Lake Charles Offshore Accident Raises Questions about Safety Standards and Offshore Workers’ Rights

In light of a recent tragic offshore accident near Lake Charles, oilfield vessel operators need to be held responsible for their failure to provide safe working conditions to employees. According to The Daily Advertiser, federal authorities believe that the fatal accident occurred when an offshore worker fell while transferring from a vessel to a platform. Oilfield vessel operators often abuse their broad authority over employees, and workers who are seriously injured should not hesitate to seek legal counsel.

Maritime law applies to workers injured on navigable waters. Applicable maritime laws include the Jones Act or the Longshoreman Harbor and Workers Act. The Jones Act permits an injured seaman to recover for an injury that occurred as a result of his employer’s negligent operations or use of unseaworthy vessels. An individual may only recover under the Jones Act if he establishes seaman status. This is a highly fact-sensitive inquiry and largely depends on the facts surrounding the accident and the characteristics of the vessel. This inquiry depends on whether the worker is a member of the vessel’s crew or merely a land-based employee who happens to be working on the vessel. Generally, courts look to the total circumstances of the individual’s employment to make this determination.

If the Jones Act applies, a seaman may have three distinct claims. First, the seaman may be entitled to maintenance and cure from his employer if he is injured while “in the service of the vessel.” Maintenance is small daily compensation intended to provide food and shelter that the seaman would have received on the vessel. Cure creates an obligation for the seaman’s employer to provide medical treatment and related expenses until the seaman reaches maximum medical improvement. Second, the seaman may bring a claim against his employer in tort for the employer’s negligent acts or omissions which caused the injury. Finally, the seaman may sue the vessel’s owner if his injuries arose from a vessel’s unseaworthy condition.

If the Jones Act does not apply, the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers Act may apply to longshoremen injured on the job. This federal statute provides compensation to land-based workers injured when aboard a vessel. The Longshoreman and Harbor Workers Act provides for medical benefits and compensation for lost wages as well as rehabilitation services to longshoreman, harbor workers and other maritime workers injured during the course and scope of their employment.

Our attorneys at Broussard, David & Moroux are experienced in areas of maritime law and are prepared to assess maritime workers’ claims and rights. If you are an offshore worker who has been injured in your service on or off the vessel, you may have legal rights. For further questions, contact Broussard, David & Moroux at 888-337-2323(toll free) or 337-233-2323 (local).

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