Maritime and oil rig workers have exposure to numerous dangers. People working these high-risk jobs often deal with heavy leads, large equipment, and the unpredictable nature of the ocean daily.
Because of the high risk of sustaining severe, life-changing injuries in these occupations, Congress passed the Jones Act in 1920. The Jones Act gives injured seamen and those working in the oil and gas industry the right to hold their employers liable for any negligent acts that caused an accident that resulted in the victim sustaining injuries and other losses.
If you suffered injuries while working on an oil rig out at sea, you shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket to cover the cost of your medical expenses. An experienced Jones Act accident lawyer can file a claim on your behalf and help you seek the maximum amount of compensation you’re entitled to in your case.
What Is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act, passed in the wake of WWI, allows maritime workers, including oil rig workers, to recover compensation for injuries and losses they sustain while working at sea. The Act protects seamen and offshore oil rig workers, but it also governs the transportation of merchandise on waterways in the United States.
Through the Jones Act, the government can protect the domestic shipping industry from national security threats by securing the nation’s internal shipping lanes. Granting permission exclusively to U.S-controlled vessels to transport merchandise encourages vessel safety and environmental accountability while advancing the domestic economy.
When vessels must abide by U.S guidelines, it ensures the safety of crew members working on vessels and upholds our collective responsibility to environmental preservation. Understanding the types of injuries covered under the Jones Act may require the help of an experienced maritime lawyer.
Generally, an oil rig worker who spends more than 30 percent of their time serving a vessel on navigable waters and is injured has the right to seek compensation for their injuries. Common injuries sustained by oil and maritime workers covered under The Jones Act include injuries due to faulty equipment, falling objects, poor training, an explosion, fire, or chemical burn.
Because oil rig workers often work long hours, almost every rig worker may be eligible for compensation whether an accident occurs while drilling or mining the vessel. Additionally, the Jones Act often covers offshore injuries on a jack-up rig or another type of mobile vessel, as these rigs are seagoing vessels.
If you or a loved one sustained an injury while employed on an oil rig, reach out to an experienced Jones Act attorney who can help determine whether your case meets the compensation criteria of the Jones Act. Experienced lawyers will evaluate your legal options and fight to obtain compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional pain and suffering.
What Are Maintenance and Cure Benefits?
Under The Jones Act, employers of maritime and oil rig workers must provide their employees with a secure workplace. The vessel that the crew members must live and work on should be maintained regularly and kept reasonably safe.
Additionally, under The Jones Act, an employer is responsible for maintaining equipment, onboard machinery, and other structural components in working order. Safety procedures and policies must be in place on a ship to protect crew members.
The Jones Act ensures that injured seamen and oil rig workers receive maintenance and cure benefits if they suffer injuries while working on a vessel. If you were injured while working as a seaman, vessel crew member, or oil rig worker and your employer’s negligence caused your injury; you may be eligible to receive compensation for your losses.
Examples of employer negligence include failure to provide necessary safety gear, uphold safe work practices, improper crew training, failure to maintain equipment, and assault by a coworker.
Injured maritime and oil rig workers are entitled to receive maintenance and cure benefits regardless of who was at fault for their injury. Maintenance benefits include expenses related to the injured party’s room and board while they recover. These benefits only cover necessary household expenses such as the mortgage, property tax, homeowners’ insurance, utility, and food. Cure benefits cover the injured party’s medical expenses, including transportation to and from medical appointments.
Your employer often determines the value of these benefits, and in some cases, they may argue that it’s paid for long enough. An injured oil rig worker should receive maintenance and cure benefits until a doctor determines they’ve reached a point of maximum medical improvement.
If your employer fails to pay these benefits until you reach full recovery, a seasoned Jones Act accident lawyer can help you recover the compensation you need and deserve to move forward.
Claims Process for The Jones Act
The Jones Act protects maritime and oil rig workers by encouraging vessel owners and operators to keep safe and secure work environments. It also helps injured workers recover as much of their normal life as possible after an accident. After an accident, your focus should be on healing and recovery. Let a Jones Act accident lawyer help you recover the financial compensation you need to move forward after an accident.
The steps in the Jones Act claims process follow:
- The injured oil worker reports the injury to a captain or supervisor
- The company requests an accident report
- The oil rig worker receives medical treatment for their injuries
- The injured party hires a Jones Act accident attorney
- Both parties decide to settle the case or file a lawsuit
If an oil rig worker falls ill due to their employer’s negligence, they have a right to file a lawsuit against them. Additionally, if a crew or vessel is determined to be unseaworthy, the injured party has a right to pursue additional compensation. In cases where an employer refuses to pay maintenance and cure benefits, the injured oil rig worker has a right to seek punitive damages.
An experienced Jones Act lawyer can help you recover compensation for the cost of living during recovery, medical expenses, lost wages, including future earning capacity, mental anguish, and any suffering, disfigurement, or physical pain.
