Chicago Riverboat and Maritime Injury Attorneys
Riverboat & Maritime Injury Lawyer Illinois
What is the Jones Act?
When a person is injured at work, he or she should be entitled to Workers Compensation benefits, right? The answer is, not always. If the employee is a “seaman” who works aboard a vessel in navigable waters, he falls under the Jones Act.
For example, a Riverboat Casino worker such as a dealer at Harrah’s Casino falls under the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a law that provides special protection to workers on boats. If the injured worker can prove that his employer was negligent (that is, provided an unsafe place to work) then the injured worker can recover for pain and suffering and disability and can recover full compensation.
Such a case is usually worth much more than a Workers Compensation case since Workers Compensation has strict statutory limits. Further, with the Jones Act, the Plaintiff can have his case decided by a jury, which is always preferable since they have more in common with an injured Plaintiff.
Under the Jones Act, if the injury to the employee was not caused by the employer’s negligence, then there can be no recovery for pain and suffering and disability. However, the employer is still responsible for paying the employee’s medical bills and a percentage of his or her lost wages. This is called maintenance and cure.
One unfortunate aspect of the Jones Act law is that if the injured worker reaches maximum cure, the employer need no longer pay for his medical bills. In other words, if medical bills are purely for “palliative” treatment (that is to treat pain) and not to provide functional improvement, the employer can cut off benefits.
For example, if there is no cure for back pain and the patient is functionally as good as he will get, then paying for prescriptions to alleviate pain will be the responsibility of the employee, not the employer. It’s unfair, but it’s the law. The only way to force an employee to pay for “palliative” treatment is if we can prove the employer was negligent or did not provide a safe place to work. If there is a dispute regarding whether treatment is palliative or not, the court will generally rely on the word of your treating physician.
Hence, to sum it up, if the employer was negligent, you are entitled to compensation for pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement, future pain and suffering, lost wages and all medical bills. If the employer was NOT negligent, then you are entitled to maintenance and cure that is payment of medical bills and a percentage of your lost wages until you have reached a state of maximum medical improvement.
What Should I do if I am Injured at Work?
It’s important that if you are injured at work, you obtain immediate treatment, provide specific explanations to the doctor about how your accident happened, that it happened at work, and be accurate in your descriptions of pain problems to your doctor or the company doctor. Get the names of witnesses and their phone numbers if possible and consult a lawyer immediately. The employer has high paid attorneys who are paid to stop you from receiving just compensation.