The Jones Act is a federal law (statute) that gives seamen who are injured in the course of their employment the right to sue their employer for personal injury damages based on their employer's negligence.
Thus, the Jones Act (46 U.S.C. § 30104) and the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) (33 U.S.C. § 901-950) are federal statutes that provide mutually exclusive methods of compensation for work-related injuries suffered by different categories of maritime employees.
The LHWCA excludes from its coverage a master or member of a crew of any vessel. Instead, crew members are covered by the Jones Act. The term "master or member of a crew" is refinement of the term seaman in the Jones Act. As a result, the key requirement for Jones Act coverage appears in the LHWCA.
The determination turns solely on the employee's connection to a vessel in navigation. It is not necessary that an employee aid in navigation or contribute to the transportation of the vessel to be a seaman under the Jones Act, but the employee must be doing the ship's work by contributing to the function of the vessel or the accomplishment of its mission.
Another important difference between compensation under the Jones Act and compensation under the LHWCA is that compensation under the LHWCA is in the traditional nature of workers’ compensation and is available for covered workplace injuries, regardless of who was at fault for the injury.
In contrast, compensation for pain, suffering, and lost wages in a Jones Act claim depends on the seaman or crew member’s ability to prove the negligence of a crew member, officer, operator, captain, or other person employed on the vessel who may have been at fault for the injury. And although a seaman or crew member’s recovery may be greater in a Jones Act claim, the recovery may be reduced by the seaman or crew member’s own fault in causing the injury.
An injured worker cannot file both a workers’ compensation claim under the LHWCA and a Jones Act lawsuit.