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Workers’ compensation doesn’t protect maritime workers

On Behalf of | May 15, 2024 | Maritime Law

Most hard-working Florida residents take for granted that they have basic financial protection in place, in the event that they sustain work-related injuries. Employers in Florida typically have an obligation to carry workers’ compensation coverage to protect their employees from medical expenses and lost wages.

A theme park worker who falls and breaks an arm can qualify for benefits. A young adult who severely burns themselves operating a deep fryer on their first day at a new job could also qualify for benefits. Despite how many employees may qualify for workers’ compensation coverage, some of the hardest-working professionals in Florida do not have the benefit of standard workers’ compensation coverage.

Thousands of maritime professionals call Florida home. They work for companies whose vessels dock on the Florida coast. They might reasonably expect to receive workers’ compensation coverage if they get hurt on the job. Unfortunately, maritime employees are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

What protects maritime employees?

Workers’ compensation is a state-run program. Every state in the country has unique rules governing workers’ compensation benefits and coverage requirements for employers. The location where an employee performs a job determines what benefits they are eligible for after an injury or diagnosis of a work-acquired medical condition.

While an injured maritime employee may live in Florida and may work for a company headquartered in Florida, they perform their job at a location outside of Florida’s jurisdiction. Decades ago, lawmakers recognized this gap in employee protections and implemented a special rule for maritime professionals.

The Jones Act is Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. This statute governs businesses that operate in the waters surrounding the United States. An injured maritime worker can theoretically request here and maintenance via civil litigation after getting hurt in an offshore environment.

Typically, Jones Act claims are quite complex, but they can theoretically provide even better coverage for injured workers than standard workers’ compensation benefits might. The maintenance or wage replacement compensation can completely replace lost wages. Workers’ compensation disability benefits typically only provide a portion of someone’s lost income.

Injured maritime workers may go months without income or may never be able to return to their high-paid professions. They may also require expensive medical care. Reviewing a maritime injury with a skilled legal team could help someone establish whether they qualify for a Jones Act claim. Workers who know their rights can take the necessary steps to secure compensation for injuries sustained as part of a dangerous career.