If you, a loved one or friend was injured working offshore, the injured person may have the right to make a claim for the damages he incurred as a result of the injury. Given that maritime law can be confusing and complicated, you should talk with one of our firm’s experienced offshore injury lawyers. And you should not sign anything before consulting one of our Houston maritime lawyers about your legal rights and options. In the event of an offshore injury that results in a death, various laws apply and various individuals have a right to make a claim including a person’s spouse, children, parents and estate.
When your case involves a serious injury or the loss of someone’s life, the offshore injury lawyers of Sutliff & Stout would encourage you to contact us as quickly as possible so that steps can be taken to preserve evidence and protect your legal rights. It is important to note that insurance companies and offshore companies want to pay you as little as possible and rarely do they offer to fairly compensate you for your loss without a fight. In these situations, our maritime lawyers will make sure that you are treated fairly under the law.]
The following are a few of the Federal statutes that apply to individuals working on navigable waterways:
The Jones Act: How it Protects Offshore Workers and Their Families
The Jones Act allows certain offshore workers to make a claim or file a lawsuit directly against his or her employer. This means that unlike a land based worker who is covered by worker’s compensation, you may sue your employer and collect money damages for any of your employer’s negligence or the negligence of a co-worker that caused your injury. To qualify as a Jones Act seaman, you must meet certain legal requirements which include being assigned to a vessel in navigation and substantially contributing to the mission of the vessel to which you were assigned. These preliminary requirements are sometimes relaxed depending on person’s job titled and duties (e.g. the test for a commercial diver to qualify as a Jones Act seaman is different than a tender on a vessel). Given the fact specific inquiry, it is important that you consult with an offshore injury lawyer that understands maritime law and the differences that exist for the different types of offshore workers.
Assuming you, your loved one or a friend qualifies as a Jones Act seaman, a special set of rules apply to the case. First, under the Jones Act you can hold your employer responsible for your injury if you can prove that your employer or a co-worker’s carelessness cased or contributed to your injury in any way. Unlike Texas worker’s compensation law, you must first show that your employer or co-worker caused or contributed to your injury. This can be shown by presenting evidence that your employer did or failed to do something that it should have done. Some examples would be if your employer failed to provide you with safe equipment or hired a competent crew.
If you can show that your employer is at fault for your injury, you still must deal with what is known as “comparative fault.” This is where your employer tries to blame you for your injury by saying that you should not have done something or you should have done something differently. This doctrine is one of the primary reasons that employers try to blame the injured worker. If your employer tries to make you give a recorded statement, you should ask to give a written statement instead so you can think about what occurred and be as accurate and comprehensive as possible in terms of what happened, why it happened, who saw what happed and what could have been done to prevent the injury. Oftentimes employers will want you to give a recorded statement at the doctor’s office or hospital when you are still dealing with the affects of the injury or trauma so you will not be as comprehensive and thoughtful as you need to be regarding what occurred.
Our experienced maritime and offshore injury lawyers can also help you get the maintenance and cure you are entitled to receive. Maintenance and cure is supposed to help a seaman with food and lodging when he becomes sick or injured while working in service of the ship. Maintenance includes the seaman’s living expenses and cure relates to the payment of medical or therapeutic treatment. A seaman’s right to these payments continues until he reaches “maximum medical recovery.” This simply means that it appears that further medical treatment will not make you any better. Unfortunately, many employers fail to comply with this obligation or pay an amount of maintenance that is insufficient under the law. Our Jones Act lawyers can help you hold your employer accountable and make sure that the maintenance and cure you receive is fair under the law.
Longshoremen 905(b) claims or 3rd Party Claims
If you fall under the Longshore Worker’s Compensation Act (“LHWCA”) as an injured worker, at least part of your claim will be handled through an administrative process. Nevertheless, it is still critical that you consult with an experienced maritime lawyer to determine whether you can make a claim against your employer under 905(b) or make a claim against a careless third-party. A “third-party claim” is where your injury was caused by the carelessness of someone other than your employer or fellow co-worker. In these situations, you have a right to file a claim against the careless party. Through this claim you can seek the recovery of past and future lost wages, past and future medical expenses, past and future pain and suffering and other types of damages.
Section 905(b) provides a limited exception to the prohibition of suing your employer under LHWCA. Specifically, under certain circumstances you can file a lawsuit against your employer “in its capacity as a vessel owner”. These types of claims are quiet complex and you need a qualified maritime lawyer to help you analyze your case and determine whether a 905(b) claim can be made.
If you, a family member or friend has been injured while working on a supply boat, tug boat, jack-up boat, jack-up rig, semi-submersible rig, offshore rig, barge, platform or working on the docks, contact on of our experienced offshore injury lawyers today to discuss your case and your legal rights.