U.S.S. Fitzgerald Sailors Awoke to a Disaster at Sea
The United States Navy destroyer Fitzgerald departed early on a Saturday morning from the American base at Yokosuka, Japan. It was still dark, but the weather was clear. Only a handful of the 350 sailors would have been awake. The crew had mere minutes to prepare for the collision on the starboard side which killed 7 crew members. 116 members of the crew were still asleep when the collision happened.
Each year, maritime accident lawyers review cases just like this one to shed light on complex, confusing events. Let’s take a look at the details of this case and how maritime law fits in.
It’s still unclear what went wrong, and multiple investigations are still under way. Anyone’s best guess is that whoever was on duty saw the unexpected lights of a cargo ship, the ACX Crystal from the Philippines, and attempted to steer away from it. The collision caused significant damage to areas above and below the water line. A concave area formed that extended one-third of the way across the ship.
The crew showed tremendous effort to keep the Fitzgerald from sinking before tugboats arrived. They towed the destroyer back to Yokosuka before divers explored the submerged compartments. They found the bodies of all seven victims and released their identities.
Determining What Went Wrong
Maritime laws are complex and, often, the investigation into a maritime accident can make or break a case. Because incidents are so rare, there’s very little history to go on. Most veteran sailors with decades of experience can count on one hand the number of incidents with which they’ve ever been involved.
In the case of this incident, something went wrong, but it’s exceptionally difficult to determine exactly what that something was. Nevertheless, very few incidents are ever true accidents—and that means someone must be held accountable.
Bryce Benson, the ship’s commander, received injuries in the collision but will make a full recovery. Navy ship commanders have ultimate authority and responsibility for their vessel, and that often means they, or the Navy as a whole, are held responsible when accidents occur. Commanders are accountable for everything that happens on their ship, even if it wasn’t their fault, and that includes Benson.
Benson would have updated the standing orders before standing down for the night. This is regular practice on all Navy ships, and these orders almost always mandate the night watch to alert the captain of unusual activity. Some standing orders require notifying the commander if the ship’s closest point of approach is less than 5,000 yards.
Whether Benson recorded the events or not, investigators are currently attempting to identify if true fault under maritime law exists. In the process, they’ll assess competency, protocol, timelines, and radar records, and interview each person aboard. If any sailor, or the commander himself, failed to follow protocol or operated the ship unsafely, he or she may be held responsible monetarily or legally.
If you’ve been injured in a ship accident, either while in the Navy or while on another boating vessel, Maintenance & Cure wants to help. Contact us today for a consultation on your options, either for defense or for seeking contribution when it matters most. From the Jones Act to international waters, we understand how to best help you achieve your goals through Maintenance & Cure.
Getting Familiar with the Jones Act
Under the Jones Act, injured maritime workers have the right to compensation. That wasn’t always true.
Once upon a time, if a maritime worker suffered an accident on the job and sustained an injury, they were out of luck. The law provided no means of redress, even if their employer proved negligent.
Over the past century, maritime workers have secured hard-earned legal rights. Now the Jones Act shields them from employer negligence, unsafe working conditions, and accidental injury.
In addition to safeguarding workers, the Jones Act also establishes protectionist measures that help keep U.S. waterways safe and the U.S. shipping industry afloat.
If you work on a U.S. vessel that navigates U.S. waters, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the history and provisions of the Jones Act. Whether or not you’ve been injured in a workplace accident, you should know a bit about the law that governs the American maritime industry.
Take a look at our infographic to learn more.
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The Severity of Maritime Piracy Crimes
Pirates—those much-romanticized scourges of centuries past—are still very much with us today, as viewers of the nightly news can attest. The unlawful activities of modern-day pirates on the high seas have achieved notoriety around the globe.
Even so, piracy is still a shadowy subject for most people, and understandably so. Few of us, even in the maritime industry, have first-hand experience with pirates. Piracy is, however, a serious problem that has far-reaching effects on the international stage.
A Worldwide Phenomenon
The general public has come to associate modern-day piracy with activities occurring off the coast of Somalia, specifically in the Arabian Sea (particularly the Gulf of Aden) and the Indian Ocean. These goings-on can be traced to the deleterious societal effects of the ongoing Somali Civil War, which have made maritime piracy an attractive alternative to poverty. Piracy in these seas diminished significantly over the last decade or so, but, in early 2017, a burst of renewed pirate activity made it clear that this problem hasn’t gone away quite yet.
Piracy is not limited to this region, however. Nor is Somalia the only nation that harbors pirates. Another hotspot for criminal activity is the South China Sea, where pirates from Malaysia and Indonesia often harass maritime vessels. In addition, the Gulf of Guinea, in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, has seen dozens of incidents in recent years.
How It Happens
Pirates use a variety of tactics to capture and board unsuspecting maritime vessels. Sometimes they use high-speed engines to quickly catch up to vessels, often approaching from a blind spot, before defensive action can be taken. Another tactic is to pose as a friendly vessel in order to gain the trust of the crew on the targeted ship.
