What Disability Benefits Do Offshore Workers Have?

Maritime workers who suffer from a disability after an on-the-job injury or illness are fully protected under the law. It can be confusing to figure out how much compensation you can receive, how long you can receive it, and what your first steps should be. In some cases, disability benefits may be paid by or administered by your employer, and in other cases, a disabled offshore worker may need to file his or her own claim to obtain the appropriate benefits. Regardless, it is important that you work with a seasoned offshore injury attorney who can look out for your best interests and who has experience with maritime disability claims.

Social Security Disability for Offshore Workers

Social Security pays benefits to individuals who have suffered a medical condition that is expected to either keep them from work for at least a year or result in death. To recover these benefits, you must pass a “recent work” test based upon your age and a “duration of work” test to show you’ve worked long enough under Social Security to qualify.

Offshore Worker Disability Benefits Under ERISA

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is a federal law governing employee benefits in the private sector; it provides uniformity and several safeguards to policyholders of employer-sponsored health insurance. In many cases, the insurance plans offered by private employers offer short-term and long-term disability benefits, which provide coverage for up to 60 percent of pre-disability income. Short-term disability (STD) coverage typically lasts for 6 months while long-term disability (LTD) coverage generally commences after STD expires, and can continue either for a set contractual duration or as long as the disabling condition remains.

Disability Under a Private Insurance Policy

In some cases, an individual may choose to purchase a private insurance policy with disability benefits as a precautionary step. While the specifics of the benefits you can recover will depend upon your policy’s terms, standard plans will help cover anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of your taxable income. Short-term coverage typically covers you for 60 to 90 days while long-term disability insurance can extend from five years to a lifetime.

Longshore & Harbor Worker Disability Benefits

Sometimes the repetitive nature of a job can lead to back injuries, arthritis, spinal injuries, etc. If this is your case, your best option could be to file under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA). For workers who can’t file a claim under the Jones Act, the LHWCA offers important protections.

Under the LHWCA, qualified employees can recover disability compensation for temporary, permanent, total, or partial disabilities. Available compensation varies by the classification of disability. For example, an individual with a temporary total disability (TTD) qualifies for benefits totaling 66% of their Average Weekly Wage (AWW).

The LHWCA’s disability benefits cover:

  • Medical costs
  • Permanent total disability
  • Temporary total disability
  • Permanent partial disability
  • Temporary partial disability
  • Non-scheduled permanent partial disability
  • Rehabilitation
  • Death

The act covers maritime employees who work offshore or in harbors. However, if they are covered under a state’s workers’ comp law, they will not be able to claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Comp Act. Disabled employees who make a claim under the LHWCA will be given about 66% of their average weekly wage while they are unable to work. If the injury ends up being fatal, the surviving spouse will be given 50% of their income. If they had dependent children, this would increase to 66%. If payments are delayed by over 14 days, an additional 10% will be added to the amount due.

Maintenance & Cure Benefits Available Under General Maritime Law

Under maritime law, injured seamen can recover maintenance benefits between $15 and $30 per day to cover the cost of food and shelter while not aboard the vessel. Cure benefits are also paid and cover all reasonable medical expenses related to the injury. Cure is paid up until a seaman reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI), which is the point at which a medical provider determines that their condition can no longer improve. Because of these two compensations, this benefit is known as maintenance and cure.

Notably, maintenance and cure doesn’t require a worker to prove fault or negligence on the employer’s part. It only requires that a worker was performing their duties and that they were injured while doing so. If negligence causes injuries, a worker should consider filing a Jones Act claim.

What If Disability Benefits Aren’t Enough for My Offshore Injuries?

If you’re an offshore worker and your injuries were caused because of the negligence of your employer, another company, or any other party, you might be able to recover losses using the Jones Act. Importantly, the Jones Act is not a benefit but is rather a law that’s meant to protect offshore workers from negligence.

Unlike maintenance and cure or other types of injury benefits, a Jones Act claim can help someone obtain compensation for the full extent of their injuries. This includes money for medical bills, lost wages, future care needs, pain, suffering, and the loss of the ability to work. For workers with serious offshore injuries, the Jones Act might be their best chance to obtain the help they need to rebuild their lives.

Not Sure What to Do? Call Our Offshore Injury Firm Today.

Because there are so many types of benefits available, it is important to work with a knowledgeable attorney to review applications, payments, and more. Disability payments can affect the overall financial outcome of your case, and you need an experienced lawyer to help navigate their application to your workplace injury.

Want to know more about maritime disability benefits? Contact Arnold & Itkin today at (888) 346-5024.

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