If you got hurt while working offshore, understanding your legal rights can be complicated. Although Congress has enacted several laws that are specifically designed to protect offshore workers, it is not always easy to figure out which law applies; and, unfortunately, offshore workers cannot always trust their employers to provide accurate information about their legal rights.
Sources of Financial Compensation for Injured Offshore Workers
1. Jones Act: Protection for Injured “Seamen”
The Jones Act is perhaps the most well-known law that protects offshore workers. Under the Jones Act, workers who qualify as “seamen” can file both fault-based and no-fault claims for financial compensation. Seamen include individuals who work onboard all variety of ships as well as those who work on mobile offshore drilling units, jack-up rigs and other floating platforms.
The no-fault benefits available under the Jones Act are known as, “maintenance and cure.” Maintenance benefits provide coverage for a small portion of injured seamen’s daily living expenses, while cure benefits are supposed provide full coverage for all job-related injury expenses. Workers who are eligible for maintenance and cure benefits are entitled to see their own doctors, and it is crucial that they not rely solely on the medical advice provided by company physicians.
In addition to providing for maintenance and cure, the Jones Act also allows injured seamen to seek full compensation when their employers are even “slightly” negligent in causing or contributing to their injuries. This is an extremely important right, and it is one of the primary reasons why all injured seamen should promptly seek legal representation.
2. Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act: Protection for Workers on Fixed Platforms
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) applies to offshore workers who do not qualify as “seamen” under the Jones Act. However, unlike the Jones Act, the OCLSA does not provide workers with two potential claims for compensation. Instead, the OCSLA is much more similar to the workers’ compensation laws that apply to non-maritime workers. It provides coverage for medical, physical therapy and rehabilitation expenses, and it includes partial wage replacement benefits (commonly referred to as “disability benefits”) which are calculated based upon the extent of the injury suffered.
3. The Law of Unseaworthiness: Protection for All Offshore Workers
Under the maritime law principle of “unseaworthiness,” offshore workers can seek full financial compensation for injuries suffered onboard dangerous vessels. This is true regardless of whether the injury occurs “on the job.” For example, if a platform worker falls down an unprotected stairwell while in transport onboard a crew boat, he or she can file a claim for unseaworthiness even though the accident may not have been strictly job-related.
There are numerous dangerous conditions that can render a vessel unseaworthy. For a list of the most-common examples, we encourage you to read: 10 Things that Can Make a Vessel Unseaworthy.
Speak with a Maritime Injury Lawyer about Your Rights
To make sure you fully protect your rights after an offshore accident, you need an experienced attorney on your side. At Morrow & Sheppard LLP, we have recovered millions for our clients, and we can use our extensive trial experience to help maximize your financial recovery. For a free and confidential consultation, call our Houston, TX law offices at (800) 489-2216, or contact us online and we will arrange for you to meet with a maritime lawyer as soon as possible.