There are many ways an employee can get injured while working on the water. Being injured on a vessel at sea, on the Gulf Coast, in a river system or on an offshore oil rig can be devastating. State worker’s compensation laws will not provide compensation for these injuries. Instead, federal maritime laws/admiralty laws come into play. These federal laws often provide more benefits than State worker’s compensation laws.
Coverage Under the Jones Act:
One common area of federal maritime law is the Jones Act. The Jones Act provides compensation when a “seaman” is injured or develops an illness while aboard or in connection with a “vessel”. Jobs that qualify a worker as a seaman, and that are typically covered by the Jones Act, include:
- Captains and crew members
- Roughnecks, drillers, derrickmen, 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
Covered “vessels” include all types of ships and boats, including:
- Offshore oil drilling rigs, drilling ships and production platforms
- Commercial shrimp boats, fishing boats and crabbers
- Casino boats
- Commercial trawlers
- Tankers, barges, and tugboats
- Container and cargo ships.
Many injuries suffered while working on a vessel, along the Gulf Coast, in a river system, or on an offshore oil rig are covered by the Jones Act. There are many ways you can be injured while working on a vessel, including but not limited to:
- Slips and falls on ladders, decks, or stairs
- Crane accidents
- Falling or shifting drilling pipes or equipment falling
- Injuries caused by improper lifting, loading, or hauling heavy equipment
- Fires or explosions
- Problems transporting to and from the workplace
Note that contract workers, longshoremen and harbor workers in many cases will not be covered under the Jones Act, but may be entitled to bring legal claims under other maritime laws for their injuries. These other laws will be discussed in a future blog.
An injured seaman may sue his or her employer under the Jones Act where the employer’s negligence contributed to the seaman’s injury. The seaman need only prove that the employer’s negligence was a cause, however slight, of the injuries to receive compensation. This makes Jones Act claims easier to prove in most cases than standard negligence claims. For example, compensation can often be obtained upon showing that there was an unsafe workplace, that work was performed in a dangerous way, that there were insufficient hands for the work to be done, or that a safety rule was not followed.
Damages that can be recovered as compensation under the Jones Act (in addition to maintenance and cure paid by the employer) include:
- Lost income, including wages lost because of the injury and future wages that could not be earned
- Medical expenses, past and future (and you the injured seaman gets to choose his or her own doctor)
- Pain and suffering, past and future
- In some cases, punitive damages can be recovered
If injuries and damages were caused by a third party, such as a subcontractor, the injured seaman can also file a claim to recover damages from that party. For more information on coverage and claims under the Jones Act, or if you or a loved one has suffered injury while out on the water, contact Van Cleave Law for a free consultation. Our dedicated legal team has the experience necessary to protect your rights and seek justice for your injuries and losses.