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.
When an injury occurs aboard a ship, it is common for ship vessel employees to overlook maritime law. Many accidents can occur on cargo ships, cruise ships, merchant marine ships, mobile offshore oil rigs, and the list goes on.
Because these occurrences do not happen on U.S. soil, injured people who work at sea need a maritime expert to help decide the best course of action under the law. With a maritime accident lawyer, your specialized attorney can provide thorough answers to questions like these:
• Am I considered a seaman under the law?
• Should I sign the document provided by my employer?
• Can I obtain compensation?
• What are my rights?
• How do I file a claim?
If you or someone you love has been affected by personal injury or wrongful death while working on or near U.S. waterways, maritime attorneys can help you determine if the case is valid under specific statutes of limitations and represent the facts of the incident with even greater precision. Read on to learn more about what considerations one should make when seeking a maritime lawyer after an accident on the water.
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Understanding the Finer Points of the Jones Act
Passed in 1920, the Jones Act is legislation that protects workers who become ill or injured while working offshore. The Act covers anyone who is employed on a sailing vessel that navigates in waters used for foreign or interstate trade. The crewman must be engaged in work that directly impacts the vessel’s mission and may include:
• Cruise Ship Personnel
• Captain and crew
• Workers on oil rigs, cargo carriers, dredges and barges
The Act provides compensation for living expenses while incapacitated, medical expenses, costs associated with rehabilitation and even vocational training if a worker is unable to return to his or her prior position.
Common Complaints Covered Under the Jones Act
Almost any type of injury that can occur on land can also happen offshore. The Maritime Injury Guide lists the most common causes:
• Falling objects
• Slips, trips, falls
• Impact from heavy equipment
• Exposure to toxic chemicals and temperature extremes
• Falling overboard
As a result, common injuries include:
• Traumatic brain injuries
• Injuries to the spinal cord
• Lung damage
• Broken bones
• Crushing injuries
If you’ve been injured or become severely ill at sea due to circumstances beyond your control, contact Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris to discuss your options.
What Causes Injuries at Sea?
As a worker on a cruise ship, oil rig or other seagoing vessel, many factors can cause you to receive a debilitating injury. These include poor ship maintenance, negligence on the part of the captain or crew, failure to handle food properly, inadequate safety training or standards, operating the ship while severely understaffed and more. Even if you think what happened was out of anyone’s control, you should insist on representation. Odds are good that there’s a solid reason why your injury occurred and an even better chance that your injury or illness is covered under the Jones Act.
Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Coverage
Is there a statute of limitations on Jones Act claims?
• Yes. The typical time frame for filing a compensation claim under the Jones Act is three years from the date you become injured.
What type of coverage can I request?
• Generally, the Jones Act provides you with a regular income while you recover. It can also pay for pain and suffering, medical expenses, expenses associated with rehabilitation, and even for loss of enjoyment of life. If there’s a delay between the date of your injury and the time that you file your claim, you may be able to ask for retroactive coverage for all of the above.
What’s included in Jones Act maintenance and cure?
• Benefits received for maintenance and cure include the costs associated with recovery until you’re at 100 percent health. Maintenance is typically calculated at a daily rate, while cure refers to the costs of actual medical treatment.
Call for More Information Today
If you’ve been injured during the performance of scheduled duties offshore, contact the law offices of Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer and Harris to discuss your recommended course of action. You shouldn’t have to suffer with the stress and worry of how your family will survive while you’re incapacitated, and thanks to the Jones Act of 1920, you don’t have to. Call us today at 1-800-836-5830.
Finding the Right Jones Act Attorney
Sailors who have been injured or become ill while performing required job duties at sea may be eligible for compensation from their employers under the provisions of the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Maritime Act of 1920. American sailors who believe they may be eligible under the Jones Act should discuss the circumstances of their case with an attorney.
Clients seeking an attorney for their maritime law case should look for experience, specialization, successful past cases, board certification, and cost.
For the best chance of a successful outcome, maritime workers should seek attorneys who have relevant experience with cases like theirs. The following steps can assist in confirming past experience:
• Ask how many years of experience the attorney has as well as the number of years of experience the firm has. Don’t mistake the firm’s experience for an individual attorney’s expertise; both numbers are important.
• Ask how many maritime law cases the attorney has worked on.
