When Does Federal Maritime Law Apply To Oil And Gas Workers?
If you were hurt when working in the oil and gas industry, you may be wondering if maritime law applies to your injury. The answer is you likely have rights under federal maritime law as an oil or gas worker. You may be able to recover compensation for your pain and suffering, past and future medical care, lost wages, and potentially other incidental damages.
Discerning which maritime law does or does not apply to your particular oil and gas injury is why hiring an experienced maritime attorney is important.
Does the Jones Act apply to your oil and gas injury?
Offshore workers who are injured may be able to collect damages for their injuries under the Jones Act, but it is important to determine whether or not you are considered a “seaman.”
One area of the test under the Jones Act to determine if you are a seaman is whether you dedicate a substantial portion of your working hours to offshore work, which usually needs to be more than 30%. If this is the case, which usually is for most oil and gas workers, you may be able to utilize the Jones Act to protect you and receive compensation for injuries sustained as an offshore worker.
When does the Jones Act not apply to oil and gas workers’ injuries?
Some oil and gas workers do not qualify as seamen and do not receive the legal protections provided by the Jones Act. This applies to those who work onshore or on fixed oil platforms. Additionally, vessels covered by the Jones Act must be navigable, and cannot be permanently docked or moored to land. A fixed oil platform is connected to the floor of the ocean permanently, and if this is where you work the majority of the time, you may not qualify to seek damages under the Jones Act.
Failure to qualify under the Jones Act does not mean you have no legal rights or that you are precluded from compensation. You could seek compensation for your injuries under the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA), which will likely apply if your oil and gas vessel/rig/ship does not meet the criteria and definition of the Jones Act.
The Jones Act does provide a broader range of recoverable damages for oil and gas workers than the LHWCA. These include past and future medical care costs, past and future lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The LHWCA, by contrast, is more like a worker’s compensation claim under state law. The LHWCA does allow for attorney fees to be paid separately from recoverable monies in the Longshore claim process and is typically going to be a faster turnaround than a Jones Act claim. LHWCA damages recoverable are typically limited to wage loss benefits and medical treatment coverage. If there are permanent injuries or death, additional benefits under the LHWCA may be available.
Can a maritime lawyer assist with my claim?
A maritime lawyer is invaluable to the claims process, as they can analyze the specific facts of your oil and gas injury and let you know which maritime law applies to your case. Furthermore, their law firm and their resources can assist in investigating your case, organizing evidence for your claim, and putting the documentation together to prove negligence that led to your injury. An experienced maritime attorney is also going to provide the expertise in assisting you in understanding the value of your claim.
You have up to three years to file a Jones Act lawsuit under federal law, but you may have even less time under other maritime laws. You should always consider retaining a maritime attorney. If you would like to discuss your potential maritime injury claim, call 504-500-1111 to speak with one of our injury attorneys today.