Offshore workers face particularly high risks of injury on the job. Seaman working offshore live a life that is completely different in many respects from those working onshore. Seaman and offshore workers spend days, weeks, and even months at a time away from their families, away from medical help, and on the open ocean or other large bodies of water.
Fortunately, the law recognizes the special hardships and special dangers that maritime workers face. Call Steve Lee today at 713-921-4171 or 800-232-3711 to discuss your case.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act is a federal law that permits injured seaman to seek money compensation for on-the-job injuries. In some ways, the Jones Act acts like the workers’ compensation programs run by state governments, but it provides benefits for seamen even when they are outside U.S. waters.
As any seaman knows, working offshore can be very dangerous. The Jones Act appreciates this fact, and Jones Act employers may be responsible for any negligence or unseaworthiness of their vessel. Injured seamen may recover for past medical expenses, future medical expenses, loss of income (both past and into the future), mental anguish, disfigurement, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and impairment.
Injured seamen also get maintenance and cure, which is payment for medical treatment and a small daily allowance for living expenses, as a long as the injury occurred in the course and scope of the seaman’s employment. These benefits can be paid even if there was no negligence involved in the accident that caused their injuries.
We are often asked by potential clients whether they are considered “seamen” under the Jones Act. Generally, to qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, an injured offshore worker must prove three things:
- He has a relatively permanent connection to a vessel or to an identifiable group of vessels.
- The vessels must be “in navigation.” Note that this does not mean the vessel must be moving at the time of the accident.
- The injured worker’s duties must contribute to the mission or function of the vessel. This is defined very broadly.
Courts look at all three factors, and look at the totality of the worker’s duties and connection to the vessel. Courts are also not allowed to look only at the specific work being done at the time of the injury. Instead, they look at the entire employment history. People who serve on freighters, tugboats, towboats, crew boats, tankers, jack-up rigs, semi-submersibles, supply boats, lay barges, barges, fishing boats, and crew boats who are members of the crew are considered to be seamen under the Jones Act.
Oil and Gas Industry Injuries
Often, clients come to us after suffering injuries on jack-up drilling rigs and oil platforms, diver injuries, and helicopter injuries, in addition to those who were hurt on a boat, ship, or other vessel. There are four very important things you must know if you were injured offshore working with an oil and gas company or in a supporting role:
- Most lawyers do not have any experience at all representing offshore oil and gas workers. These claims are highly specialized, complicated, and expensive. You need to make certain that the lawyer you hire has experience with these types of claims.
- Your claim may fall under one of four different legal remedies. They are the Jones Act, general maritime law, the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act. Each set of laws is very different and has special rules and restrictions. It takes an experienced offshore lawyer to help you navigate your way to the best possible recovery.
- You are generally entitled to medical care if you are injured offshore in the oil and gas fields, regardless of who was at fault. And you aren’t necessarily required to go to company doctors.
- If you suffered a serious injury, you may be entitled to appropriate and fair compensation. And unlike many state-based laws where the compensation is completely inadequate—like worker’s compensation—offshore oil and gas injury claims generally entitle the injured party to much more reasonable and fair compensation.
What If I Don’t Work on a Vessel?
Those who work on fixed platforms and longshoremen are not Jones Act seamen. That doesn’t mean don’t have any remedies. They just can’t file a Jones Act case. The experienced team at attorney Steve Lee’s office can help you determine the type of case you have and what remedies are available for you!
Contact Us When You’re Ready to Be Helped
Attorney Steve Lee established his law firm in 1973. We’ve been in the same location for 35 years. We have helped tens of thousands of injured people over the last 35 years and our experienced, bilingual team of attorneys and support staff are standing by to help you and your family. Contact Steve M. Lee, P.C., by phone, by using the instant live chat feature, or by filling out the quick contact form on this page.