Once aboard, pirates frequently seize hostages, demanding a sizable payout for their release. Alternatively, they may simply raid the vessel for its cargo.
The Cost of Piracy
Wherever it occurs, maritime piracy enacts a steep cost. According to the non-profit group Oceans Beyond Piracy, Somali pirates caused $1.7 billion in financial losses in 2016. If that sounds steep, consider that this figure represents a dramatic drop from $7 billion in the year 2010. In West Africa, piracy accounted for nearly $800 million in losses (2016).1
In addition to incurring heavy losses in ransom money and lost goods, the actions of pirates force local governments to devote a substantial amount of resources to counter-piracy measures, such as providing military escorts to cargo ships.
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) of 1982 is the primary piece of international legislation covering piracy.
In recent years, the U.S. has assumed a more central role in the prosecution of captured pirates, often imposing harsh sentences up to life in prison. Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., has helped a number of piracy victims obtain suitable compensation under the guidelines of the Jones Act. If you have been harmed during the course of a pirate assault, you should contact our office as soon as possible for a free consultation.
Navigating Your LHWCA Injury Claim
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, or LHWCA, provides compensation to a select group of maritime workers in the event of disability, illness, injury or death if it happens on the job in applicable locations. LHWCA compensation may cover full or partial medical costs, living expenses and the costs associated with rehabilitation and occupational retraining. This compensation is referred to as the costs of maintenance and cure.
While LHWCA compensation is encompassing and beneficial to those needing to use it, the terms and stipulations are somewhat lengthy. If you’ve received an injury, contracted a disease or have been otherwise compromised while performing your regular maritime work duties, and you need to file a claim, contact an experienced longshoremen injury attorney to help guide you through the process.
Your longshoremen attorney will know whether you’re covered under the LHWCA, what type of benefits to which you’re entitled, and how to go about starting your claim. He or she will also partner with you throughout the process to give you a better understanding of what to expect.
What Is the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act?
The LHWCA was drafted in 1927 to help protect workers who sailed in navigational waters. Criteria was more specific when the Act was first introduced. It has since been expanded to include a wider range of workers such as those who work on-shore in harbors and on docks, performing maintenance, construction and other maritime duties. Most maritime employers are required by federal law to offer insurance to workers under the LHWCA. Compensation is managed by the U.S. Department of Labor through the Office of Workers’ Compensation.
If you’re a worker who is injured or becomes ill as a result of performing your job duties in a maritime setting, you may be eligible to collect monetary benefits via the LHWCA, toward disability, maintenance and cure until you’re healed and able to return to your previous job, or, in the event of a permanent disability, until you’re trained and able to work a new job somewhere else. In the event of your death from your work-related injury or illness, LHWCA may be able to pay benefits to your dependent family members.
Who Is Covered Under the LHWCA?
The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act covers maritime workers who fit certain criteria:
- They perform such work as loading or off-loading ships in a port or harbor as well as building or deconstructing boats, docks or other harbor constructions. The Act also covers certain workers employed by private contractors in the defense base industry and those engaged in scientific exploration of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands, such as workers employed on oil rigs.
- Covered employees must have received their injury in the navigable waters of the United States or in or on their adjoining ports, harbors, wharves, etc. Navigable Waters of the United Statesis defined as any water subject to tidal control and that’s used for interstate or international commerce.
- Employees who fit these two categories must have received an injury or contracted a debilitating illness while performing their required job functions.
How Is the LHWCA Different from the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is more encompassing, including such maritime workers as the captain and crew of cruise ships, fishing boats, crabbing boats and more. An employee can receive compensation based upon either the Jones Act or the LHWCA, whichever more adequately covers their particular occupation, but never both.
Compensation is the money you require to either be cured or to return to life with a disability. In the event of death, it’s a stipend paid to your family to help alleviate the monetary cost of your loss of earnings. Your personal injury attorney can help you decide which benefits you’re entitled to receive. These may include:
- Full or partial medical expenses
- The costs associated with rehabilitation, such as learning how to live with an amputation or hearing loss
- Compensation to cover lost wages while you’re in recovery
- Compensation to cover the costs of training you to perform a different job should your injury prevent you from returning to your previous one
- A scheduled monetary reward for the loss of use of certain body parts
- A disfigurement and death benefit
Basically, the Act helps protect you and your loved ones if you should receive a traumatic or life-altering injury while on the job.
What Types of Injuries Are Covered?
In this instance, injury refers to any type of way you could be hurt while performing your regular maritime duties, including:
- Occupational Disease: An occupational disease is defined as one that is caused by exposure to harmful substances or chemicals. Mesothelioma is an occupational disease that many workers have contracted due to exposure to asbestos. Other occupational diseases include breathing disorders such as COPD or asthma, autoimmune diseases such as Graves’ Disease, and various skin disorders. All may be caused by exposure to workplace toxins, and all may make it difficult to return to work in your normal capacity.
