Hello and welcome back to our series of frequently asked questions. I’m Jim Adler, The Texas Hammer, and in this video, we’re discussing injuries to people who work on ships, boats and oil platforms. Most people who get injured at work are eligible for workers’ compensation, but people who work on an oil rig or ship are eligible for compensation through the Jones Act. That lets them sue their employers. If you were hurt at work, there are important differences that you need to know about.
Workers’ compensation is a system for making sure injured workers can get medical care and support themselves while they can’t work. Workers who get hurt file a claim with their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. If they’re successful, the insurance company pays for their medical treatment. It also pays replacement wages during the time they can’t work. In Texas, that’s 70 to 80 percent of the wages you lose while you’re laid up with your injury.
Workers’ compensation applies to most Texas workers, regardless of where they work. The Jones Act is different. The Jones Act is only for people who work on a ship, mobile oil platform, or other vessel that can move around in the water. That includes many vessels related to the oil industry, such as jack up rigs, drill ships, offshore oil and gas supply boats, tugboats, push boats and barges. And it’s not just jobs on board the actual ships, like able-bodied seaman, mate, engineer, deckhand, fisherman, porter or steward. Jobs in the oil industry, such as driller, rig mechanic, roughneck, floorhand, roustabout, derrickman, toolpusher, driller, rig electrician, rig mechanic or crane operator can also qualify a worker to use the Jones Act.
Instead of filing a claim like with workers’ compensation, the Jones Act allows you to sue your employer. You can only win that lawsuit if you can show your employer created or allowed dangerous conditions. If you do, you can recover money to pay your medical bills, replace your lost wages and more, after the lawsuit is over.
That’s one thing that makes Jones Act claims different from workers’ compensation. Claiming workers’ compensation means you can’t sue your employer. To make a Jones Act claim, you have to sue your employer. That means you should have a personal injury law firm like Jim Adler & Associates. With workers’ compensation, you don’t technically need a lawyer. But it might be a good choice, especially if the insurance company doesn’t pay enough, or doesn’t pay at all.
Another important difference is that workers’ compensation is paid regardless of who is at fault. In a Jones Act lawsuit, you only get benefits if you have evidence that the injury was caused by your employer or your co-workers doing something unsafe.
A third difference is that you are likely to recover more money in a Jones Act case. That’s because workers’ compensation pays only your current medical bills and a percentage of your lost income. And it only pays those benefits for a limited time. In a Jones Act lawsuit, you may receive enough money to pay all of your lost income. In some claims you may also recover money to pay future medical bills, if you have any, and compensation for your pain and suffering. If your injury led to a serious, permanent disability, you may additionally be awarded enough money to replace your income for the rest of your life.
Finally, it’s easier to qualify for workers’ compensation. Under the Jones Act, you can only sue if you’re a “seaman.” That’s defined as someone who spends at least a third of their work time on a vessel that’s capable of moving. It must be used commercially on water that connects two or more states. There are a lot of rules, and the other side might use them to disqualify you. With workers’ compensation, the money is available to most workers, and it doesn’t matter who was at fault.
Either way, you need to be careful around insurance companies. An insurance company is the one that pays workers’ compensation or Jones Act claims, and they don’t want to spend that money. They may find nonsense reasons to deny your claim, ask you to sign something without reading it, or pull other tricks designed to deny you compensation. An experienced attorney can protect you and make sure you get the money you need.
If you’d like to talk to someone about your case or learn more about your rights, contact us today to set up a free case review. You can fill out our contact form online or call toll-free at 1-800-567-7575.