After being injured on the job you may think that you are legally entitled to workers' compensation benefits. However, if your job involves working on a vessel at sea, along the Gulf Coast, in a river system, or on an offshore oil rig, you are not entitled to workers' compensation. Instead, you are covered by federal admiralty law, also known as "maritime law" or the "Jones Act". Federal maritime law and the Jones Act are extremely complicated. Only a handful of law firms and lawyers across the country are considered experts in this area of the law. Brian Beckcom, one of our founding partners, is widely considered one the nation's leading lawyers for cases involving maritime accidents and injuries.
Learn Your Legal Rights Under Maritime Law or You May Lose Them
If you were injured on the job while working offshore, then you are not going to receive state workers' compensation benefits. Instead, your legal rights will be controlled by U.S. federal law. Under a U.S. federal law known as the "Jones Act," maritime workers who are hurt on the job are entitled to different legal benefits than land-based employees. Sometimes, these benefits can be much, much better than state workers' compensation benefits. However, you absolutely must hire the best lawyer for the case. Otherwise, you stand a very good chance of losing your legal rights entirely.
How Do You Know Which Laws Protect You?
The very first question you should ask is which law protects your legal rights? There are many different options. There are state laws and federal laws. And within the body of state and federal law, there are a number of specific laws like the Jones Act, the Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, General Maritime Law, maintenance and cure, and much more.
Generally speaking, if your job requires you to work on a "vessel" that is "in navigation," then you are probably covered under the Jones Act. The definition of "vessel" is quite broad, and covers the following, and even more:
- Oceangoing ships like supply vessels, crew boats, cruise ships, cargo ships, and more
- Brown water vessles like tugboats, barges, inland workboats, and more
- Oil and gas vessels such as jack-up rigs, spars, semi-submersibles, offshore platforms, and drilling rigs
Jobs Covered Under the Jones Act
In order for you to be covered under the Jones Act, you must be assigned to a "vessel" and your job must contribute to the mission of the vessel. Again, "contribute to the mission" is quite broad. Basically, any job on the vessel will fit the definition. The following is a list of the types of jobs that are often covered by the Jones Act:
- Captains and crew members
- Roughnecks, roustabouts, drillers, toolpushers, derrickmen, company men, OIMs (Offshore Installation Managers), mud engineers, deck engineers
- Ordinary seaman, able-bodied seaman, deckhands, engineers, mates
- Tankermen and Barge workers
- Cooks, galleyhands, and other supporting jobs
Differences Between State Workers' Compensation Laws and the Jones Act
Practically speaking, if you were hurt on the job while working offshore, you are going to be entitled to collect significantly more money in a settlement than if you were only protected by state workers' compensation laws. State workers' compensation laws are basically run by large insurance companies. The insurance companies have an incentive to provide the minimum amount of medical care. As a result, the insurance companies will hire doctors who often care little about the patients and more about making money from the insurance company. They will put you back to work well before you're ready, they will write reports saying your injuries were "pre-existing," and they will do all sorts of other underhanded things to prevent you from getting your full benefits.
Benefits of Being Covered Under Federal Maritime Law
It's different when you're covered by federal maritime law and the Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, for example, your employer is required by law to pay for all of your medical care until you reach maximum medical improvement. Unlike state workers' compensation laws, you get to go to your own doctors, not doctors hand-picked by your employer or some big insurance company. You are also entitled to something called "maintenance," which is a daily living stipend while you are off work recuperating from your injuries.
In addition to medical payments and maintenance payments, you are also allowed to bring a lawsuit for negligence damages, which you cannot do if you are getting state workers' compensation benefits. Under state law, you cannot sue your employer if they have workers' compensation insurance, regardless of the amount of negligence committed. Under the Jones Act, you can sue for negligence.
The difference between state workers' compensation laws and the Jones Act can be a difference in you receiving nothing and receiving hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in a settlement.
Why You Need a Lawyer With Experience Handling Offshore Work Injury Cases
First of all, you can be absolutely guaranteed that your employer has lawyers and insurance adjusters on its side from day one. Most maritime employers have insurance adjusters prepared to come work for them at a moment's notice, and they have lawyers in house or law firms that are experienced in defending injury claims ready with a phone call. You may not even realize it, but from the moment you are hurt, you can be absolutely guaranteed that your employer has contacted its insurance adjusters and lawyers.
If you try to go it alone against your employer, its insurance adjusters, and its lawyers, you are going to lose every single time. You must have effective legal counsel on your side.
Second, you cannot hire just any lawyer for these types of cases. Simply put, 99% of lawyers are not qualified to work on cases involving federal maritime law. By hiring a lawyer with no experience in these types of lawsuits, you aren't helping protect your rights at all, and in fact, you may be damaging your legal rights more than protecting them. We have seen it time and time again. A hard-working employee gets hurt on the job. He or she thinks they are automatically covered under workers' compensation. They trust their employer to help them, only to find out weeks or months later that their employer had been spending the entire time protecting itself behind your back. Or, even worse, the injured employee hires the wrong lawyer and loses everything.
Why You Should Consider VB Attorneys for Your Jones Act Case
Who you hire as your lawyer may be the most important decision you make. It can be the difference between a small settlement and a large settlement, between a quick settlement or one that drags on for years and year, between collecting everything to which you are legally entitled or collecting nothing at all.
Our law firm is considered one of the best law firms in the country for injured maritime workers. Our lead lawyer in Jones Act cases, Brian Beckcom, studied Admiralty Law under the leading admiralty professor in the country, David Robertson, at the University of Texas School of Law, where he graduated with honors. Mr. Beckcom has been involved in admiralty law, maritime law, and the Jones Act his entire legal career. He has published hundreds of articles, books, news items, and other expert analysis on offshore injury claims. Mr. Beckcom has successfully represented hundreds of individuals in injury lawsuits.
Ready to Get Started? Contact Us to Discuss Your Injury Case For Free.
If you are ready to get started, you can call us toll free at 877.724.7800. You will speak to a lawyer immediately. The consultation is free, and we will walk you through the entire legal process, answer every single question, and give you an idea what to expect. You can also use the contact forms on our website to send us a confidential email, and we will schedule an immediate appointment for you to learn your rights and how to protect those rights.