How Does the Jones Act Apply to Oil Workers?
Affected or injured workers must be considered “seamen” by spending more than 30 percent of their time working on an oil rig to receive compensation under the Jones Act. Additionally, an oil rig worker protected by The Jones Act must work on an offshore vessel in navigable waters, or their work must contribute to the vessel’s purpose or mission.
Any oil station located on the U.S Outer Continental Shelf is subject to the Jones Act and must abide by specific safety guidelines. A few conditions must be met under maritime law for a gas or oil site to be considered a seagoing vessel.
The types of oil rigs that qualify under the Jones Act include:
- Drilling ships
- Mobile or jack-up rigs
- Semi-submersible rigs
- Tension leg platforms
Consult an experienced maritime accident lawyer who can review your case and advise you whether The Jones Act covers the structure where you were injured.
When a facility is attached to the ocean floor, it falls outside the provisions of the Jones Act; however, injured workers may still recover compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA).
Unlike the Jones Act, LHWCA covers land-based maritime workers like dockworkers injured through negligence who wish to pursue claims against their employers.
What’s the Difference Between the Jones Act and the LHWCA?
The Jones Act, the LHWCA, and general maritime law provide options to sailors, seamen, and oil rig workers to pursue compensation in case of an injury that results from negligence or a claim of unseaworthiness. Understanding which Act will provide coverage in your situation is essential and will help you decide how to pursue a claim or legal action against a negligent employer.
Some examples of oil rig unseaworthiness include:
- Failure to maintain and upkeep rig mechanisms
- Shortage of staff or necessary medical supplies
- Improper training
- Lack of adequate safety measures like warning lights
- Shortage of safety gear
- Failure to provide ample lifeboats or other emergency equipment
The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act will govern and provide coverage for maritime employees working on land or oil rigs permanently affixed to the ocean floor. The LHWCA functions similarly to a traditional workers’ compensation case and will generally, in most cases, provide a quicker turn-around.
Recoverable damages in these cases are typically limited to wage loss benefits and medical treatments. If an injured worker sustains permanent injuries, additional benefits may be available to recover. Surviving family members of a lost loved one involved in a fatal work-related accident may also pursue a wrongful death claim against their employer.
Both the Jones Act and LHWCA give seamen, dockworkers, and oil rig workers the right to file a claim against their employer or hold them responsible for unseaworthiness.
Under the Jones Act, an accident victim may recover a broader range of damages. However, bringing a lawsuit or insurance claim against your employer, the vessel owner, or another liable party under the Jones Act can take time. It may require the assistance of a seasoned maritime accident lawyer to determine if you qualify to recover compensation for your injuries.
If you were working on an oil rig and suffered injuries, you have a right to recover compensation for medical care costs, lost wages, and emotional pain and suffering damages.
Jones Act FAQs
#1. How can a Jones Act accident lawyer help me with my claim?
A maritime accident attorney can help you with your claim by providing advice concerning maritime laws and how they might apply in your case. Your lawyer will also thoroughly investigate your case and gather any necessary evidence to prove that your employer’s negligence was directly responsible for your injuries and losses. Finally, your attorney will estimate the potential value of your claim based on the evidence they’ve collected.
#2. What’s the difference between The Jones Act and Workers’ Compensation?
Unlike a worker’s comp claim, under the Jones Act, an injured seamen or oil rig worker must prove that their employer or fellow crew member’s negligence was directly responsible for their injuries.
Additionally, injured maritime workers may recover damages for emotional distress, pain, and suffering in addition to retrieving economic compensation for financial losses. In a workers’ compensation claim, an injured employee cannot recover non-economic damages and may seek monetary compensation for their injuries regardless of who was at fault.
#3. What’s the difference between negligence and unseaworthiness?
Negligence is a careless or reckless act or omission. When filing a claim against a negligence employer, you must prove that they deliberately committed an error that led to the accident. Unseaworthiness does not require proof of fault and simply refers to a dangerous or defective condition aboard a ship.
#4. What is a maritime injury?
The justice system recognizes maritime injuries as any injury sustained by a seaman, oil rig worker, or crew member that happens while aboard a ship or vessel traveling in U.S navigable waters. This federal law is essential for maritime workers who are not qualified to receive traditional workers’ compensation benefits and allows injured seamen to seek legal remedy under the Jones Act.
Contact a Jones Act Accident Lawyer Today
An oil rig worker may initiate a lawsuit against their employer if they are injured due to negligence while on the job. Oil rig workers may also pursue action against their employer for vessels determined to be unseaworthy. Jones Act Accident attorneys are ready to review your case and help you understand what legal options are available for compensation.
After an offshore injury on an oil or gas rig, the last thing you should worry about is how to cover the cost of your medical expenses. Let a lawyer fight for the compensation you need and deserve to preserve your health and protect your financial future.