When maritime workers in Louisiana are injured on the job, the first concern many have is whether or not they will be classified as a seaman with respect to the Jones Act. The Jones Act was established in the 1920s and was meant to serve as a federal workers’ compensation program similar to what railroad workers were allowed on the mainland. The workers who are at risk of not being allowed Jones Act coverage are typically the ones who venture offshore to conduct specific work without staying on a vessel for a designated amount of time.
Why Jones Act application matters
The difference in land-based workers’ compensation coverage and Jones Act qualification is very significant because Jones Act coverage allows injured workers to sue for maintenance and cure, which can include financial recovery for long-term issues resulting from the injury. Land-based workers’ compensation programs for companies onshore only provide recovery for lost wages and payment of medical bills generated by the injury. In addition, Louisiana state workers’ compensation and medical coverage end after a specific period of time.
New court ruling adds a new requirement
A recent ruling by the Fifth Circuit has resulted in a new determination criteria for injured maritime workers. At question is now not only the “nature of employment” standard but the amount of time an injured worker spends on the vessel itself. While some workers may commute to and from the vessel in order to perform their job duties, others stay on the vessel where they basically live throughout a specific on-off work schedule. Most qualified Jones Act seamen actually technically live on the work vessel at sea and are entitled to maintenance while not on the vessel and rehabilitating.
Having the right attorney in a Jones Act case is crucial because the law is general and is commonly applied after the court evaluates all material details associated with the injury case. And, with the new ruling, the final determination can be even more complicated.