The Gulf Coast of Mexico and other coastal regions surrounding the United States involve a lot of work that is highly and unreasonably dangerous. Each day there are many incidents that lead to serious injury or wrongful death to the thousands of “seamen” who perform these arduous tasks offshore on “vessels.” Typically, these cases fall under the “Jones Act.” Unfortunately, these injuries occur in large part because billion-dollar oil companies place profits over safety and fail to ensure that their employees are equipped with the necessary resources – time, equipment, man-power – to perform their job in a safe manner. History has shown that unless these employers are forced to take responsibility for their actions, nothing will change.
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is based on US Federal law that ensures compensation to seamen or family members of a seamen who sustained injuries while working offshore on a vessel. In an offshore case, there are typically many different companies that may be responsible for the injuries or loss to a loved one. These claims are very unique given the amount of parties involved, coupled with the extensive amount of investigating that has to be performed to navigate all the different issues that are involved.
What are my Legal Rights as a Seaman?
To know if you have legal rights as a seaman under the Jones Act, first, you need to establish if you qualify as a seaman at the time of injury. Often times people assume that being a seaman requires that one control the ship or its navigation. This is wrong. In order to qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, it is not incumbent for the injured party to have aided in the navigation of the vessel.
In one case, The United States Supreme Court declared that it is not the employee’s particular job that is determinative of his status as a Jones Act seaman but his connection to a particular vessel.
The United States District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, gave the following definition to the word “seamen”:
“For an employee to be a “seamen” the employee’s duties must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission, and, most important, the employee must have a connection to a vessel in navigation, or to an identifiable group of such vessels, that is substantial in terms of both its duration and its nature.”
When an injury occurs on a vessel (see definition below), it is important to consult with an experienced attorney to know if you or a loved have legal rights.
What is the Definition of a Vessel?
The next step is to see whether the incident in question took place on a vessel as defined by law. Historically, a vessel has been defined as a watercraft (ships, barges, tugs, or cargo carriers). In the early 2000’s, however, the Supreme Court expanded this definition to include most offshore oil rigs, dredges, jack-ups, and semisubmersibles. Ultimately, there is a wide array of ships, rigs, and platforms that could all qualify as a vessel.
This is yet another example of why it is important to seek legal care from experienced lawyers who are familiar with these nuances regarding vessels for purposes of pursuing reasonable and fair compensation under a Jones Act claim.
Financial Compensation for Claims that fall under the Jones Act
Seamen, or family members to a seaman, have a right to be compensated for any resulting injuries or damages that occur on a vessel. Where applicable, these damages can include:
- Past and future medical expenses;
- Past and future pain and suffering;
- Past and future disfigurement;
- Past and future impairment;
- Lost wages in the past;
- Loss of earning capacity in the future;
- Funeral expenses; and
- Loss of consortium.
Your Right to protect Yourself and those You love
It is your right to receive competent answers to your questions. As noted above, there are a lot of legal intricacies and fact-finding that must be fleshed out in offshore cases. Part of this process is knowing who qualifies as a seaman and whether or not the accident happened on a vessel. Given the serious nature of the different kinds of injuries involved in a Jones Act claim, coupled with the inevitable lifelong financial impact, these determinations should be handled by a law firm that has experience and results.
 McDermott Int’l, Inc. v. Wilander (1991, US) 112 L Ed 2d 866, 111 S Ct 807, 91 Daily Journal DAR 2056, 1991 AMC 913 Parker v. Jackup Boat Service, LLC, 542 F.Supp.2d 481, United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana.