What to Do If You’re Injured in an Offshore Accident or Explosion
Offshore drilling is by far the nation’s most dangerous industry. According to a recent study, offshore workers are 7-times more likely to suffer a fatal injury compared to workers in any other occupation.
If you or a loved one were hurt or tragically killed while working offshore, your employer will hire a team of lawyers to do everything possible to avoid responsibility and pay you as little as possible. If you don’t act quickly to protect your rights, chances are you and your family will never receive full compensation for all of your injuries and losses.
Which Maritime Laws Apply to Offshore Drilling?
Working at sea is inherently more dangerous than working on land. The constant presence of volatile and highly combustible gases and chemicals, along with heavy equipment create an environment that’s full of hazards. When the worst does happen, crews may have to wait hours for medical care to arrive on the rig.
Because the laws that apply to land-based workers were insufficient to protect those working at sea, laws were established to ensure the health, wellbeing, and rights of seaman and maritime employees.
General Maritime Law
General Maritime Law – also known as Admiralty Law — is a body of law developed by the courts over time (rather than by statute or legislation).
Its basic provisions guarantee that sea-based workers receive maintenance and cure – which includes payment for living expenses, lost wages, and medical care – in the event of an offshore injury or job-related illness.
These protections are automatic and based entirely on the employer-employee relationship. In other words, unlike the Jones Act, which requires evidence of negligence or unseaworthiness, offshore workers are entitled to receive maintenance and cure payments regardless of fault or how/why the injury or illness occurred.
General Maritime Law also requires a safe work environment. Employers who fail to provide a sufficient number of crew, safe equipment, and other protections to ensure the safety of seaman and other offshore workers can be held liable under the Jones Act or general maritime laws when an employee is injured.
The Jones Act
Also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act allows seamen to hold employers liable for injuries resulting from negligence.
In order to receive the protections of the Jones Act, an employee must be a “seaman,” which is establishing by meeting the following three elements:
- The worker must be employed on a vessel in navigation;
- The worker must contribute to the mission and purpose of the vessel; and,
- The worker must spend at least 30% of their employable time assigned to the vessel.
Whether or not an employee is a “seaman” for purposes of the Jones Act applies is highly fact intensive and complicated analysis that varies with the nature of their job. For example, a drilling platform that’s permanently anchored to the bottom of the ocean would not be considered a “vessel in navigation.”
However, special-purpose vessels, such as jack-up and semi-submersible rigs, mobile offshore drilling units, barges, and dredges will typically satisfy the definition of a “vessel in navigation.”
Death on the High Seas Act
Congress established the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) in 1920 to allow family members to file a lawsuit against the worker’s employer when a loved one’s wrongful death occurs on the high seas.
Under DOHSA, a spouse, child, parent, or dependent relative can file a lawsuit against a responsible person or vessel owner when their loved one is killed while working more than three miles offshore. In certain circumstances, DOHSA may also apply to deaths that occur due to a helicopter or plane crash at sea.
To obtain compensation, the survivors must prove that a vessel owner or other responsible party was negligent in causing their family member’s death.
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act was passed in 1953 to extend rights provided under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) to maritime workers on the Outer Continental Shelf who the Jones Act or DHOSA does not otherwise cover. These individuals include workers aboard:
- Offshore oil and gas drilling rigs
- Floating processing and production systems
- Offshore storage facilities
- Wind turbines
- Loading and offloading systems
- Floating drydocks
- Artificial islands
OCSLA claims can include compensation for medical costs, disability payments, and rehabilitation costs for injury or illness that occurred while working on the Outer Continental Shelf. The Act also provides benefits to families of employees who were killed while working on the Outer Continental Shelf.
The laws governing offshore injury are complex, and the question of whether claims should be brought under General Maritime Law, the Jones Act, DOHSA, or OCLA is best answered by an Experienced Maritime Lawyer with a successful record against the largest offshore operators in the world.
Common Causes of Offshore Explosions and Accidents
Having won Billions for maritime and offshore workers injured in connection with the worst offshore explosions and accidents in history, it’s become clear that offshore accidents and explosions are entirely preventable and almost always the result of the company’s failure to follow vital safety laws, industry best practices, and their own safety rules and procedures.
