeable Jones Act lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. who can determine what claim best suits their needs.

Workers’ Compensation Claims

Generally, workers’ compensation provides financial benefits to individuals who have been injured while on the job, which can eliminate the need for the parties to go to court. Such awards can cover injuries that stem from carelessness, subject to certain limits. Most employees are covered by workers’ compensation; however, there are certain types of workers who are excluded from coverage: volunteers, independent contractors, business owners, railroad employees and maritime workers.

Employees who are awarded workers’ compensation typically receive a specific amount of non-taxable income on either a weekly or biweekly basis. Recipients also get medical care for their injuries and/or sickness. There can also be an award of money for permanent injuries. What is important to note here is that, when it comes to workers’ compensation claims, fault or negligence is typically not at issue.

The workers compensation coverage might be under state law or under federal law if the worker is considered a longshoreman or harbor worker.

Jones Act Actions

The Jones Act permits seamen to sue ship owners on the basis of negligence and/or unseaworthiness, and a Jones Act lawyer can help an injured victim determine the appropriate cause of action to bring against an owner. In order for an individual to be covered by the Jones Act, he or she must first be deemed to be a “seaman” as defined by the Act.

Once it has been determined that the injured individual is a covered seaman, he or she may be entitled to certain benefits:

  • Maintenance – weekly benefit checks
  • Cure – necessary medical care
  • Personal Injury Damages – including, past and future medical costs, lost wages and fringe benefits, rehab and therapy costs and pain and suffering

The Difference Between the Various Possible Claims

Workers’ compensation protects both employers and employees so that employers can enjoy limited liability and immunity from lawsuits with respect to fault, and employees can receive monetary compensation for a certain period of time if they are hurt while performing their job duties.

Alternatively, the Jones Act is a federal law that protects a certain group of employees, namely seamen. There is no federal or state agency administration of claims related to the Jones Act.

As noted above, the provisions of the Jones Act permit seamen to bring fault-based lawsuits against their employers; but it should be noted that injured workers will need to be able to demonstrate that the employer/vessel owner was at fault or negligent in causing their injuries. A Jones Act lawyer at our firm can explain what to expect when filing a Jones Act claim when you call to schedule your free consultation. A Jones Act seaman can also bring a claim that the vessel on which the employment took place was unseaworthy. Unseaworthiness renders a vessel owner strictly liable for any harm that results from the vessel not being reasonably fit for its intended purposes.

Let a Skilled Attorney Help You With Your Case

Jones Act cases are typically not easy cases, primarily because the employee bringing the case will have to provide a sufficient amount of proof to establish the existence of the negligence that resulted in his or her illness or injury. That said, if you would like to know whether or not your case falls under a workers’ compensation claim (state or federal) or a Jones Act claim, contact a Jones Act lawyer at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A. right away to learn about your options under the law. This is an extremely confusing area of the law which is also known as the twilight zone where a worker can possibly fall under more than one law. As such it is very important that an analysis be done to determine which law to pursue to maximize possible benefits to the injured worker.