Offshore workers are subject to numerous hazards each day on the job. Dangerous machinery, slippery surfaces, and harsh elements are just a few of the risks inherent in the field. Like other industries, offshore workers need and deserve access to benefits if they are injured on the job. However, work injury claims are under a different jurisdiction for offshore workers; normal workers’ compensation laws do not apply to them. Rather, maritime law guarantees them certain rights and benefits.
Maritime law is a unique, complex area of the law. Jurisdiction can be tricky to ascertain, and many workers in the maritime industry are not clear on what their rights are or how to go about collecting compensation when they sustain an injury at work. If you or your loved one was recently hurt in an offshore work accident, speak to a Gulf Coast maritime injury lawyer at Cueria Law Firm, LLC about your legal options: 800-899-7102.
What types of offshore workers do maritime laws cover?
Most people equate offshore work with seamen, or crewmembers and captains. However, there are actually numerous types of jobs protected by maritime law. In fact, various legislative acts cover anyone who works on or around navigable waters of the U.S. to some degree.
In addition to handling injury cases for workers under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA), our firm also handles claims and lawsuits for all types of Gulf Coast offshore maritime workers who sustain injuries in both near-shore and deep-water operations. Examples of workers we assist include:
- Crewmembers, deckhands, officers, and operators of all types of vessels including tug boats and push boats, offshore supply boats, offshore platforms, spars, crew boats, drilling barges, and jack-up rigs
- Oil rig and natural gas extraction workers
- Workers on artificial islands and floating drydocks
- Wind turbine workers
- Rig mechanics, ballast controlmen, rig welders and electricians, watchstanders, and rig medics
What types of benefits are offshore workers entitled to for work injuries?
The rights and benefits you are entitled to for work injuries depends on the nature of your job, the location/jurisdiction in which you work, and the specific maritime laws that apply to you. Some of the laws involved in maritime cases include the LHWCA, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, and the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).
The two most common types of claims we handle for offshore workers fall under the Jones Act and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA).
The Jones Act applies to workers who are “seamen” under federal laws. Essentially, this law provides basic rights and benefits to crewmembers and captains of moving vessels on navigable waters.
The Jones Act applies to workers on vessels that are in navigation, but what about workers of stationary offshore structures? This is where the OCSLA comes in.
The OCSLA extends benefits to other workers injured in offshore activities on the outer continental shelf. It provides protection to workers on certain permanent and temporary offshore facilities, structures, and devices, including oilrigs, drydocks, and turbines. OSCLA jurisdiction extends three miles off any state coast.
What compensation is available under the Jones Act?
Unlike other land-based industry workers who can turn to workers’ compensation, there is no administrative body that handles maritime workers’ injury claims. Rather, workers must file a claim under the Jones Act, which provides injured seamen with three main types of rights:
1) The right to sue his employer for negligence
Maritime business owners have a duty of care to their employees to provide a reasonably safe working environment and to maintain and keep the vessel in a safe condition. If the employer breached his duty and acted negligently, such as failing to maintain equipment or implementing unsafe work methods, seamen have a right to sue their employer for damages.
Damages that are recoverable under the Jones Act are broad. They include those for lost wages, medical bills, disability, disfigurement, pain and suffering, and even vocational rehabilitation training, loss of future earning capacity, lost enjoyment in life, and punitive damages (this is each court’s discretion).
2) The right to sue the vessel owner for damages if the vessel was unseaworthy
Vessel owners are strictly liable for employees’ damages when the vessel is deemed unseaworthy and its defects were the cause of the employee’s injuries.
Technically, unseaworthiness claims fall under General Maritime Law [46 U.S.C. § 30104]. The United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit explains what unseaworthiness entails: “A vessel is unseaworthy if the vessel, or any of its parts or equipment, is not reasonably fit for its intended purpose [or if its crew is not reasonably adequate or competent to perform the work assigned].”
The damages for lawsuits of this nature are akin to those for employer negligence claims.
3) The right to basic income and medical benefits
Seamen are entitled to basic compensation for work injuries, much like those provided under state workers’ compensation programs. These benefits, referred to as maintenance and cure, are a given, i.e., they are not based on negligence.
Maintenance refers to an income benefit that covers the cost of the seaman’s room and board while he is recovering. This includes recovery for certain essentials including rent, property taxes, insurance, and food. Cure refers to medical benefits and includes all necessary and reasonable medical expenses the seaman has for his work-related injuries.
What compensation is available under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act?
Legislators enacted the OCSLA, an extension of the LHWCA, to protect oilrig and other employees who work on the outer continental shelf, the land beneath navigable waters between state and federal jurisdiction. This act is essentially the equivalent of workers’ compensation, providing the same basic types of benefits that land workers receive when they sustain injuries on the job.
Compensable benefits include:
- Medical care, including emergency care, hospital care, treatments, surgeries, and prescriptions
- Disability benefits, including temporary total disability (TTD), permanent partial disability (PTD), permanent partial disability (PPD), and temporary partial disability (TPD). Income replacement benefits are generally calculated at two-thirds of the workers’ pre-injury wages.
- Death benefits, which provide survivors with income replacement and up to $3,000 in funeral expenses. Surviving spouses are entitled to 50 percent of the deceased’s pre-injury wages for life or until she remarries. Children receive 16 2/3 percent of the pre-injury wages, or 50 percent if there is no surviving spouse.
What is the best avenue of recovery for injured Gulf Coast offshore maritime workers?
The best way to recover your losses and claim your benefits depends on your unique situation. For help seeking the maximum amount possible, consult with a maritime attorney at our firm for counsel. Injured offshore maritime workers or their families are welcomed to call Cueria Law Firm, LLC for a free consultation at their convenience.
We have nearly 30 years’ experience helping injured people recover settlements and benefits — and we do it with passion, care, and professionalism. Contact us today at 800-899-7102 and let us review your case, explain your rights, and then help you secure the funds you need and deserve.