Workers’ Compensation Claims vs. The Jones Act

If you suffered harm in the workplace, you may be eligible to file a claim to pay for your medical bills, compensate for your lost wages, and more. Your avenue for recourse will depend on the nature of your workplace, its level of coverage, and even the industry you work in.

Here’s what you need to know about gaining compensation following your workplace injury.

The Workers’ Compensation System in Texas

The majority of workers in Texas will seek recourse through the state workers’ compensation system. The workers’ compensation system is a state-regulated program in which employers purchase policies to provide coverage of occupational illnesses and injury. The specific benefits outlined each policy are unique to each state. Texas is the only state in the nation that does not require employers to purchase workers’ compensation for their employees. Fortunately, many employers choose to do so as workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. In other words, when you receive benefits for a work-related injury, you relinquish your right to sue your employer for negligence. If your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, you can pursue a personal injury claim for damages – but you must prove that its negligence led to your injuries.

Workers’ compensation benefits provide the following to injured workers:

  • Compensation for all medical costs, including doctor’s visits, surgeries, and therapy if applicable
  • Replacement income, usually a set percentage of your monthly pay
  • Compensation for permanent injuries
  • Death benefits to surviving family members, if a victim dies in a work-related accident

If your employer offers workers’ compensation benefits, you’re likely eligible to collect them following a work-related accident, regardless of who was at fault. Notable exceptions include when your own intentional conduct (such as using alcohol or drugs on the job) contributed to your injuries.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act is a specific compensatory program available to seamen, longshoreman, dockworkers, and maritime workers. If you are a seaman and you sustain an injury on a boat, ship, vessel, drilling rig, or any other offshore structure, you will collect benefits under the Jones Act, not the Texas workers’ compensation system. The Jones Act is a federal statute that seeks to protect sea workers who sustain injuries throughout the course of his or her employment.

Like an injured worker subject to workers’ compensation benefits, the Jones Act automatically entitles a sea worker to collect benefits from his or her employer, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. There are two main types of payments: maintenance payments cover the worker’s basic living expenses and cure payments address the cost of reasonable medical care that’s necessary to treat the occupational illness or injury. An employer must pay these benefits until the sea worker returns to his or her job duties or a physician deems that the worker reached a state of maximum medical improvement, (i.e., his or her condition is not expected to improve, even with continued medical care).

Unlike the workers’ compensation system, however, sea workers are eligible to collect more than just maintenance and cure payments. If an employer is at fault for a worker’s injury, he or she may file a negligence claim on top of the benefits he or she receives under the Jones Act. This allows an injured sea worker to collect other monetary damages to compensate for the full extent of his or her injuries, pain, and suffering.

If you’re unsure if you qualify for benefits under the workers’ compensation or the Jones Act, talk to an experienced injury lawyer for more details. Filing a claim with the appropriate party can save time, money, and ensure your right to fair compensation under Texas law.