Jack-up oil rigs are considered by federal maritime law to be vessels. Thus, workers on those rigs are usually considered crewmen of those vessels, and are covered by the Jones Act. Workers on jack-up rigs who work for a subcontractor (such as drill mud or wire line companies) are not covered by the Jones Act, but have rights under general maritime law. Workers on fixed platforms are covered under the federal Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) which is a "no-fault" federal workers' compensation program that provides an injured worker 2/3 of his average weekly wage, payment of his reasonable medical expenses arising from his injury, as well as a scheduled award for permanent injuries, and the possibility of a permanent, total disability award with lifetime medical and wage loss benefits.
"In my 40 years of maritime law practice, I have found that some companies will pay injured workers under the Longshore Act rather than under maritime law. This can be cheaper for them, but the benefits to the worker are substantially less." Attorney John W. Merting
We have represented crewmen on drill rigs from entry level roustabout all the way up to the rig manager. In serious injury cases, the employer's usual practice is to have tape recorded statements taken by an experienced investigator who works from a script. In a case of extremely serious injuries, the employer has even flown its lawyers out to the rig to take these statements before the injured individual has an opportunity to confer with an attorney to advise them of their rights.
I have always advised injured individuals to be certain that any form they fill out regarding the accident is absolutely accurate before they sign it. Many times, the company/employer will have the statement prepared in a manner favoring their interest and simply present it to the employee for signature. They are looking for means to blame the injured worker as much as possible, which reduces their liability by the percentage of negligence attributable to the injured worker. The injured worker should be sure to note on any incident report any acts or omissions that caused or contributed to his injury. These could be due to insufficient crew for the task assigned, insufficient training, inadequate equipment to perform the assigned task, as well as negligent or improper acts by fellow workers, whose negligence is attributed to the employer. Many times, there are dangerous conditions on the rig such as slippery substances on working surfaces, foreign or non-existed nonskid on steps and ladders, or worn or defective tools and equipment.
We have also represented many crewmen on supply and crew boats, as well as helicopter passengers being transported to offshore oil rigs. Injuries on board these craft frequently result from some of the same deficiencies found on the offshore oil rigs. Additionally, operating in bad weather, in rough weather conditions with an inadequate crew, or a crew working extended hours, frequently results in serious injuries.
Persons who work offshore are frequently caught in the difficult situation of being required to report all injuries, no matter how minor, but thereby risk the consequences of such report on loss of safety bonuses and resulting condemnation by fellow workers and the employer. The seaman is obviously the ultimate judge of what he should do in each such circumstance; however, every significant injury should be clearly reported and documented with not only the incident report, which the injured seaman should retain a copy of, and document the injury and the circumstances involved with photographs.
We have talked to many injured seaman via their cellphones while they are still off shore when they call our toll free number. We are happy to advise them of their rights, answer their questions, and fully assist them in any way possible while they recover from their injuries.
We would be pleased to answer your questions and concerns should the occasion ever arise. Call 866-416-4412 or contact us for a free consultation.