If you are an injured seaman and are now receiving maintenance and cure, you may be able to collect unemployment if you are no longer employed. If you are still employed, you cannot file for unemployment. But even if you are eligible to file for unemployment benefits, doing so may be inadvisable.
All seamen have a right to maintenance and cure benefits when injured on the job, regardless of who was at fault for the injury. However, because maintenance and cure benefits are historically low, injured workers sometimes decide to file for additional compensation under a Jones Act claim if their employers were somehow at fault for the accident.
It’s important to understand the fine print when you file for any type of benefits, be they unemployment or Jones Act benefits. When you file for unemployment, you are essentially telling the state that you are able to work, and just don’t have a job. When you file for Jones Act benefits, on the other hand, you may be claiming that you are incapable of working.
Can you see how the two are at odds? Unemployment is for those who can work but have simply lost their jobs. If you are an injured maritime worker and you are receiving maintenance and cure, the presumption is that you are injured and still recovering.
The problem that arises when an injured worker obtains unemployment while pursuing a Jones Act claim is that if and when the worker files a suit against the employer, the company attorney can use it against you.
The attorney can say that you said you were capable of working (in the fine print of your unemployment benefits agreement), which could contradict claims you made in your Jones Act claim.
Many injured workers simply don’t understand the legalities of the benefits for which they apply. You do not want to risk losing any benefits to which you may be entitled. If your maintenance and cure benefits are not enough to live on, or if you suffered a major injury because of your employer’s negligence, discuss your compensation options with an attorney before you consider filing for unemployment. We’ve seen far too many clients hurt their claims by filing for unemployment first.
Discuss your case one-on-one with a maritime attorney and find out exactly what you’re eligible for and how to best go about getting fair compensation given your unique situation.
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