Do I Qualify for Compensation Under the Jones Act?
Located in Houston, Texas, our lawyers often receive inquiries from individuals seeking compensation for injuries suffered while working on oil rigs, cargo ships, cruise ships and other vessels in Galveston Bay, Trinity Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico.
In many cases, the workers who contact us have some familiarity with the Jones Act and other maritime and workers’ compensation statutes, but need help understanding exactly what laws apply to their specific circumstances.
Before we get into the specifics of who qualifies for compensation under the Jones Act, it will be helpful to review the primary laws that provide compensation for offshore injuries. Depending on your job duties and where you work, one or more of the following may apply:
• Jones Act – The Jones Act provides remedies for “seamen” who are injured while working on “vessels at sea.” Learn more about seeking compensation under the Jones Act, and read below to see if you qualify.
• Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) – The LHWCA applies to longshoremen, administrators working in shipping companies, and other land-based maritime workers. You may be entitled to compensation under the Jones Act or the LHWCA, but not both.
• Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) – The OCSLA extends the LHWCA’s benefits to workers injured on oil rigs and other fixed structures at sea.
• Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) – The DOHSA provides wrongful death benefits for families of workers who have been killed working offshore but are not covered by the Jones Act.
• State workers’ compensation statutes – State workers’ compensation statutes provide benefits to injured employees who are not covered by other statutes. If you are covered by another statute, you cannot also apply for workers’ compensation.
Who Qualifies for Jones Act Compensation?
The Jones Act uses the term “seamen” to describe individuals who are entitled to compensation. The courts have come to define a seaman as someone who:
• Is assigned to work on board a “vessel in navigation,”
• Is assigned to “contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission,” and
• Generally speaking, spends at least 30 percent of his or her working hours on board the vessel (note, however, that this is not a hard and fast requirement).
The following people do not qualify: (i) crew members engaged in a joint venture as opposed to an employment relationship, and (ii) volunteer crew members. If you qualify as a seaman, you can receive compensation for any injuries resulting from your employer’s negligence – including those not specifically relating to your job duties. This includes injuries suffered on personal time while on board the vessel.
Survivor Claims Under the Jones Act
When a seaman dies in an offshore accident, the beneficiaries of his or her estate may be entitled to Jones Act compensation. A wrongful death claim must be filed by the personal representative of the seaman’s estate. If the claim is successful, the benefits received are then distributed to the beneficiaries.
Contact the Jones Act Lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard LLP to Discuss Your Claim
If you have additional questions about the Jones Act, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation. To speak with a lawyer at our offices in Houston, call (800) 489-2216 or contact us online today.