Regardless of the type of job, offshore workers generally face greater risks of injury and even death than those in other industries. Unsafe working conditions, and defects in design or manufacturing can make a vessel dangerous, leading to accidents at sea.
Knowing your legal options when injured in an offshore accident will help get the best outcome for you and your family. Under maritime law, the Jones Act protects offshore workers if the vessel owner, operator, or even another employee, was negligent when an injury occurred. Ultimately, the Jones Act protects maritime workers from unsafe conditions and places accountability on the companies that employ them.
Understanding who qualifies as a seaman under the Jones Act is important because offshore workers are not covered by workers’ compensation. When an accident happens at the construction of an oil rig, wind farm, or other offshore site, or on the way to it, workers may be able to sue their employer for personal injuries under the Jones Act.
But the Jones Act is complex, and there are several factors to consider when making a claim. This is where an experienced Louisiana offshore injury attorney at Herman, Herman & Katz can help.
Who Qualifies as a Seaman Under the Jones Act?
If someone is injured while constructing, maintaining, repairing, or demolishing something offshore, a claim under the Jones Act may be possible. It also applies when workers are in transit; employees, machinery, and other items must be brought to these sites, and there are clear risks of injuries during these journeys. But in order to make a claim under the Jones Act, you must be considered a seaman.
In general, a key qualification to be considered a seaman is that the worker must spend at least 30% of their time on a “vessel in navigation” (or a fleet of vessels owned by the same employer). A vessel in navigation means it must be afloat, in operation, capable of moving, and on navigable waters.
While the ability to move is a fundamental qualification, the vessel doesn’t need to be moving when a crewmember is injured aboard – it can even be tied to a dock at the time. However, it’s important to note that those who are injured while working on an oil drilling platform don’t qualify because rigs are anchored in place, and therefore incapable of moving. In these situations, other areas of maritime law must be considered.
The Jones Act protects all workers, from the captain and technicians to operators and riggers. It has even protected cooks and administrative employees because a seaman must contribute to the vessel’s function and accomplishment of its mission, and many of these other jobs do.
This aspect of the Jones Act – what constitutes contribution on the part of the worker – is broad and unclear, reinforcing the need for a highly experienced Louisiana offshore injury attorney. In addition to meeting the definition of a seaman, claims must prove negligence on behalf of the owner, operator, or a co-worker, and that negligence contributed to causing the injury.
Offshore Wind Farms Coming to the Gulf of Mexico
Off the coast of Louisiana, wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico will soon become a reality; turbines could be in operation as early as 2028, providing a renewable source of energy to millions. Between construction and maintenance, wind farms could create up to 17,500 new jobs. With significant job losses in the oil and gas industry in recent years, new opportunities will provide a welcome boost in the area.
But it also means more offshore workers will be working in dangerous environments. Battling weather conditions, the use of heavy machinery, and long work hours, combined with jobs that require specific and significant training and certifications, creates certain risks of injury. Some types of offshore injuries on wind farms include falls from great heights (turbines can be several hundred feet tall), hearing damage from turbine noise, electrocution, falling blades, and equipment failures.
Injured Offshore? We can Help.
The negligence of companies that fail to create safe working conditions and training has led to many workplace injuries and death, and like other offshore workers, those on wind farms must be protected. When an employee is injured working on a wind farm, the Jones Act may be the best course of legal action.
If you or a loved one is injured or killed at sea, contact Herman, Herman & Katz for a free consultation. Our Louisiana maritime law attorneys have extensive experience representing offshore workers and their families, proving negligence as it applies to the Jones Act.
Jed Cain is a partner with Herman, Herman & Katz, LLC. He has dedicated his career to representing injured folks and their families.
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