Every job carries certain risks, but there are few professions as dangerous as working on the open seas. This is why the United States Congress passed the Jones Act in 1920 to provide legal rights and compensation for maritime workers who sustain injuries due to their job. While the Jones Act may sound similar to workers’ compensation, there are significant differences between the two types of claims.

What is the Jones Act? 

The Jones Act requires employers to provide a safe working environment for their maritime employees and allows them to sue for damages if they become injured while on duty. It also grants seamen certain privileges such as medical benefits and guaranteed wages regardless of whether they are able to work due to an injury.

Workers’ Compensation 

Workers’ compensation is another form of legal recourse available when someone has been injured on the job. Unlike the Jones Act, which only applies to maritime workers, workers’ compensation is available to an employee who has been harmed while working in any industry—construction sites, warehouses, office buildings, etc. 

It doesn’t matter how an employee was injured; as long as it happened while engaging in work-related activities then they are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits (with limited exceptions).  

These benefits include medical coverage and wage replacement (both temporary and permanent) for those who are unable to return to work due to their injury or illness caused by their job duties. 

Primary Differences Between The Jones Act And Workers’ Comp

The primary difference between the two is their intent. The Jones Act was created as a way for seamen and their families to sue employers for negligence in cases of injury or death while at sea. This means that if your employer acted negligently or recklessly, then you may be able to pursue a lawsuit instead of relying on workers’ comp benefits. 

In contrast, workers’ compensation laws were designed with the intention of providing employees benefits without having to sue their employers—essentially eliminating one’s ability to sue an employer for negligence-related workplace injuries or illnesses regardless of fault. 

In many cases, even if you are partially responsible for your injury or illness while on the job, you may still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits from your employer.

Eligibility Requirements 

In addition to different intents, there are different eligibility requirements as well when it comes to filing a Jones Act claim versus filing a workers’ compensation claim. The Jones Act specifically applies only to employees who work in maritime industries, while most states offer workers’ comp coverage regardless of industry. 


When it comes time to file a claim for either type of injury or illness covered by either law, it is important that you pay attention to the applicable deadlines. Generally speaking, most states require close to immediate notification of an injury for a workers’ comp claim, but workers have up to three years from the date of incident/discovery before filing a Jones Act claim.

Understanding both The Jones Act and workers’ compensation laws is key when determining what legal recourse is available after suffering injury on a job site. With both options offering different benefits and restrictions based on each individual situation, consulting with a Gulfport injury lawyer can help provide clarity into what options are best suited for you. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.