- Loss of Vision or Hearing: Exposure to loud noises or intense light can contribute to loss of vision or hearing in some people.
- Injuries received during the performance of regular maritime duties, such as electrical shocks, burns, falls, contact with equipment, hypothermia, hyperthermia, head injury, drowning, broken bones or amputation.
How Do I File a Claim?
There are rules you must follow to file a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act:
- You must notify your employer of your injury within 30 days of receiving it.
- You have one year to file a formal claim.
If you need to file a claim for compensation under the LHWCA, your first step is to narrow down your choices of longshoremen attorneys. At Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris, we have a long, successful history of working to resolve cases involving maritime injury. You may need something so simple as a phone call to your employer from a member of our knowledgeable staff for payments to commence. Then again, you may need actual representation in court. Regardless, we’re there for you. Call us today at 1-800-836-5830 to schedule an initial consultation. We’ll help you determine whether you have a valid claim, and then we’ll help you file for and collect compensation.
A case involving compensation for maritime injuries can be complicated. That’s why you need the services of professionals on your side to help you collect the funds to which you’re entitled.
How Long Does It Take for Payments to Begin?
The good news is that payments can begin in as little as 14 days after you notify your employer of your injury. This typically happens when the employer chooses not to dispute the legitimacy of the claim. Having a good maritime injury lawyer on your side can help set the wheels in motion so you can claim benefits faster.
Often, however, collecting on a maritime injury claim may take longer. If your employer controverts your claim by saying he had no knowledge of your injury, for instance, or if it’s not immediately clear whether your injury meets the requirements needed, your payments could be delayed until a ruling is made.
What’s My Role in Justifying My Claim?
If you notified your employer of your injury within the allotted time and filed your claim before the deadline, you’ve fulfilled your role in activating your claim. You may be required to tell your story again and to give the names of possible witnesses who can help substantiate your recollection, but that’s where your responsibility ends and your attorney’s responsibilities begin. We’ll make sure your employer abides by federal law in determining whether you receive benefits and how much your payout will be. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Act is very clear regarding who does and who does not qualify for compensation. If you meet the criteria, we’ll help you procure the money you need to pay your medical and injury-related expenses. And, in the event of your injury-related death or illness, we’ll see that your family receives benefits as well.
All longshoremen lawyers are not created equal. Claims to collect compensation from the LHWCA are very specific, and they require the services of experienced attorneys to navigate them efficiently so your payments are not delayed. You can trust the law offices of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris to collect the facts needed and to get the wheels rolling on your personal injury claim. We understand how devastating a workplace injury can be, how impactful it can be on the families of those injured. You need fair and just compensation, and you need it in a timely fashion. That’s what we’ll do for you. Call us today at 1 (800) 836-5830 to discuss your options.
A Maritime Worker’s Rights and the LHWCA
The LHWCA (Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act) is the lifeline of many maritime workers injured on the job. Most injured individuals will find they fit the LHWCA requirements, although qualifications for coverage are strict. The protections and policy ins-and-outs of the act mean the injured worker needs to do a little digging to get the information. However, the longshoremen lawyers at Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer, & Harris, L.L.P., know where to look. To save you time, we’ve assembled a complete breakdown of the LHWCA and how it affects you.
How Does the LHWCA Work?
The LHWCA is a federal law and as such it provides protection for employees injured and permanently or temporarily disabled as a result. To qualify, the injury must have happened in specific occupations and locations defined in the LHWCA. The protections extended to the injured employee include medical treatment and compensation of a percentage of regular pay. There is even compensation for job retraining—or vocational rehabilitation—should the resulting disability preclude the individual from returning to his or her original occupation. For those killed on the job, a death benefit is available to the spouse or other specified beneficiaries. To get these protections, the injury must occur on navigable waters or in locations adjacent to these waters. Adjacent locations would include docks, loading and unloading, shipbuilding, and ship repairing areas.
Who’s Covered Under the LHWCA? Who’s Not?
Many maritime workers are under the protection of the LHWCA. These include such occupations as longshore workers and harbor workers, such as shipbuilders, ship repairers, and ship-breakers. Excluded under the act are United States government employees, individuals who caused their injuries through intoxication, and those who caused their injuries through deeds of purposeful self-harm. Interestingly, also excluded are seamen, both shipmasters and crew members, who are covered under a different provision, i.e. the Jones Act or Merchant Marine Act of 1920.
When state workers’ compensation is a viable alternative, the LHWCA also excludes a number of other occupations. These include those workers who perform administrative assistant tasks, the duties associated with a camp, club, or recreational facility, and those working in restaurants and retail establishments and the like.
What the LHWCA Covers, In Detail
- Medical: The LHWCA covers the costs of all services performed by those in the medical profession as a result of the injury. Your medical care, surgery, hospital stay, and accompanying supplies are most of what the act covers. Another benefit is the payment of travel costs and mileage associated with the treatment of the injury.
