Personal injury or wrongful death claims are complicated when they occur on land. They become even more complex when they take place on the sea. Such injuries include those injured on cruise ships, recreational boats and even those injured on drilling rigs.
A worker was recently killed on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. The man was working on a drillship called the Pacific Santa Ana. Reports say an accident occurred while the man was on board the drillship and he was fatally injured as a result. There were no other injuries reported as a result of the accident. The rig has been temporarily shut down and the United States Coast Guard is investigating the accident.
Injuries that result from accidents at sea are treated differently from those that occur on land and are governed by admiralty and maritime law. Often, when a worker is injured on a vessel at sea, any potential claims are subject to the Jones Act. This act allows crew members to sue their employers for negligence if it plays a role in their injuries. One of the requirements of a successful claim under the Jones Act is that it occurs on a vessel. A fixed oil rig is not considered a vessel, but a submersible oil rig is since it is navigable. In addition to this requirement, the injury must occur to someone classified as a seaman at the time of the injury. A seaman is anyone that contributes to the functioning of a vessel or its overall mission. This typically does not include workers that perform most of their activities on land or those that are merely being transported. Finally, the injured seaman must have been an employee of the owner of the vessel to be able to apply the Jones Act to their claim.
A successful claim under the Jones Act may entitle the injured seaman to compensation for medical expenses, value of room and board and lost earning, in addition to other expenses. It is therefore important that vessel owners and seaman understand their rights and obligations under the act.
Source: WABI.tv, "Hope Man Killed in Oil Rig Accident off Louisiana Coast," Terry Stackhouse, Oct. 21, 2015