Some of the most common causes of offshore injuries and deaths include:
- Transportation-Related Accidents: a large number of offshore accidents and fatalities are transportation-related. These accidents most often occur as workers and equipment are transported to and from a job site via a helicopter, boat or transfer basket.
- Fires and Explosions: The presence of volatile hydrocarbons and other flammable materials make working on offshore rigs and platforms especially vulnerable to fires and explosion.
- Exposure to Hazardous Substances: Offshore workers are around hazardous substances—drilling fluid, solvents, and production chemicals—anytime they’re on the job. If they’re not provided with proper safety equipment and training, exposure can lead to debilitating injuries, chronic or terminal illness, and death.
- Slips and Falls: These injuries are usually the result of wet and slippery decks without the required “non skid”; loose lines or cargo; unmarked obstructions; a lack of barriers, guardrails, or safety nets; unsecured equipment; and poor lighting.
- Extreme Weather: Compared to onshore jobs, offshore oil and gas operations are far more vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. Usually, workers are evacuated when a hurricane or other extreme storm is expected. But because weather conditions can change quickly at sea, offshore workers are at constant risk of weather-related injuries and accidents.
Protecting Your Rights and Your Family’s Future After an Offshore Injury
No matter what your employer, their claims adjuster, or their attorneys might tell you after an offshore accident or explosion, it’s important to remember that their #1 priority is saving money and paying you and your family as little as possible for your injuries and losses. Don’t take them at their word and place your future – and your family’s future – in their hands.
In all likelihood, the company is already working with a team of lawyers with the goal of blaming you for the accident or trivializing the severity of your injuries. In order to recover what you truly deserve, you need to take immediate action as well:
- Seek Immediate Medical Treatment: Even if you don’t think you were seriously injured, it’s essential to get checked out as soon as possible. Severe injuries may not be immediately apparent, especially when your adrenaline runs high after an explosion or other accident. Getting immediate care will ensure all of your injuries are documented at the earliest opportunity in the event your employer attempts to discount the severity of your injuries or when they occurred.
- Demand the Medical Care of Your Choice: If you need additional treatment after your initial ER visit, remember that you have the right to demand follow-up medical care with the healthcare provider of YOUR CHOICE. You are under no obligation to see doctors and specialists chosen and paid for by your employer or their insurance company.
- Make a Record of the Incident: As soon as you are able, write down or record everything you remember about the accident or explosion, including the names and phone numbers of anyone else who witnessed the incident.
- Don’t Sign Anything or Make a Recorded Statement: Whatever you do, do not give your employer or their insurer a recorded statement, sign ANY paperwork, or accept any money from the company (other than your regular paycheck) before speaking with an experienced maritime lawyer who has successfully represented injured offshore workers and their families.
- Follow Your Doctor’s Advice: Missing doctors’ appointments and failing to follow medical advice will only provide your employer with an excuse to downplay your injuries and pay you less than what you deserve.
- Contact an Experienced Maritime Lawyer: To avoid costly mistakes, contact an Experienced Offshore Injury Lawyer with a track record of winning the largest maritime verdicts and settlements in history for injured offshore workers.
Undefeated Offshore Injury Lawyers with Billions Won: Call 1-888-603-3636 or Click Here for a Free Consultation.
Having won Billions – including the largest maritime verdicts and settlements in history – for workers who were seriously injured, catastrophically burned, and tragically killed in connection with the worst offshore accidents and explosions along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coasts, our Undefeated Maritime Lawyers have the resources and experience to take on the largest oil and gas companies in the world and ensure our clients and their families are fully compensated for all of their injuries and losses.
If you or someone you love were injured or tragically killed in connection with an offshore accident or explosion, call 1-888-603-3636 or click here to send us an email through our “Contact Us” form.
Our attorneys will answer your questions, explain your rights, and provide the information you need to decide what’s best for you and your family.
Consultations are always free, and you won’t owe us a penny unless we win your case.