Many injured seamen ask if they can apply for unemployment benefits after a work-related injury or while their Jones Act case is moving forward. Unfortunately, an injured seaman under the Jones Act should generally not apply for unemployment benefits following his Jones Act injury.
Almost all unemployment benefit programs require that the employee applying for benefits represents that the employee can perform the essential job duties of their prior employment. In other words, when the injured employee applies for unemployment benefits, part of the application process requires that the employee state, under oath, that the employee is still capable of performing his job for which he is applying for unemployment benefits.
This statement by the employee can often ruin the employee’s Jones Act claim. Our office has handled many cases where our clients are cross-examined during their depositions on whether they applied for unemployment benefits since their Jones Act injury occurred. For the few clients who have applied for benefits before we represented them, the opposing attorney has always criticized our client saying that our client “misrepresented” his abilities and committed “fraud” when he stated that he could perform the requirements of his job duties in applying for unemployment benefits. These clients are then faced with a lose/lose situation; either they misrepresented that they could perform the requirements of their Jones Act employment when they applied for unemployment benefits, or they misrepresented that they were unable to return to work when they filed their Jones Act claim.
Remember, it is always best not to apply for unemployment benefits if you are pursuing a Jones Act injury claim.