What's the Difference Between Workers' Compensation & Jones Act Claims?

Unlike any other workplace, maritime workers are not protected by workers’ compensation if they’re injured on the job. Workers on offshore vessels have protections under a century-old law known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act. The Jones Act protects anyone defined as a “seaman” who was injured while at work on a vessel “in navigation.”

“Seamen” includes anyone who works on an active vessel in navigable waters and contributes to the operation and maintenance of a particular ship (or fleet under a single owner). Typically, at least 30% of an individual’s time must be spent working on the ship in order for them to be considered a seaman.

Like workers’ compensation programs, the Jones Act provides offshore workers with relief after an injury. However, the similarities end there.

Jones Act Claims Require Proof of Negligence

An employee who wants to file a Jones Act claim must prove that the negligence of their employer or the vessel’s owner/operator caused their injuries. Negligence and unseaworthiness are both necessary components of such a claim and refer to an employer’s inability to maintain the safety of the ship at all times.

Examples of negligence or unseaworthiness include:

  • The ship lacks proper equipment
  • The ship is undermanned
  • The vessel is fraught with hazards
  • The ship is managed with unsafe work methods
  • The employer didn’t provide necessary training

Needing to prove negligence is the key difference between Jones Act claims and workers’ compensation claims. Like workers’ compensation, the Jones Act entitles workers to relief for their medical bills and lost pay. However, unlike workers’ compensation claims, the Jones Act requires an employee to take an employer to court. Notably, the Jones Act only requires an employer to be partially responsible for workers to get compensation.

Pros & Cons of Jones Act Claims & Workers’ Comp

There are costs and benefits to both programs. Workers’ compensation claims, for instance, require less work because there’s no need to prove (or defend against) fault. However, workers’ compensation claims tend to have limits on how much relief they provide. Successful Jones Act claims typically provide workers with more compensation than a typical workers’ compensation claim would have earned them, but filing a Jones Act claim is a far more complex court procedure.

Does the Jones Act Provide More Relief than Workers’ Comp?

Because Jones Act claims require proving negligence, the compensation for a successful claim covers broader losses than workers’ compensation. While a workers’ compensation claim provides compensation for medical bills, disability benefits, and partial wage replacement, Jones Act claims can recover all losses of income, future earning ability, future medical care, and other long-term damages caused by the employer’s negligence.

What Is the Difference Between Workers’ Comp & the LHWCA?

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Comp Act (LHWCA) applies to maritime workers in harbors and docks since they are not covered under the Jones Act. Whether through an accident or due to an illness, workers in harbors or docks have the right to coverage for their medical costs and lost wages.

Unlike the Jones Act (and like workers’ compensation), the LHWCA does not require proof of negligence. As a result, claimants typically receive benefits under the LHWCA sooner than Jones Act claimants, but those benefits are smaller than a typical Jones Act claim.

Like workers’ comp, the LHWCA provides these workers with compensation for medical care and with partial wage benefits while they’re out of work. Wage benefits start at 50% of the average weekly take-home pay, with an additional 16.66% for claimants with dependents. Longshoremen and harbor workers who are already entitled to workers’ comp are not covered under the LHWCA, so you’ll receive benefits from either one or the other—not both.

Speak with Maritime Injury Claims Lawyers Today

If you believe you have grounds to file a claim under workers’ compensation, the Jones Act, or the LHWCA, call on our skilled maritime lawyers. With over $20 billion in verdicts and settlements under our belts, Arnold & Itkin is one of the nation’s leaders in maritime law. We’ll fight for you just as we’ve fought for other offshore workers whose lives we changed.

Call (888) 346-5024 today for a free consultation on your case. Let’s discuss your legal options as soon as possible.

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