When it comes to grueling, labor-intensive work, employment on an offshore oil rig is one of the most demanding positions around. Not surprisingly, back injuries are very common in this industry and workers enduring severe physical pain may be able to recover compensation from their employer for the costs of medical treatment and lost time at work.
If you are one of the thousands of hardworking men and women employed on Louisiana-based offshore oil and gas rigs, we understand the hesitance to discuss your injuries and seek assistance with your claim. However, you should hold an employer accountable for a substandard work environment—which includes unfair overtime hours, dangerous conditions and more—and we may be able to help.
To discuss your situation with a maritime and longshore attorney in Lafayette, contact the Law Offices of Matt & Allen today.
Types of Accidents and the Injuries They May Cause
For the offshore worker, back injuries, such as pinched nerves, spinal cord injuries, slipped or herniated discs, sprains, and strains, can occur either following a one-time traumatic event or more gradually over time. These injuries can occur due to:
- Repetitive and continuous heavy lifting (This is especially true if the employer did not instruct workers on the proper way to lift heavier items.)
- A slip and fall
- Trauma due to falling objects
- Falling from a height
- Tripping over materials or equipment
Of course, this list encompasses just a sampling of the ways in which a back injury can occur, and the proper course of action following an injury will depend upon the facts surrounding the event, such as whether the employer failed in its management and oversight responsibilities.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act is an integral piece of legislation applying to seamen. The law defines seamen as individuals who spend a minimum of 30 percent of their time working on a vessel, which is anything afloat that is capable of moving within navigable waters. This definition often includes offshore oil rigs, assuming the rig is a “jack-up” or floating rig style. Be sure to speak to a lawyer to ensure the Jones Act covers your rig.
Prior to the enactment of the Jones Act in the early 1900s, seamen had very few legal rights against their employers. This inevitably led to poor work environments, unnecessary worker injuries, and workplace fatalities. Seeing this as a major issue, Congress passed the Jones Act to protect vulnerable workers as follows:
- An employer must provide all seamen with a reasonably safe workplace.
- The employer must exercise ordinary care under the circumstances to maintain the vessel in a safe condition.
Employees injured because of their employer’s negligence have a right to hold the employer liable for their damages. Moreover, the Jones Act includes a lower “burden of proof” than a standard personal injury lawsuit, which means that the employee only needs to prove that the employer/employee’s negligence played some role in the resulting injury—it does not necessarily have to be the direct cause of the injury.
In a successful claim available damages include medical expenses, lost wages, lost future earnings, pain and suffering, and mental anguish. However, to receive compensation, an injured worker (plaintiff) must file his lawsuit within three years of the date of the accident.
Other Methods of Recovery
The Jones Act applies to employer/co-worker negligence and injuries. General maritime law provides recovery for injuries caused by an unseaworthy vessel. However, there may be other instances in which an offshore oil worker’s injuries are not necessarily attributable to workplace negligence or unseaworthiness, such as injuries sustained as a result of the basic requirements of the job.
Oil rig workers may also be able to recover “maintenance and cure,” which will pay the injured worker’s medical bills and award him a small daily stipend for daily living expenses. An employer must pay maintenance and cure regardless of who was at fault for the injury.
If the Jones Act or general maritime law does not cover your injury, you may have other options such as filing under different offshore worker acts.
Because maritime law is complicated, filing a claim under maritime law is difficult and it is easy to make mistakes. A lawyer well-versed in maritime law can ensure you are filing your claim correctly and can also help you gather the evidence you need to prove your employer or co-worker is responsible (at least partly) for the accident that caused your injuries.
Contact a Louisiana Maritime Injury Lawyer Today
If you recently suffered back injuries while working on an offshore oil rig and would like to discuss your rights with a knowledgeable maritime accident attorney, please contact the Law Offices of Matt & Allen in Lafayette today at 337-237-1000.