Q: Should I file for unemployment in addition to my Jones Act claim?
No. Unemployment and Jones Act claims naturally contradict one another. Filing for unemployment benefits could damage your Jones Act claim.
Unemployment vs. Jones Act Claims
Unemployment benefit programs provide temporary income to employees whose jobs were terminated by their employer. These benefits are intended to help workers who have lost their jobs, not employees who were injured at work. When you file for unemployment, you're telling the state that you're capable of working, but that you're unable to find a job.
Maintenance and cure benefits under the Jones Act, on the other hand, are provided to employees who are unable to return to work due to their job-related injuries. Under admiralty law, the owner of a vessel is required to cover the food, lodging, and medical expenses of a seaman injured while at work. Employees are entitled to receive these benefits until maximum medical improvement is reached.
Employees who file for unemployment benefits must state, under penalty of perjury, that they're still capable of performing their basic job duties. However, when filing a Jones Act claim, workers typically argue that their work-related injuries are preventing them from returning to the job. These statements are obviously contradictory, and they may be sufficient to destroy a Jones Act claim.
If your injuries prevent you from returning to your routine work duties, you cannot file an unemployment claim. Doing so will allow your employer’s attorney to use your unemployment agreement against you. He can cite your statements to argue that your injury claim isn’t valid.
Consult an Attorney
Maritime claims are complicated, but an experienced attorney can help you understand exactly which benefits you're entitled to receive. Consult a lawyer to get answers to your questions about maintenance and cure, the Jones Act, and unemployment benefits.
To learn more, contact the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.