Offshore injuries usually fall under maritime or admiralty law. Claims and lawsuits for these injuries are usually brought pursuant to the Jones Act. To recover under the Jones Act, an injured worker must establish that he/she was injured while in the service of a vessel or identifiable fleet of vessels and that he/she met the "Jones Act seaman status" while assigned to the vessel(s). Considerations that determine "vessel" status include such things as whether there is a crew, crew quarters, navigational equipment, Coast Guard registration, and lifeboats. Common types of vessels which qualify as a vessel are barges, tug/push boats, supply boats, dredge barges, and ships. While it is required for a vessel to be capable of transportation over navigable waters, it is not required for transportation to be the primary purpose of the vessel. Navigational waters include the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River, and such large bodies of water such as The Great Lakes. The mere capability of transportation over navigable waters is usually sufficient to meet "vessel" status, even if the vessel was not engaged in transportation at the time of the injury. This means that oil rigs/platforms in the Gulf of Mexico which are stationary when an injury occurs can be classified as a "vessel" if they are capable of transportation and are equipped with certain navigational aids. However, fixed oil rigs/platforms which are permanently affixed to the ocean floor do not meet "vessel" status under the Jones Act, and injuries occurring on those types of rigs/platforms fall under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. To meet "seaman status" an injured worker has the burden to show that he/she is assigned to and "in the service" of a vessel or identifiable fleet of vessels. This burden is usually met by showing that the worker contributed to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of the vessel's mission, and at least 30% of his/her working time is spent aboard the vessel(s).
Once an injured worker establishes that he/she is a "seaman in the service of a vessel" and, therefore, covered by the Jones Act, he/she must then establish that the vessel on which the injury occurred was unseaworthy and that such unseaworthiness caused the injury. Examples of unseaworthiness include inadequate crew, malfunctioning equipment or tools, unsafe ladders, steps, and rails, failure to have adequate safety equipment, and failure to adequately train the crew. In short, a vessel is considered unseaworthy if the vessel does not provide the seaman with a safe and suitable environment to perform his/her work.
Injured workers who are injured offshore and are covered by the Jones Act are entitled to recover certain compensation and damages including Maintenance (certain weekly benefits until the maximum medical cure is reached), Cure (medical treatment until the maximum cure is reached), lost wages, loss of wage earning capacity, past, present and future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and mental/emotional anguish damages.
We at Ben Bowden, PC can evaluate whether your offshore injury is one which is covered by the Jones Act and we can assist you in obtaining maximum recovery for your injuries.