- Compensation of Pay: Not only are your medical needs covered but the LHWCA also gives you some percentage of original pay or salary. The act judges between the national average of weekly pay and your own weekly average. The numbers work out to your receiving no more than either your full average weekly pay or twice the national average of weekly pay. You will receive the lesser of the two. These averages are each taken from the time of your injury.
- Disability: The LHWCA demarcates between four types of disability. Here is a quick breakdown of the pay you can expect under each of them.
- Temporary and Permanent Total Disability:The injured will receive a total of 2/3 of his or her weekly average pay. The amount changes every year. It’s based on different iterations of the weekly national average pay. Temporary disability is subject to the current national weekly average applied to the time period of your injury. Permanent disability rates come from the previous year’s national weekly average pay.
- Temporary and Permanent Partial Disability:The compensation for a temporary partial disability is also 2/3 of the weekly average pay. It is slightly more complicated for those with a permanent partial disability. The LHWCA provides a listing of temporary disabilities and the number of weeks the injured individual will receive the 2/3 average pay.
- Vocational Rehabilitation: If you can’t return to work, the LHWCA provides for vocational rehabilitation, which is basically job retraining. You can get evaluated and tested, counseled and placed, and even possibly return to school. In fact, if schooling is your selected option, the act may pay for tuition, books, and other necessary supplies. There is also the possibility of a maintenance allowance of no more than $25 per week.
- Death Benefit: If the employee is deceased because of an injury under the LHWCA, the surviving spouse is due 50% of his or her average weekly pay. This payment will last for the life of the spouse or until remarriage. If the deceased and spouse have children, the spouse is also due 16-and-2/3% for each child on top of the 50% payment. Surviving children, if no surviving spouse, get 50% of the average weekly wage for the first child and 66-and-2/3% for all other children. This sum is shared among the surviving children. Other surviving beneficiaries can include any grandparents, parents, siblings, or grandchildren that are dependent upon the deceased employee’s income.
Are you a longshore, harbor, shipbuilder, or ship repairer who’s affected by a work-related injury? It may fall under the LHWCA. If your injury has left you with few options and little hope, we would like to help you resolve your situation. We’ve solved many cases identical or similar to your own. Please feel free to drop us a line at 1 (800) 836-5830, so we can help you get your life back.
Looking Back at The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Although it’s been seven years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the environmental and human devastation may linger for generations. On April 20, 2010, the oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico faltered, exploded and burned into the sea off the coast of Louisiana, dumping nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil. It topped a heartbreaking history of missteps that made tragedies such as the Exxon Valdez oil tanker pale in comparison. For families who lost loved ones and those whose health was damaged, it’s important to enlist the help of an experienced Jones Act attorney.
The offshore drilling rig was owned by Transocean and leased by BP oil. A natural gas explosion compromised the core and shot up into the platform causing a massive burn. Significant oil leakage didn’t actually occur for two days. Fully engulfed in fire, the rig finally collapsed on April 22 and that ruptured a riser used to discharge underground mud, opening the crude floodgates.
An estimated 60,000 barrels per day contaminated the Gulf of Mexico until it was finally capped in mid-July. It was like watching a horrific car wreck, 24 hours a day for nearly three months. Unfortunately, capping the well was only the first step in halting a calamity that continues to do harm to this very day.
While ships and cleanup technologies were brought to bear as quickly as possible, the uncaptured oil created a visible slick stretching over a thousand square miles. And, more than 1,000 miles of coastline suffered tremendous pollution. As oil and tar balls hit the shore, beaches, marshes and brackish waterways had to be cleaned manually as birds, fish, shellfish and plant life withered and died. The harm caused by crude that settled on the ocean floor may never be completely quantified. But what may have done an equal amount of injury were the methods used to “clean up” the spill.
Efforts to corral and siphon the massive oil slick were only modestly effective in handling the spread. Much of it was set ablaze and huge plumes of black smoke rose into the air, damaging the lungs of emergency workers and seamen. Compounding the noxious burns was the fact that dispersants were dropped on uncontained slicks. At the time, the theory was that these substances would help break down the oil so that naturally occurring bacteria could metabolize it. Sadly, that strategy added to a wealth of human suffering over the long haul.
Impact on Seamen
It’s impossible to place a monetary value on the damage to your health or the loss of a loved one. Families such as the 11 brave workers killed during the Deepwater Horizon explosion and other offshore accidents are eligible to seek damages under the Jones Act. The 17 who suffered a debilitating offshore injury can seek compensation through what longshoremen lawyers more specifically call “Jones Act maintenance and cure.” That basically means forcing the insurance company to pay lost wages and medical bills to people like the injured crew of Deepwater Horizon. Over the years, BP oil and others have been — to some degree — held accountable and have been required to put more than $7.8 billion into settlement resources for people harmed by the calamity. Tragically, the oil burns and chemicals also inflicted harm on the men and women who worked tirelessly to protect the environment and people living along the coastline.
