Most worker injuries on the job entitle the employee to workers’ compensation benefits. However, if your job involves working on a vessel at sea, coastal waters, a river system, or on an offshore oil rig, you are not entitled to workers’ compensation. Instead, you are covered by federal admiralty law, also known as “maritime law” or the “Jones Act”. If you are injured while working a maritime job, I highly recommend hiring a lawyer to help with your claim. Unfortunately, some offshore companies and their insurers deceitfully pressure workers not to seek legal assistance and obtain all remedies to which they are legally entitled.
Maritime torts are unique because maritime law and the Jones Act can be very complicated. Seamen, longshoremen, and offshore oil & gas workers can be exposed to many dangerous conditions and dangerous substances which cause serious illness, injury and even death. Sometimes it can take years for toxic substances to manifest into symptoms.
Learn Your Legal Rights or You May Lose Them
All potential claims have a time limit. Certain time rules, like the statute of limitations, determine how long you can go before you can make a legal claim. If you were injured on the job while working offshore, you should act as soon as possible to protect your potential claim.
How to Know Which Laws Protect You
There are many different options. There are state laws and federal laws. And within the body of state and federal law, there are a number of specific laws like the Jones Act, the Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, General Maritime Law, maintenance and cure, and more. The Jones Act is a claim on negligence for seamen. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (“LHWCA”) is a non-fault workers compensation claim for non-seamen maritime workers such as longshoremen, land-based crane operators and temporary repairmen. A seaman cannot bring a claim under the LHWCA and a non-seaman maritime worker cannot bring a claim under the Jones Act.
If your job requires you to work on a “vessel” that is “in navigation”, then you are probably covered under the Jones Act. The definition of a “vessel” is wide-ranging. Some examples are:
- Oceangoing ships like supply vessels, crew boats, cruise ships, cargo ships.
- Brown water vessels like tugboats, barges, inland workboats.
- Oil and gas vessels such as jack-up rigs, spars, semi-submersibles, offshore platforms, and drilling rigs
Jobs Covered Under the Jones Act
For you to have a Jones Act claim, you must be assigned to a “vessel” and your job must “contribute to the mission of the vessel”. Most any job on the “vessel” will fit into the category of “contribute to the mission”. Some of those jobs may be:
- Captains and crew members
- Roughnecks, roustabouts, drillers, toolpushers, derrickmen, company men, OIMs (Offshore Installation Managers), mud engineers, deck engineers
- Ordinary seaman, able-bodied seaman, deckhands, engineers, mates
- Tankermen and Barge workers
- Cooks, galleyhands, and other supporting jobs
- Crew members on tankers, freighters, tugs, supply and crew boats, barges, and fishing vessels
Longshoreman and 3rd Party Claims
Non-seamen are generally covered by The Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. The LHWCA provides for the payment of compensation benefits for disability or death of an employee if the disability or death results from an injury occurring upon the navigable waters of the United States. Workers who may have a claim are usually on an adjoining pier, wharf, dry dock, terminal, building way, marine railway or other adjoining area to water where the employer is loading, unloading, repairing or building a vessel.
Rig or Platform Injuries
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) is a federal law that provides for compensation for death or injuries “occurring as the result of operations conducted on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) for the purpose of exploring for, developing, removing, or transporting by pipeline the natural resources, or involving rights to the natural resources, of the subsoil and seabed of the OCS.” The OCSLA governs all submerged lands beyond state territorial waters but within U.S. territorial waters. If you are injured on fixed platform within state territorial waters then state law would likely apply and not the OCSLA.
Benefits of Being Covered Under Federal Maritime Law
Under the Jones Act, your employer is required by law to pay for all of your medical care until you reach maximum medical improvement. Unlike state workers’ compensation laws, you get to choose your own doctors, not doctors hand-picked by your employer or some big insurance company. You are also entitled to something called “maintenance payments,” while you are off work recovering from your injuries.
Under state workers’ compensation laws, you cannot sue your employer for negligence. Under the Jones Act, you can sue for negligence.
There are several types of damages that are available to injured crewmembers, which include:
- Pain and Suffering
- Mental Anguish
- Lost Wages and Lost Earning Capacity
- Medical and Assisted Living Expenses
Why You Need a Lawyer with Experience Handling Offshore Work Injury Cases
Your employer will have lawyers and insurance adjusters who may not have your best interest in mind working on your case. They will be ready to act at a moment’s notice. Insurance companies naturally want to pay the least amount they can pay for a claim. If you try to go it alone against your employer, its insurance adjusters, and its lawyers, you are likely to get far less than you deserve. I highly recommend effective legal counsel to protect you and your family.
Call Longo Legal, PLLC
If you call my office, you will speak to me personally. I will listen, assess, and guide you through this process. The consultation is free of charge and completely confidential. You will pay nothing unless we are successful with your claim. All of our agreements are on a contingency fee basis.
Call Victor Longo toll free at 1-855-566-4648 or fill out our contact form for a free consultation today.