MARITIME LAW FAQs
What is admiralty or maritime law?
The terms “admiralty law” and “maritime law” are often used inter alia. Black’s Law Dictionary defines maritime law as: “that system of law that particularly relates…to seaman, to the transportation of persons… by sea and to maritime affairs generally. [It is] the law relating to harbors, ships, and seamen and rights of masters and seamen, etc.”
Does admiralty or maritime law apply to oilfield workers?
In the first half of the last century, maritime claims for personal injury usually involved workers employed in the shipping industry – longshoreman, harbor workers and crew members aboard the large sailing ships sometimes referred to as “blue water” seaman.
However, shortly after the oil industry went off shore, several important court decisions extended the protection available under maritime law to offshore oilfield workers assigned to floaters – that is, special purpose structures capable of being floated from one location to another, like jack-up drilling rigs and dredgers. In fact, since 1959, many oilfield workers hurt on the job have been able to find protection under the general maritime law as, under the federal regulation – the Jones Act – passed by Congress for the benefit of traditional seamen employed shipboard.
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a federal law which allows a worker to sue his/her employer for negligence. For instance, under the Jones Act, an employer has a duty to provide its employees with a safe place to work. So, if a worker is injured, and the employer failed to furnish a safe work place, the worker may be able to recover such damages as described below.
Typically, the injured oilfield workers has at least two other claims with which he can make with his Jones Act Claim; namely, that his injury was caused by the unseaworthiness of the drilling rig on which he was working at the time of the injury, and, further, that he is entitled to maintenance and cure.
How does the Jones Act differ from workers’ comp?
The Jones Act provides a much broader remedy for maritime workers through the fault of another. Most workers’ compensation laws seriously limit the benefits available to the injured worker. However, under the Jones Act, a maritime worker can recover all of the damages traditionally associated with a lawsuit for personal injuries as is discussed in more detail below.
Does the Jones Act cover occupational illnesses, cumulative, repetitive stress injuries?
Yes, however the statute of limitation varies with these types of cases. It is important to contact an attorney as soon as you believe you have a problem.
What is unseaworthiness?
Simply put, a shipowner – or in the case of an oilfield drilling operation of a drilling rig – owes to every member of the crew the absolute duty to keep it in a condition that renders it reasonably safe for its intended use. The duty includes a duty to supply an adequate crew and reasonably fit tools and equipment for the work to be performed.
What is maintenance and cure?
Maintenance is the cost of food and lodging, and transportation to and from a medical facility, until no further improvement is expected from a disabling illness suffered while at work. Cure is the cost of all reasonable medical attention required by an injury or illness while in the service of the vessel to which he is assigned.
What damages can an injured maritime worker recover under the Jones Act?
Under the Jones Act, an injured worker can recover damages for:
Physical Pain and suffering, past, present and future;
Mental pain and suffering, past, present and future;
Past and permanent future disability including, scarring and disfigurement;
Loss of past and future wages;
Hospital and medical expenses;
Loss of enjoyment of life;
Loss of consortium for Jones Act or General Maritime Law.e.
What damages can be recovered by a spouse or dependent children if an oilfield worker is killed?
Under the Jones Act, a spouse or dependent children can recover damages such as death pain and suffering and pecuniary losses for funeral and burial expenses as well as for the loss of support and services.
What should I do if I am injured at work?
To protect your rights, it is vital that you:
Report any accident/injury as soon as possible after it happens – do not allow anyone to tell you what to write – do no allow anyone to talk you into leaving out facts you think are important – report everything you know regarding the accident/injury.
Do not allow anyone – anyone – to stop you from reporting an accident. Usually you will not be given a copy of the accident report so write down your own detailed account of the accident – include the date of the accident, where it happened, the weather conditions, the names of the individuals who either witnessed the accident or were in the vicinity of where it happened, and, most importantly all the events leading up to what happened.
Promptly seek medical attention from a doctor of your choice. In most cases, your regular family doctor is as good a choice as any.
Do not let anyone tell you that you are required to see the company doctor before you see your own doctor. This is simply not true.
Do not talk yourself out of a visit to the hospital or doctor because you believe the pain from your injury will go away with time – it may just get worse.
Do not talk yourself out of a visit to the hospital or to a doctor’s because you feel that others at work will be unhappy with you – your health is one important thing you have or own – take care of yourself.
Tell your doctor about any similar injuries which you may have suffered even if it was long ago.
Tell your doctor about every part of your body that was hurt in the accident even if you think it is only a minor injury – or that the pain will go away.
Follow your doctor’s advise – if you are not sure – call your doctor after you get home and tell a member of his staff about your concerns and ask that he call you.
If you have suffered an injury at work promptly learn about your legal rights and seek the advise and counsel of an experienced personal injury attorney who routinely handles offshore injury cases – in most cases, the initial consultation is free.
Do not speak with a claims adjuster.
Do not speak with an investigator who represents the other side.
Do not file for unemployment, if you are unable to work at regular job
Take photographs if you are able to of the accident scene or any tool or object involved in the accident/ask someone else to take photos for you of the accident and of any tool or object involved in your accident.
Make a diagram of the accident scene as soon after the accident as you can.
Keep a copy of all medical bills which come in your possession regarding the accident/injury.
If you miss time from work and have short/long term disability insurance – provide all necessary forms from your disability insurance company – discuss with your attorney – before filed.
If your injury suddenly worsens call your doctor or go to the local hospital without delay.
Will I be able to recover money even if I am partly at fault?
Yes. In most cases, accident victims can recover money even if they are partly to blame for the accident.
Do I need a lawyer to obtain fair compensation?
Yes. If you have been seriously injured or a member of your family has been involved in a work accident – either offshore or onshore – you should, without hesitation, promptly consult an attorney about your legal rights. Time is not on your side. Your employer and any other company involved in the accident started investigating the accident within 24 hours after it happened. You can’t afford to wait. J. Quentin Simon offers injured workers and their families a consultation to learn about all of your legal rights. Quentin will meet with you personally and answer all of your questions. If you think he is right about your case after you meet him, Quentin will promptly investigate your claim to make sure that none of the evidence important to prove your case is destroyed.