The decision to use Corexit as a dispersant may have created an unforeseen harm to the coastal population. According to the Center for Disease Control, Corexit can cause chemically-induced pneumonitis, skin and nervous system problems that include depression, vomiting, brain impairment, as well as liver and kidney damage. People living along the Gulf coast have experienced high rates of these and other health problems potentially linked to the 1.8 million gallons of the dangerous chemical. The Corexit cleanup tactic was basically a carpet bombing of the waters that families and their children swim in and the air they breathe every day. The move to cure the oil slicks can only be likened to the effect spraying Agent Orange on American soldiers had during the Vietnam War.
For many people, the Deepwater Horizon incident is not an environmental disaster that was cleaned up seven years ago. The harm done to the health and wellbeing of seamen and the civilian population may linger for lifetimes in some cases. If you or a loved one has suffered due to the Deepwater Horizon incident or the pollutants used in the cleanup, call us for a consultation.
6 Reasons You Should Be Talking About Oil Rigs
The importance of oil rigs, oil production and oil prices in 2017 can’t be overstated. Oil has a profound effect on the world economy and the American economy. It also affects the lives of people all over the world. Spikes in oil production can spur jobs and convert economies of developing nations into first world economies. On the other hand, production from oil rigs can harm the environment. An overlooked issue, perhaps, is that oil rigs can also be dangerous.
Offshore accidents, of course, are in the news from time to time. The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill demonstrated that. To refresh your memory, BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig exploded, with catastrophic results. Almost five million barrels of oil were spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven people on the oil drilling crew died. Many others were injured and needed the help of a personal injury attorney or an offshore injury attorney to repair their lives. In addition, the spill destroyed many marine and wildlife habitats and damaged the area’s water, air and beaches.
The possibility of accidents is one reason that people should be talking about oil rigs. Here are six others:
1. The American Economy:
Oil production in the United States has doubled in recent years. When oil production doubles, the number of oil rigs also approximately doubles. A chart in the article “US Oil Rig Count Surges to Highest Since First Week of January” shows an incredible correlation between oil rigs and oil production. When the number of rigs in the U.S. increases, gas prices at U.S. pumps fall. This is great news for Americans who now have more money to spend on other goods and services. This also helps American companies producing those goods and services.
2. The World Economy:
Good news for Americans might be bad news for other nations. The Huffington Post article “Why Oil Stocks Will Be the Best Investment in 2016” reports that excess oil production has harmed the economies of other oil-producing nations. Companies in Algeria, Canada, Iraq, Nigeria, Russia and Saudi Arabia have had to cut their prices because demand is so high. Consequently, their profits have dropped. This has spurred the closure of 65 percent of foreign nations’ oil rigs.
3. The Trump Administration:
Increasing the number of jobs in the United States was a key platform in the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Although many economics experts dispute that building oil pipelines will produce a lot of jobs, President Trump has reversed Obama Administration decisions on two pipelines: The drilling rigs at the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines — the kinds of rigs needed for on-land oil drilling — are now active.
4. The Environment:
Oil rigs are also an ongoing issue because many people believe that oil production harms the environment. Fear about oil’s impact on the environment was a factor in the Obama Administration’s decisions on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. Environmentalists were also enraged that the Obama Administration approved opening up areas adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean for offshore oil drilling. The oil platforms — the kinds of rigs needed for offshore oil drilling — have had problems in the past with safety. The BP case was an example of that.
Working on an oil rig can be very lucrative. An engineer with no experience — a trainee — can earn $60,000 per year plus an additional $90 per day working on an oil rig. That is what Vice Magazine reports in the article “What It’s Like Working on an Offshore Oil Rig as a Woman.” People who are promoted get raises of $7,500 per year. In addition, directional driller salaries are “ridiculous,” the article reports. What’s “ridiculous”? How about $220,000 per year? In an era of dramatic income inequality — when salaries in numerous professions are way down — people should be talking about the salaries of oil rig workers.
6. Working Conditions:
Why can’t all news about jobs be good news? That’s not the real world. While salaries are good — often great — on an oil rig, working conditions are often difficult. The bad news is that workers can be told to work for more than 24 consecutive hours, according to the Vice article. That’s a formula for accidents. In addition, many people work night shifts. Others work every day for a month. Working like a dog also crimps workers’ personal lives. The bottom line is that turnover at rigs is very high. “They just work you until you’re broken and then you’re done,” said one worker.
Working on an oil rig is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. The risks are numerous. Explosions. Falling. Dangerous machinery. Dangerous chemicals. Isolation. Fatigue. Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P is so concerned about the dangers that it has established the Maintenance and Cure team at its law firm to help people who have suffered because of the risks of oil rig work.
The law firm has local maritime lawyers and offshore lawyers who are experts in maritime law. Our attorneys understand the Jones Act and many other laws that oil companies often violate. Our expertise in maritime law has helped more than a number of oil rig workers. Many workers have won more than $1 million in court cases and settlements.
