Jones Act Workers’ Compensation Overview

Michael GrossmanJanuary 29, 2021 4 minutes

Working offshore can be dangerous. Maritime workers face storms and turbulent seas while handling hazardous materials and dangerous equipment. This combination of risks leads to the injury or death of hundreds of workers each year.

Since the maritime work environment is so dangerous, Congress enacted a law to protect offshore workers. The Jones Act gives injured maritime workers compensation potential by granting them the right to sue a negligent employer.

If you have injuries from working offshore, you may be able to recover compensation under the Jones Act. 

Here, we provide an overview of the Jones Act, including who can file a claim and the requirements for recovering compensation.

To learn more about compensation available under the Jones Act, contact Grossman Law Offices attorneys for a free consultation. We can determine if you have an appropriate claim under the Jones Act, workers’ compensation, or some other land or maritime employment law action.

What Is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is a federal law that allows offshore workers to sue their employers for job-related injuries.

The Act also protects economic interests by requiring ships carrying goods between US ports to operate and have ownership through US citizens or permanent residents. However, here we will focus on Jones Act protections for injured workers. 

Who Can Sue Under the Jones Act?

Protection under the Jones Act requires you to be classified as a “seaman.” Meeting this classification requires you to:

  • Spend 30% or more of your work hours in the service of a vessel on navigable waters, and
  • Substantially contribute to the mission of the vessel.

In other words, you need to work offshore in a role related to the vessel’s mission. Under the Jones Act, a vessel includes more than watercraft like ships and boats.

A vessel also includes mobile offshore rigs like jack-up and semi-submersible drilling rigs as well as dredges. Jones Act vessels must have registration in the US under the American flag.

If you are a part-time worker or you work on a vessel not registered in the US, you may not be able to sue under the Jones Act. If you have any questions about whether you are covered by the Jones Act, our attorneys can research your role on the vessel to determine your status.

The Jones Act vs. Workers’ Compensation

You may be wondering how the Jones Act differs from workers’ compensation. In fact, these two legal paths toward recovering compensation for workplace injuries are completely different. 

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is available to injured land-based employees. Most states require employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance (though Texas does not).

If you suffer an injury at a land-based job, you file a workers’ compensation claim. This claim is not fault-based, meaning that even if your employer was not responsible for your workplace accident, you can still receive compensation.

Workers’ compensation provides injured employees these benefits:

  • Medical treatment for workplace injuries;
  • A reduced wage while the worker is disabled; and
  • Vocational rehabilitation if the worker can’t return to the same job.

However, workers’ compensation payments usually have time limits and provide only minimal income (usually two-thirds of your average wage). When you receive workers’ compensation, you cannot sue your employer for your injuries.

Jones Act Claims

Maritime employees do not have entitlement to workers’ compensation. Instead, offshore workers have protection through a variety of maritime laws.

For instance, maritime common law provides maintenance and cure, or medical care and reduced wages, to employees while they recover from an injury. Like workers’ compensation, maintenance and cure is a no-fault limited remedy that may not meet an injured employee’s financial needs.

However, maritime workers can sue their employer for negligence under the Jones Act. This ability to sue gives offshore workers a significant legal advantage over land-based employees.

Unlike the no-fault compensation available under workers’ compensation or maintenance and cure, a Jones Act lawsuit requires you to prove that your employer caused your injuries.

Proving Jones Act Claims

A Jones Act lawsuit requires you to prove your employer caused your injuries, including these negligence elements:

  • Your employer had the responsibility to provide a safe work environment;
  • Your employer allowed a workplace condition that put you at risk of harm;
  • This unsafe workplace condition contributed to your injury; and 
  • You suffered harm that can be compensated.

The Jones Act provides a generous path toward compensation of injured employees. In many states, an injured person cannot recover for land-based accident injuries if they were mostly responsible for the accident.

However, there is no such limit under the Jones Act. Even if you were 95% responsible for the offshore accident that caused your injuries, you can still potentially recover compensation for your employer’s 5% of fault.

Why You Need an Offshore Injury Attorney

Maritime law is complex and differs significantly from land-based employment law. Though Jones Act claims can provide injured employees access to substantial compensation, obtaining fair compensation requires the assistance of an experienced offshore injury attorney.

An attorney can help you with these tasks:

  • Investigate your claim and gather evidence,
  • Evaluate your legal options,
  • File the appropriate legal claim,
  • Negotiate for your maximum compensation, and
  • Take your case to trial if necessary.

It is crucial that you hire an attorney who understands the complexities of maritime law. A personal injury attorney who deals exclusively with land-based accidents may not understand the different laws that apply to accidents at sea. Interview any potential attorney to gauge their understanding of maritime law and ability to advocate for you.

Contact an Offshore Attorney for a Free Consultation

If you think you may have a Jones Act claim, contact the attorneys at Grossman Law Offices for a free consultation.

Our attorneys are continuing to help injured employees after decades of work and experience by filing claims under the Jones Act, workers’ compensation, and other laws—you can see what our clients say about working with us here

We understand complex maritime laws like the Jones Act, and we use our knowledge and skills to fight for the money you need. We’ve won thousands of cases, with many of them awarding victims millions of dollars.

We can’t guarantee a settlement amount for your case, but we can promise to fight for your full and fair compensation. If you would like to meet our legal team and get a professional evaluation of your case, contact our offshore attorneys today.