Working offshore can be hard and lonely but many continue to board ships in order to provide well for their families. After all, they can earn much more on these vessels than they could on land. Yet everything can come to a screeching halt if they ever get injured due to an accident. They may not be able to work for a time or become unfit for offshore jobs for good. The effects can be devastating to their livelihood. Fortunately, they do not have to shoulder all of the burdens themselves. They can get a Houston maritime lawyer, like Zehl & Associates, PC to help them obtain just compensation and benefits.
The Jones Act
This law was passed in 1920 in an effort to provide a legal framework for maritime pursuits. It is a federal law that covers US ports and waters since these aren’t covered by land-based laws. The Jones Act has helped the shipping industry grow steadily throughout the decades. It was updated in 2006 in light of modern developments. Seamen who sustain offshore injuries can use this law to assert their right to recover damages from their employer. Do not agree to any settlement deal until you have talked to a lawyer who specializes in this field.
There are many different types of maritime workers covered by the law. One does not necessary have to be a technical person engaged in ship navigation to qualify. Captains, mates, engineers and deckhands are included. So are cooks, fishermen, bartenders, divers, drillers, stewards, and even barbers. There is a very loose definition provided for inclusion. The person must be contributing to the work of the vessel for at least 30% of their total working time when in navigable waters. This covers the ship’s time on the dock as well. For instance, if the vessel is undergoing repairs on is stopping to refuel or load cargo.
It is important to note that only completed ships that can readily sail can be considered here. Workers on the docks who are building ships are not covered by the Jones Act but they can use the typical land-based laws instead should they get injured while working. Vessels that are being repaired are still considered to be in navigation. People who get into an accident while inside them are still part of the law’s clout. Note that the list of examples given above is not exhaustive. There are plenty of other job descriptions that can be added depending on the nature of the ship.
Workers can get compensation from their employer if the latter is proven to be negligent of their duties. However, it must be shown that the worker is not at fault for the accident as well. A person who gets drunk then falls while going down the stairs is not likely to get damages. Therefore, maritime lawyers must be able to shield their clients from accusations of irresponsible behavior while highlighting the negligence of those who could have prevented the accident from happening in the first place. There are several duties that employers are expected to perform in and around the vessel.
First of all, they should give seamen adequate safety training prior to stepping foot on the ship. Workers must be armed with knowledge that could help them avoid accidents. Employers must also perform regular maintenance on the equipment to prevent breakdowns and erratic behavior. If there is any malfunction reported, then this must be checked immediately and resolved by a competent technician. Workers should not be forced to operate faulty equipment. They should provide a complete set of safety gear including helmet, gloves, safety harness, and more as needed. Hazardous areas must be properly labeled with warning signs to alert the workers.
Compensation and Benefits
Injured seamen are entitled to compensation for loss of earnings. The physical toll may prevent them from performing their work duties for a while during which time they are not able to earn any income. This covers their current earnings as well as any lost capacity to earn in the future as a direct cause of the accident. For instance, they could have gotten promotions and raises if not for their diminished capacity. They might also be forced to word on land again where their income is only a fraction of what they could get at sea. They may be entitled to get the difference between the two. Benefits such as pensions, 401K contributions, and the like are also covered.
Of course, the medical expenses will have to be shouldered by the employer. This includes the amounts required for their immediate treatment following the accident as well as future medical needs during the long road to recovery. They might have to undergo physical therapy to bring back lost mobility. There are countless lab tests and prescription medications. They might need to go under the knife for corrective measures. Some might need to use specialized equipment like a wheelchair while their legs heal. For many, the trauma is not only physical but psychological as well. They require prolonged counseling to get better. The cost of all these is nontrivial.
There is a separate compensation for the pain and suffering sustained by a maritime worker. This is a rather tricky part to assess which is why a seasoned Houston offshore injury lawyer is required to look into the matter. He or she will know the typical values allowed in court. A common example is a worker who has to be amputated as a result of an accident. The loss of a limb will not only be painful in the physical sense. It is likely to cause mental trauma that is hard to recover from. Punitive damages may also be included in the case.