If you are an oil rig worker who is concerned with conditions at your workplace and/or has been injured because of bad workplace conditions, please phone Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P at 1-800-836-5830. Calling us could be the best investment you ever made.
The Longshore & Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act
If you are a maritime worker, it is important that you are informed about the Longshore & Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act. The Longshore & Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal law that covers maritime employees who have sustained work-related injuries. If you have sustained work-related maritime injuries on the navigable waters of the United States or adjoining areas, you may be entitled to compensation.
The LHWCA allows employees to seek compensation, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation services if required. It covers longshoreman, harbor workers, shipbuilders, and more. Don’t get the LHWCA confused with the Jones Act, which covers seamen. The LHWCA covers maritime-specific work.
Take a look at the graphic below to learn more about The Longshore & Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act and be sure to contact your maritime injury attorney. They know the ins and outs of the LHWCA and can assist you in getting the compensation you deserve!
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2017 Oil Prices, Rig County & the Economic Impact
How oil prices rise and fall is one of the many ways to determine the rate of economic growth. Oil prices are mainly determined by demand and supply forces in the market. The rate at which a country is producing oil will determine how the prices will be, and thus, the impact on the economy.
Various analysts have different views on what we should expect the oil prices to look like in 2017. There are those that expect prices to rise, and then, there are those that foresee a decline in prices. Whatever the case, the economy will be affected as well as the rate at which drilling activities will be carried out.
What’s the forecast for prices in 2017?
The consumption rate of natural gas in 2015 was 74.7 billion cubic feet (BCF) per day. In 2016, it was 75.1 (BCF) per day. In 2017, the rate is expected to be 75.4 (BCF) per day, according to a report given by The EIA (U.S. Energy Information Administration). The high consumption rate expected in 2017 is due to high commercial, as well as residential, use of oil during the winter season.
According to Bank of America analysts, there have been consistent low oil prices in the U.S. This has led to demand growth over the past years. When there is a gap between supply and demand, prices tend to go up, and therefore prices are expected to be on the rise this year.
Additionally, the recent decision made by OPEC to reduce oil production will definitely push prices up. However, if the OPEC members, as well as non-members, refuse to adhere to the dialing back on production law, the pressure on pricing should be expected.
U.S. drillers are expected to react to the high prices by drilling more oil in an attempt to increase supply, which, in return, may reduce prices. And with the increase of drilling, maritime accident attorneys are likely to be impacted in 2017 as chances of drilling accidents will increase
What is the expected Rig Count in the year 2017?
The movement to reduce oil production by OPEC, with an attempt to boost oil prices, is a great enforcement to the U.S. rig count in the year 2017, according to Platts RigData. The rig count is expected to grow by 27% in 2017. With these forecasts, the following is expected:
- Oil prices will increase as supply levels match that of the demand
- Increase in oil production levels. Operators will focus on getting the best wells to drill oils. In this case, local maritime lawyers will be incorporated just in case something happens out in the field.
- Production volumes will not increase largely as earlier expected.
The fact that the production volumes per well will be less only means that more wells need to be drilled. Platts RigData says that more than 11,000 wells are expected to be drilled in the year 2017. This is an increase in number of wells compared to the year 2016, which was 8,900 wells in total.
How local maritime lawyers can be of use to workers drilling or third parties
With the increase in number of wells, more people are likely to be employed to help in drilling. These will, therefore, increase employment levels, hence improving the standards of living. With all these employees working out in the field, the employees should at least have insurance coverage that can be used in case of an accident. This is where maritime lawyers come in.
While drilling, oil may spill into the water causing human and environmental harm in the sea. Harm may also be done to sailors especially if oil tanks being transported leak oil into the sea.
As for sailors who get into accidents either transporting oil or gas tanks, the Jones Act should be their way of getting compensation. The employers of sailors should be able to compensate sailors when an accident occurs during work. Nevertheless, the Jones Actis able to protect Americans injured at sea and therefore, sailors should familiarize themselves with such laws.
Forecast on the effect of increasing wells or drilling
There are those of others who are bearish in nature, while there are those who are bulls. As for the bulls, the factors below are the key determinants of oil prices in 2017:
- Demand for US gasoline
- Low levels of production and the law on reducing production by OPEC
- Imports and demands of India’s crude oil
- Decline in Russia’s crude oil production
- Imports from China
Bearish people, on the other hand, believe that oil prices will decrease once wells are increased. The main drivers for most bearish beliefs include:
- Energy policy implemented by Donald Trump
- High U.S. oil inventories
- High production of crude oil in Nigeria and Libya
- Supply outages globally
With all these facts, there is a likelihood of supply imbalance all through the year, despite increased spending.
What to look out for as you invest in the oil sector in 2017
So many factors indicate an increase in oil prices as well as rig count in the year 2017. However, competition from other producing countries can cause a major drift in demand. This means that demand may increase or decrease but in most cases, it is likely to go down due to stiff competition. When this happens, prices will definitely go down.
