Who qualifies for coverage under The Jones Act, Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act (LHWCA) and Workers Compensation?

It can be confusing to understand the differences between the Jones Act, Harbor Workers’ Act (LHWCA) and Workers Compensation coverage and who your employee should file their claim through. We hope this article can help you distinguish the differences between these 3 forms of coverage and help you know the type of employees that fall under each.

Workers’ Compensation vs. The Jones Act

In traditional, land-based occupations, when an employee is injured in the course of their employment, they are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. However, there are those that don’t work in land-based occupations, but instead work on a vessel, these employees are called Seaman. A Seaman is legally defined as someone who works 30% of the time on a vessel on navigable waters; and they are not covered by traditional workers compensation but instead covered by the Jones Act.

In both The Jones Act and Workers’ Compensation claims, the employer is responsible for ALL medical bills until the injured worker’s medical treatment is completed, regardless of fault. So even if the injured seaman is 100% at fault, the employer is still responsible for all medical bills. Aside from this, the two compensation acts differ greatly. The major differences between Workers Compensation and the Jones Act are:

Workers’ Compensation is determined by the State where you work, whereas the Jones Act is Federal Law.

Workers’ Compensation disputes are decided by Workers’ Compensation judges who are appointed by the Governor of the State. Jones Act claims are adjudicated by lawsuits that can be filed in either State or Federal Courts. Maritime law will apply, and damages will be determined by a jury trial.

Workers’ Compensation claimants are entitled to weekly indemnity payments up to 2/3rds of their Average Weekly Wage. Each state determines the maximum Average Weekly Wage that can be paid, for example, the maximum in Florida is $1,197 per week. The Jones Act only provides for daily maintenance for housing, food, and basic household expenses (electric, phone etc.). These payments usually range between $40-$50 a day.

Workers’ compensation allows for temporary partial disability, where injured workers can go back on a limited basis. Whereas under the Jones Act, a seaman can only return to work when their medical status is FULL FIT FOR DUTY.

Under Workers’ Compensation, you will receive your Average Weekly Wage until you are at Maximum Medical Improvement. If it is determined that you are permanently disabled, you will receive the Average Weekly Wage for life. Whereas under the Jones Act you are only paid maintenance until your medical condition has stabilized and you are at Maximum Medical Improvement.

Workers’ Compensation provides the employer with ‘Exclusive Remedy’. Under exclusive remedy, the worker forfeits their right to sue their employer, and instead, does not have to prove negligence to receive medical care, wage replacement benefits, or other payments for their work-related injury or illness. Since Workers’ Compensation is on a No-Fault basis, even if the employer was fully responsible for what occurred, the injured worker cannot sue for pain and suffering. However, under the Jones Act, the injured seaman can sue the employer/vessel owner for pain and suffering and lost wages. Recovery will be based if the injured worker can establish liability and damages against the vessel owner. Comparative negligence will apply, and any percentage of liability found against the Jones Act Seaman will reduce the verdict accordingly. So, for example, if the verdict is $100,000 but the jury finds the Seaman 25% at fault, the Seaman will only receive $75,000 ($100K verdict less - $25K for seaman’s assigned fault).

The Jones Act vs. Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)

Now there are other employees who may work on vessels, but are essentially land based, and are NOT on navigable waters or exposed to the hazards of the sea. These workers include longshore workers, ship builders/breakers, harbor/pier/dock workers and stevedores. If these employees are injured on the job, they will most likely qualify for LHWCA benefits, and can file their claim through the Department of Labor.

Contact us to learn more about which coverage your employee qualifies for 212-510-0108 | [email protected]

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