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Maritime Law: Protecting Injured Oil and Gas Workers Like You

Working in the offshore oil and gas industry can offer huge rewards. Great pay, benefits and opportunities for career advancement entice many to sign on as a driller, derrick hand, motor hand, roustabout or roughneck in spite of hard, dirty work and long stretches away from their families.

Our economy depends on this industry. But when maritime accidents happen offshore, they can have catastrophic consequences on the individuals affected and their families. Back injuries, burns and broken bones … These are devastating injuries that leave lives upturned and livelihoods lost.

We know the work environment on a drilling rig is harsh, noisy and dirty. But that doesn’t mean it has to be unsafe. In fact, the drilling companies are bound by a legal responsibility to keep you—the worker—protected from injury and illness while you’re on the job.

When an employer fails to provide a safe environment, the consequences might include accidents, injuries and even death. That’s why the law is meant to protect workers and their rights.

However, the law isn’t simple. Louisiana governs offshore injuries by a set of laws that differ from those that apply to accidents on land. They can be confusing, and we don’t recommend trying to figure them out without help.

That’s why offshore accident victims may never be able to get their lives back on track after they suffer a serious injury or illness on the job if they don’t get guidance from someone who truly knows how to handle these kinds of complex legal cases.

Let’s look at some of the laws that apply to you if you are injured while working on offshore oil and gas platforms. Then, we’ll look at some of the things to consider whether or not you want to file a claim against a negligent operator.

Admiralty law, or maritime law, governs offshore drilling activities off the coast of Louisiana. It refers to a body of regulations that give offshore workers who have suffered injury or illness the right to recover fair financial compensation.

Maritime law can be categorized into two types.

One is the compilation of federal statutes passed over the years (including the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act).

The second is called "common law" and has developed naturally by major court decisions through the years. One component of common maritime law is the doctrine of "maintenance and cure," which provides living expenses, lost wages and medical care to seamen when they are injured while working offshore.

For centuries, seafaring nations have provided room, board and medical care to seamen in the event of a maritime injury. Today’s maintenance and cure benefits and rights are the direct result of this tradition. Let’s look at what each term means:

  • Maintenance is compensation paid to an injured worker to cover living expenses during recovery. It is used to pay for rent or mortgage, food, utilities, insurance and travel expenses while undergoing medical treatments. The amount will depend on your personal living expenses. Before accepting a maintenance fee offer from your maritime employer, discuss it with your attorney. Otherwise, you run the risk of being “lowballed.”
  • Cure refers to restitution for medical care and related expenses. It can include compensation for doctor visits, medications, physical therapy and counseling. As with maintenance fees, employers will often offer less than you need, so make sure you speak to an experienced maritime lawyer before signing anything.

Maintenance and cure are not the same as disability and isn’t a permanent, even if your injury has resulted in permanent disability. Once you are considered to have reached “maximum cure,” your employer is no longer required to pay maintenance and cure benefits.

Aside from the common law, serval federal maritime laws cover employees who work offshore and on rigs, including:

  • The Jones Act: Protects workers who spend the majority of their time at sea;
  • The Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA): Provides compensation to families and dependents of seaman and maritime workers who die as result of negligence;
  • The Oil Pollution Act (OPA): Provides compensation for injuries sustained by a spill or other refinery or rig catastrophe;
  • The Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation (LHWCA): Protects maritime workers in non-seaman occupations, including those who work on oil rigs and other offshore facilities;
  • The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act: Extends protections to employees under the LHWCA to employees exploring, developing and extracting natural resources on the outer continental shelf (OCS).

Here’s one example: Where the drilling structure is a fixed platform resting on the bed of the Gulf of Mexico in federal waters, the OCSLA allows the injured worker to recover damages from the party responsible for the accident.

Here’s another: A noisy drilling rig can, over time, cause hearing loss and even deafness. The LHWCA protects workers who experience hearing loss due to improper training on the use of personal protective equipment.

Have You Been Injured?

You need someone with the knowledge and skill to evaluate and investigate your unique situation. The oil and gas exploration and production industry requires a thorough understanding of all laws and statutes that apply to offshore and maritime injury claims. Anderson, Dozier, Blanda & Saltzman can help you file your legal claim, litigate your case and you work toward obtaining the full value of your claim.

We can also deal with insurance companies on your behalf, making sure you can pay for vital medical care and getting the counseling and mental support you need to get you through a terrible time in your life.

The attorneys at Anderson, Dozier, Blanda & Saltzman have over 90 years of combined experience representing injured oil and gas workers in maritime law. As one of the top offshore law firms in Louisiana, we have successfully litigated many cases involving oil rig injuries in both state and federal waters. Cases just like yours. Call us today.

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