Another thing to look out for is natural disasters that are completely unexpected. Such disasters may lead to oil depletion and thus low supply. Anything like a terrorist attack on oil hubs can also cause a major impact on demand and supply of oil.
With all these facts, it is good that you make an informed decision before investing your money based on forecasts.
How will oil prices and rig count affect the US economy?
In the year 2015, prices of oil were quite low. This impacted the US economy in various ways. Some of these ways included:
- High rate of unemployment. This was mainly for those workers in the oil industry
- Increased rate of spending
- Increased consumption rate and thus economic growth
- Decline in corporate profitability
2015 was a year when oil prices declined. As we said earlier, prices are determined by two forces namely demand and supply. In the year 2015, demand was low whereas, supply was very high. In order to determine how forces of demand and supply affect prices, a model showing a correlation of oil prices with other financial variables is used.
Using that model, the World Economic Forum was able to know that demand for oil toward the end of 2016 was declining at a high rate. With the same model, the prices in 2017 are likely to be high.
Let’s look at how this increase in prices will affect the economy. Some of the implications include:
- Employment opportunitiesMost wells have a short production life. This means that there is always another well being drilled in search of oil. All this drilling requires truck drivers, drilling machines and drilling workers among others. Apart from that, whenever there is an activity going on, businesses arise. For example, hotels, hospitals and other social platforms are likely to emerge. All these lead to job growth.
- Low standards of living
Most people use oil in one way or another. When prices increase, it only means that they spend more on oil and less on buying household items. It is not only households that are affected by the high oil prices, businesses also suffer a great deal. This is because most of their goods are transported or shipped from one place to another by cars or vessels that use oil. This makes production costs very high which, in turn, makes all the prices to hike.
Increase in prices leads to inflation. Oil prices affect all prices of goods made with crude oil, and it affects the cost of transportation, production and heating. With all the prices hiking, the value of a dollar declines and, thus, one may have a lot of dollars but just manage to buy very few items.
- Slow or low economic growth
With oil prices rising, the cost of production also increases. The demand and supply of goods get affected in the long run. For instance, supply of goods will reduce since the cost of production is very high, whereas demand reduces because people prefer to save their money for future days or for more basic things.
Decrease in demand and supply means that the level of consumption is also decreasing and, thus, low economic growth.
When oil prices increase, people tend to use their money just on basic things. This is because, despite the prices rising, the salaries or wages remain the same yet the cost of living has increased. When fewer people go on vacations or to restaurants for leisure activities, then the economy is no longer growing. A country can, therefore, be said to be undergoing a recession period.
- Government finances reduce
Since the rate of unemployment is very high, the government is forced to spend a lot of money on unemployment benefits. On top of that, taxes reduce since few people are working and for those working, the salaries are too small to generate enough income in the form of taxes for the government. In the end, the government ends up spending more than it receives, and this may cause the country to take loans from other countries and thus debts increase.
With all these facts in mind, investors need to invest wisely in oil companies, and citizens need to prepare for what is expected to happen in the year 2017. As for employees working in the sea or those drilling wells, it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with maritime laws just to be on the safe side in case of any accidents or oil explosions.
For more information on maritime lawyers or the Jones Act, please read more from the Maintenance and Cure Company, and also visit our contact us page today. We care about your problems, and you can be assured of getting the best services from us.
Maintenance and Cure: Benefits You Deserve After an Injury
Most workers in the United States are protected by some type of workers’ compensation insurance for injuries that take place on the job. In many states, employers are required to provide such insurance, and opting in is as simple as filling out hiring paperwork. Even if you never need to take advantage of workers’ comp, it’s comforting to know that it’s there to protect you and your family against lost wages and medical expenses.
However, some jobs are categorically more dangerous than others. Construction and transportation careers, for instance, represent a significant portion of workers’ compensation claims filed in any given year due to the inherent risks associated with going to work every day. Wrongful death and employer negligence lawsuits abound, and the red tape involved with getting what you’re owed, can be thick and difficult to navigate without skilled and experienced legal representation.
Some of the most dangerous jobs in the country are done on the water. Thanks to reality TV, many Americans in the last decade have become much better acquainted with the dangers associated with commercial fishing and shipping work in general. A wholly different set of legal protections exists for these workers, many of whom spend every working day dealing with cramped quarters, dangerous and heavy machinery, and inclement weather.
However, as with workers’ comp, some negligent employers will fight tooth and nail to avoid providing rightful compensation to injured seamen. Often, they will attempt to provide the lowest allowable compensation for injury in the hopes that injured seamen will accept the token reimbursement without question. It’s not a perfect world, which is why it’s best to have a lawyer skilled in maritime admiralty law on your side.
To that end, it’s important to understand your rights and guarantees as a maritime worker in the United States. The Jones Act, a federal statute which extends the Federal Employer’s Liability Act to seamen, is designed to protect maritime workers just like workers’ comp does for land-based jobs.
