What Law Applies to an Offshore Accident?

The Jones Act provides certain protections to workers on sea vessels which includes jack-up rigs and oil rigs that are not attached to the ocean floor such as floating oil rigs and drillships. Under the Jones Act, covered employees can recover for pain and suffering, disability, medical expenses, and lost wages.

Platforms are treated as land under maritime law, which makes the law applicable to them different from the law that would apply to an injury on a vessel.

Generally speaking, state law will control cases involving offshore platform injuries, unless there is some applicable federal law. However, it is possible that an injured platform worker could qualify for seaman status and be protected by the Jones Act and other maritime laws

Determining which law should apply to an offshore platform injury (such as the Death on the High Seas Act, for example) can be difficult. It is important that you talk to a maritime lawyer about it because if state law applies, you might have a shorter amount of time to bring a claim.

There is a large body of state and federal law applying to offshore accident claims. These include:

Longshoremen’s and Harbor Worker’s Act
Jones Act
State Personal Injury Law
Federal Tort Claims.
Trying to navigate these laws without an offshore accident attorney is like trying to pilot the seas without a map.

Different Federal Laws

There are multiple federal and state laws that apply to injured workers. For example, under the Jones Act, employers must provide seamen with a reasonably safe work environment and take care to maintain their vessels. If conditions on a vessel are unsafe, then the employer can be held liable for any resulting injuries. While the Jones Act sometimes applies to offshore drilling injuries, the determining factors are whether the worker qualifies as a “seaman” and whether the vessel is “in navigation.” Workers on stationary/fixed offshore drilling facilities likely aren’t eligible for Jones Act protections.

If the Jones Act does not cover an injured offshore oil worker, the Longshore Act may apply. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is a federal law that provides compensation to injured maritime workers. The most important distinction between the Jones Act and the Longshore Act is the scope of coverage. While the Jones Act only applies to seamen, those seamen are not covered under the Longshore Act. Coverage under the Longshore Act extends to any longshoreman, or other person engaged in longshoring operations, and harbor workers, including shipbuilders, ship repairmen and ship-breakers.

If neither the Jones Act nor Longshore Act applies, then general maritime law may apply. General maritime law covers all activities that take place on navigational vessels on oceans, seas and lakes. Maritime law governs marine trade, shipping, sailors, passengers and the transportation of goods.

Every case is different, and not every set of facts fits squarely into one legal box. An experienced attorney will help you determine which law applies to your particular circumstances.

Contact ffshore Accident Lawyer Firm for a free consultation if you or a loved one has been injured while working on an offshore oil-and-gas production platform or drilling rig. We will determine what law applies to your situation and help you recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

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