Oil Field Workers Must Have Seaman Status to Be Covered Under the Jones Act
The men and women who spend their careers in the busy waters and oilfields around Texas are exposed to numerous risks on a daily basis. The job itself isn’t exactly cushiony and the conditions aboard vessels can be incredibly treacherous in severe weather. As a result of these hazards, injured seaman are afforded automatic care under the Jones Act when they’re injured on the job. However, determining who is eligible for this coverage can be challenging.
Jones Act “Seaman” Coverage
Texas is home to a vast number of oilfield workers, all of whom deserve the best possible care and protection if they become injured at work. While oil workers on land are covered by workers’ compensation systems, those who work offshore are protected by maritime law. These laws, specifically the Jones Act, allow injured seamen to claim compensation for their injuries and other damages from their employer. Unlike regular workers’ compensation, the Jones Act also permits injured employees to file lawsuits against employers if the injuries were caused by negligence.
Jones Act coverage is often superior to standard workers’ compensation or even Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) coverage, as benefits are available regardless of fault. However, to be covered under this law, you must have seaman status. For this reason, most people on the cusp of seaman status find it worthwhile to file a Jones Act claim—but who will qualify?
Are You Covered?
It’s important that oil workers know their Jones Act status because they could qualify for many additional injury benefits, including maintenance and cure benefits. Maintenance provides funds for living expenses during recovery, while cure provides payment for the medical expenses that are reasonable for the treatment of the injury. However, depending on your “seaman status,” you may not qualify for anything under the Jones Act.
Many oilfield workers rely on the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) for protection after a work-related injury. For workers who find themselves stationed on a fixed rig, seaman status almost never applies and therefore the Jones Act benefited are useless. However, for those who split their time between lift boats and other vessels and the rigs themselves, seaman status becomes a distinct possibility.
Qualifying for Seaman Status
Determining whether your job is eligible for seaman status, and ultimately Jones Act coverage, basically comes down to a numbers game. To qualify for seaman status you must affirm the following questions:
- Do at least 30% of your work duties take place onboard a vessel?
- Do your duties directly contribute to the mission or operation of the vessel in navigation, whether moving or at anchor?
- Do your duties aboard the vessel require substantial time and effort for the betterment of the mission?
If you can prove that your job satisfies the above requirements, your argument for seaman status qualification could be successful. Contact our office today to discuss your recovery options and maritime rights with Attorney Steve Lee. Call or fill out the short online contact form provided to connect with him and schedule your FREE, no-obligation case review now!