If you're an oil rig worker who was injured on the job on an offshore rig, you may be researching the Jones Act as a way to get compensation. The Jones Act allows a certain group of workers classified as seamen to receive benefits, maintenance, and cure after being injured. However, the act has enough requirements that it can quickly become a confusing mess if you're new to the details of the law. The following issues are ones that can often trip people up when they start looking into the Jones Act.
The Vehicle Has to Be American-Owned
Whatever you were on, it has to be U.S.-owned, the crew has to be U.S.-based, and so on. If you're working on a rig that was built by a company in another country, the Jones Act may not apply. How much work you'll have to do to prove the rig and crew were all American depends on your case and how good the oil rig firm was at keeping records, but a lawyer familiar with oil rig injury cases can help you.
The LHWCA May Apply Instead
The Jones Act covers a vessel's captain and crew who meet specific standards. Others who work around ships who don't meet those standards would apply for compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, a form of workers' compensation for people who work on docks and in other water-related locations.
Determining if you are covered by the Jones Act isn't as simple as it sounds. If you were working as a seaman on the rig and did officially count as a seaman -- that is a specific category -- then you qualify for the Jones Act. If you were there as part of a special visit, though, and you normally don't work on ships or rigs, then you might not qualify. Just being on a Jones Act–classified vessel is not enough to qualify you for the Jones Act. The situation becomes even more confusing if you normally don't work in a seaman capacity, but while you were on the rig, you were contracted to work full-time but for a short period of time only. In other words, check with a lawyer to straighten out exactly what your category is.
Maintenance and Cure Is for Seamen Only
Documents and websites that mention the Jones Act and the LHWCA also talk about maintenance and cure, which reimburses the injured person for specific costs. Many of these documents and sites treat maintenance and cure as a separate issue, but it is really part of the Jones Act. If you find you are not eligible for the Jones Act, then, maintenance and cure will not be available. However, the LHWCA covers quite a lot.
Unseaworthiness Alone Is Enough
If you do qualify for the Jones Act but think that you won't be able to prove that the accident was the result of someone else's negligence, look at unseaworthiness. All vessels covered by the Jones Act have to be seaworthy, meaning that they are adequate for safe shelter and work. So even if the vessel (or rig, in your case) was being used, it still might be classed as unseaworthy.
A lawyer who handles oil rig accidents and who is familiar with maritime oil rig accidents will be able to help you untangle all of these requirements. Once you know where you stand legally, you can proceed with your case to get compensation.