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What protects offshore workers instead of workers’ compensation?

On Behalf of | Jan 14, 2021 | admiralty & maritime law

When a worker gets hurt on the job, they typically have the right to compensation. Most employees across the United States can simply file for workers’ compensation benefits through their employer after a work accident or a diagnosis with a work-acquired illness.

However, workers’ compensation benefits apply based on jurisdiction, meaning you have to physically work in a state to qualify for benefits there. Offshore workers technically work outside of state boundaries and even national ones.

You will most likely not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if you get hurt on an oil rig or ship. Instead, you will need to explore other protections if you need compensation for medical costs and lost wages. What protections are there for offshore workers hurt on the job?

Offshore workers have protection under the Jones Act

The Jones Act is actually Section 27 of the Maritime Marine Act of 1920. In other words, it is one specific section of a very long, in-depth law about maritime commerce and offshore operations. The Jones Act creates legal protection for workers hurt while out at sea.

Unlike workers’ compensation benefits, where fault generally doesn’t matter at all, Jones Act compensation claims require that a worker show that negligence or other wrongful behavior on the part of their employer led to their injury.

Negligence might include inadequate maintenance, intentional understaffing, lack of security equipment or inadequate training. Wrongful acts would include any kind of legal infraction. Workers with claims under the Jones Act will generally have to take civil action against their employer to get the compensation that they need, although settling out of court is still an option.

Jones Act claims are far more complex than workers’ compensation claims

Workers’ compensation is a program designed to be accessible, and yet many applicants make mistakes and oversights on their paperwork that delay their benefits or keep them from getting them at all.

The Jones Act is not set up to be accessible to laypeople, which means that those pursuing compensation under the Jones Act will likely benefit from professional, experienced help. Attempting to navigate a Jones Act claim on your own might mean making mistakes that limit your future rights or even prevent you from recovering anything at all.