Maritime and offshore workers face major risks and hazards on the job and can, sometimes, get injured. In case you are injured while undertaking your duties at an offshore oil rig in Louisiana, it's your right to be compensated for your losses. You can file a claim in nearly any Lafayette court that handles injury cases. However, before filing a maritime personal injury claim in Lafayette, it is prudent to hire an experienced offshore lawyer to improve your odds of getting a fair settlement.
Louisiana maritime laws are quite complex and navigating them requires knowledge and experience, which a specialized offshore attorney has. The lawyer will guide you on how to file a claim and help you negotiate a settlement with the insurance company or your employer. The attorney can also represent you in court if the case goes to trial.
Types of Offshore Accidents and Injuries
Offshore workers face various risky situations that can leave them injured or even lose their lives. A competent offshore injury lawyer can help you file a claim and negotiate a settlement with your employer as well as the insurance company.
An attorney can also help you follow up on claims for complex cases. For example, can you get compensated when your ship is caught in bad weather and you get injured during the commotion? In such a case, a lawyer can help you to figure out how you can get compensation, even though no party can be blamed for negligence.
In the maritime and offshore rigs industries, it is not uncommon for accidents to occur with no negligence. However, in most cases, the employer could have put measures that could protect employees from getting hurt when accidents happen. For example, the employer is responsible for ensuring that the ship is in good working order. Moreover, all employees should be trained to do their jobs and the necessary safety equipment made available.
If your employer failed to do something, which led you to be injured during an accident, he or she would be held liable for negligence.
Some of the common maritime injuries include:
- Injuries sustained in case of piracy
- Injuries that occur on the Outer Continental Shelf as stipulated in the OCSLA (Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act)
- Injuries sustained by employees that work for the Military Sealift Command Program
- Injuries sustained in public vessels as outlined in the Public Vessels Act (PVA) and Suits in Admiralty Act (SAA)
- Deaths due to the employer's negligence or unseaworthy vessel. The compensation for these injuries is outlined in the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA).
- Injuries sustained by workers that are not seamen. The compensation for these victims is outlined in the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA).
- Injuries or deaths resulting from oil rig explosions
Louisiana law protects all individuals that are injured in oil rig or maritime accidents. One of the laws that preserves your rights and interests in these accidents is the Jones Act.
What is Covered by the Jones Act?
The Jones Act provides a number of protections for people that get injured while working on ships and other sea vessels. The Act covers not only seamen but also workers in jack-up rigs and oil rigs that are not attached to the floor, e.g., drillships and floating oil rigs.
Under the Jones Act, injured employees can file claims to be compensated for pain and suffering they may experience while on a vessel. Other losses covered under the Act include lost wages, medical expenses, and disability.
You will need an experienced attorney to help you determine whether you have a strong case for filing a claim under the Jones Act. However, to win compensation, the lawyer must show that the losses you incurred were due to the employer's negligence. However, the burden of proof required under the Jones Act is quite low than normal. In fact, the burden is usually referred to as “featherweight burden” because you do not need a lot of proof to tilt the scales of justice ton your favor.
What Are Your Rights in an Offshore Oil or Gas Accident?
Generally, the Jones Act does not cover workers that get injured on fixed offshore oil and gas platforms. However, restitution for most offshore injuries and deaths that occur in the oil path are addressed under general maritime law. An experienced maritime attorney will educate you on what the law says if you have been injured in an offshore drilling rig in Louisiana.
According to Louisiana maritime law, victims of offshore rig accidents can be covered for the following injuries:
- Injuries or accidents that happen on a fixed gas or oil platform. However, for a victim to be compensated, he must have been spending more than 30 percent of his time on a vessel.
- Fatalities or injuries sustained on a floating platform, barge, or drilling vessel
- Fatalities or injuries sustained in transit from or to the platform. Compensation will be awarded regardless of whether the transporting craft is a helicopter, crane, boat, or ship.
Sometimes, your injuries may not be caused by the negligence of any party as stipulated in no-fault recovery under Louisiana law. Despite this, you may still be able to win an admiralty or maritime law claim against a third party for your injuries. For this to happen, the third party must have been purposefully negligent or failed to act in a certain manner, which led to the occurrence of the accident.
The Role of Maintenance and Cure
The compensation given to injured seamen is known as maintenance and cure. The settlement features two distinct elements:
Maintenance – This refers to modest payments that are made to an ailing worker while he or she is recuperating. The compensation is meant to help the individual with day-to-day living expenses.
Maintenance compensation is given to injured seamen regardless of whether they had any role to play in the accident.
Cure – This refers to the amount offered to help the injured worked foot medical-related expenses. An experienced maritime attorney will help you determine a fair amount of cure compensation to demand from the employer or insurance company.