It’s an old and complicated bit of legislation, but it ultimately makes two compensation guarantees to seamen who are injured or fall ill as a result of their work. These guarantees are maintenance and cure.
Who Is Protected Under the Jones Act?
A seaman is any person, from basic crewmember all the way up to ship captain, whose job is carried out to a significant degree on a vessel in navigation. This applies to anyone who works on a ship or boat that is afloat, in operation, capable of moving, and on navigable waters, meaning the ocean and all other connecting waters such as rivers and landlocked lakes where commercial vessels work. The vessel in question need not actually be in motion or active at sea in order for the workers aboard to be considered seamen under the law.
If you contribute significant work to an active boat or ship which performs its functions on waters capable of being used for interstate or foreign commerce, you qualify as a seaman and thus are guaranteed maintenance and cure benefits under the Jones Act should you be injured or fall ill on the job.
The ‘significant work’ qualifier is where many disreputable employers seek to avoid providing maintenance and cure benefits. In general, a seaman must spend at least thirty percent of their total employment time working on a vessel or a specific fleet. If you work both on and off ship and are injured on the job, a maritime accident lawyer can help demonstrate to the court that your benefits are deserved even if your employer resists based on your on/off ship work status.
Maintenance: Making Sure You Stay Afloat
At the most basic level, maintenance under the Jones Act refers to the expenses associated with room and board while in recovery from a maritime work related injury. However, it’s not as simple as adding up your monthly costs and billing the company; there are specific rules for what falls under the legal definition of room and board, and they’re important to bear in mind while planning for a prolonged recovery.
Maintenance provisions apply to expenses such as:
• Rent or mortgage payments, the monthly costs associated with maintaining current residence
• Basic public utilities such as electricity, water, gas, and trash removal bills
• Property or neighborhood taxes
• Food costs
Seems reasonable, but most modern working adults have additional lifestyle expenses on top of these basics which are not considered room and board costs under the law, and thus are not factored into maintenance settlements.
For instance, maintenance benefits which are not considered room and board necessities include:
• Phone bills of any kind
• Internet, cable, or any similar entertainment-related costs
• Car payments
• Any other non-essential costs of living
As such, it’s important to plan carefully for your convalescence, especially if you have a family for whom you are the primary provider. Even though an internet connection could be argued as a necessary utility for modern life in the United States, it is not covered under the Jones Act. You may not be evicted from your home or apartment thanks to maintenance payments, but you could very easily fall behind on car payments and lose your household’s only mode of transportation.
Cure: Getting You as Well as Possible
Just like workers’ compensation, cure benefits for seamen are aimed to recoup the costs of medical bills associated with work injury recovery. Ideally, an injured seaman should not have to pay any money out of pocket toward their medical treatment for work-related injuries.
Medical expenses considered part of cure benefits include:
• Hospital and recovery bills
• Pertinent surgery expenses
• MRI, CT, and lab testing costs
• Medical equipment necessary for recovery, such as wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, or harnesses
• Transportation expenses to and from the doctor
In a perfect world, employers would always side with their workforce and do their absolute best to make sure cure benefits are provided to the fullest possible extent, but maritime accident attorneys who specialize in Jones Act claims will tell you that this is not always the case.
The goal of maintenance and cure benefits is to allow seamen time to heal, and are to be provided until the injured person reaches the point of maximum medical improvement, or MMI. It’s grim to consider, but sometimes work injuries suffered in the world of commercial fishing and maritime commerce are bad enough that the impact will last a lifetime. As such, even a seaman who has not made a full recovery to perfect health may be considered by doctors to have reached MMI; it essentially means “as well as you’re going to get.”
Obviously, it’s in the company’s best interest for employees to spend as little time as possible receiving maintenance and cure benefits. This is why it’s so important to stand up for your rights and make sure you’re legitimately allowed a full course of recovery.
Get What You Deserve
The Jones Act, also referred to as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is old and complicated legislation. As such, it has suffered some growing pains throughout the years as cost of living and worker’s perceived rights have shifted more and more toward modern humane standards and practices.
For a long time, negligent employers and insurers got away with paying the absolute minimum required under the law, sometimes as little as eight dollars a day, for maintenance of recovering seamen. Anyone who has lived a single day of adult life in the United States will tell you that two hundred forty dollars per month is nowhere near enough to pay rent and eat for a single person, much less anyone with a family to consider. Luckily, the courts have sided with seamen time and again, determining that maintenance refers to the employee’s actual monthly household expenses.
Maritime employers are required to pay for maintenance and cure should any seaman be injured on the job. If you have been injured on ship and are not receiving your due benefits under the law, do not hesitate to contact an experienced Jones Act attorney and pursue the compensation you are guaranteed under the law. Maritime work and commercial fishing are dangerous, necessary jobs from which every American benefits, and there is no reason for injured seamen to suffer unduly or be denied their right to recovery in this day and age.