If you were injured while working offshore, your need to recover compensation is the same as it would be for someone who suffered a work injury on land. The laws that apply in your case are very different, however. Fortunately, a variety of acts and statutes exist to protect workers employed on offshore oil rigs, commercial fishing vessels, container ships, and other kinds of watercraft. Getting in touch with an offshore injury lawyer is an essential step towards exercising your rights.
I Was Just in an Accident: How Soon Should I Get an Offshore Injury Lawyer?
After you have been injured offshore, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. The deadlines that apply in maritime work injury cases are different from those that apply in workers’ compensation cases. If you are eligible to file a claim under the Jones Act, which allows many injured seamen to seek compensation for their losses, you will need to submit your claim within three years of the incident.
While three years might sound like a long time, maritime accidents are notoriously complex and might require an extensive investigation. Depending on what kind of accident you suffered, your attorney may need to bring in a team of engineers, doctors, admiralty law experts, and other professionals to determine cause and fault. Additionally, your lawyer will need to identify which maritime laws apply, based on where your accident occurred and how you were employed.
What Qualifications Will My Lawyer Need to Have?
There are many lawyers in Texas who specialize in personal injury, but few are qualified to handle maritime accidents. You will need to contact an experienced professional who is well-versed in the laws that could apply in your case, including:
- The Jones Act
- The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
When you first meet with an offshore injury lawyer in Houston, TX, you can ask about his or her track record. Be sure that he or she has successfully argued maritime accident cases in the past and that he or she has a robust network of expert witnesses who could prove valuable to you. Many employers have insurance policies that cover maritime accidents, so your lawyer should be comfortable going up against both large corporations and insurance companies.
How Can I Collect Benefits After a Maritime Accident?
Your lawyer will help you identify what benefits you can collect and how you can go about pursuing them. In general, most workers who are injured at sea have the right to collect compensation for their medical expenses and the money they need to cover the cost of living as they recover. Many offshore workers can also recover their lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages by filing a negligence claim.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act is a federal law that is described under Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It provides protection for offshore workers by allowing seamen to seek compensation from their employers in the case of a work injury at sea. Under the Jones Act, you have a right to your unearned wages and “maintenance and cure” payments, which are intended to cover your basic living expenses and medical treatments.
Under the Jones Act, you are allowed to file a negligence claim if your injury was caused by your employer, the captain of the vessel, or a coworker. Your claim could be based on the unseaworthiness of the vessel, a failure to follow safety protocols, or another oversight. The benefits you can receive are similar to those provided in a typical personal injury case, including current and future lost wages, reduced earning capacity, and ongoing medical expenses
Other Acts Pertaining to Offshore Injuries
While the Jones Act applies in many maritime cases, it does not wholly encompass all of the possibilities for being injured offshore. You can only file under the Jones Act if you fit the definition of a seaman, which includes performing more than 30% of your work offshore. Additionally, certain offshore zones fall under the jurisdiction of other acts.
Your lawyer may determine that you are eligible to file a claim under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), which makes provisions for injuries that occur more than three miles offshore along the continental shelf of the U.S. If you cannot file either a workers’ compensation claim or a Jones Act claim because you are a longshoreman or a harbor worker, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) could apply in your case. Other relevant statutes could include:
- The Public Vessels Act
- The Admiralty Extension Act (AEA)
- Acts pertaining to maritime piracy activities
Maritime accidents are a highly regulated subcategory of admiralty law that are compensated differently from workers’ compensation claims and other injuries that occur on land. Speaking with an attorney right away can help you start collecting benefits like maintenance and cure payments as soon as possible while ensuring that you reference the appropriate statutes when you seek full compensation.