• Visit with references shared by the firm to learn more about the experience and success past clients have had with the firm or the attorney.
• Check the firm’s Better Business Bureau profile to ensure they have been in business and in good standing for the length of time claimed.
• Finding an experienced attorney can increase the likelihood of a successful outcome.
Maritime law is complex and differs from Workers Compensation law. Choosing an attorney who specializes in maritime law ensures that the attorney is trained and experienced in the complexities of maritime law and receives continuing education in this specialized field of law. Maritime law attorneys:
• should clearly advertise themselves as maritime law attorneys,
• should limit the cases they take to maritime law or related cases,
• should never work on behalf of an employer being sued under the Jones Act, and
• should focus their continuing education requirements on maritime law and related topics.
Understanding how a firm or attorney has performed in past cases can help a potential client understand what to expect in their case. Maritime employees victim to accident or injury should request more information about past cases, including the attorney’s success rate and the details of at least one successful case and one unsuccessful case if public or permitted to share.
Other ways to learn more about a firm’s track record are to research the company’s history and involvement in high profile cases, review their BBB score, and ask to speak with references.
It’s important to learn about cost and financial options up front to ensure the right firm is selected. The best firms never charge a fee unless they are able to win a settlement or judgment on the client’s behalf. While not all attorneys use this model, clients should demand and expect this arrangement before selecting an attorney.
Finally, a select few firms may offer additional perks to clients like low or no-interest personal loans to ensure they are able to make ends meet following their injury or illness. Finding an attorney who has a client loan program can reduce worry during such a stressful time.
Is Maritime Law Affected by Location?
An offshore injury can occur anywhere on any body of water in the country. No matter what state that body of water might be located in, those who work out on the water fall not under the jurisdiction of that state’s law but under the jurisdiction of U.S. maritime law.
Because many Americans are unfamiliar with the concept of maritime law, offshore injuries tend to raise an interesting question: Does the location of an accident affect how maritime law is applied? In short, the answer to this question is generally “no.” However, there are some cases where the location may be relevant.
How Location Affects the Cases of Injured Maritime Workers
Maritime law is still somewhat confusing for many, including maritime workers themselves. As a result, some workers who are injured offshore don’t bother to seek compensation due to uncertainty regarding their rights. This makes it somewhat difficult to ensure that injured maritime workers are given the maintenance and cure payments they deserve.
With regard to location, maritime law usually supersedes (or overrides) state law. This means that any worker that suffers an offshore injury will be covered by maritime law standards and will not be subject to state restrictions on compensation. There are, however, a few exceptions.
One exception to this rule is that the injury must have occurred on navigable waters. In addition, any injuries that took place on or near a dock or other fixed platform may be considered to have occurred on “land,” even if the platform was located on navigable waters. If an injury is determined to have happened on land or in non-navigable waters, the case will fall under the jurisdiction of the state.
Find Experienced Representation for Your Maritime Injury Case
If you’re uncertain whether your injury is covered by maritime law or if the body of water on which you were injured is considered “navigable,” you may want to speak with an experienced maritime attorney. Our maritime law practice has been representing offshore injury victims for over 100 years, and our professional attorneys have helped recover over $720 million in compensation.
To learn more or discuss your case for free, give us a call at (888) 297-4553.
Negligence Under the Jones Act
Contemporary seamen often have to work under hazardous conditions that could easily lead to serious personal injury if circumstances on their vessel go even slightly awry. Many seamen sustain severe harm in environments that seem to be reasonably safe. An undetected gas leak that suddenly ignites, a conveyor belt that catches a wayward hand, a hatch negligently left open on the deck in a worker’s walking path—these are just a few simple scenarios that have landed seamen in the hospital.
When disaster strikes, injured seamen have several options when it comes to obtaining just compensation for the physical harm they suffered. What we will focus on here is the Jones Act, an approximately 100-year-old statute that provides seamen with financial recompense in proportion to the negligence of their employer. Who qualifies for the protections of the Jones Act? How are degrees of negligence calculated under its provisions? We’ll answer these and other questions below.
Causes of Action
The law recognizes three causes of action available to an injured seaman. These are the following:
Maintenance and Cure – This is financial compensation provided to a seaman irrespective of the degree of fault they assume for their injury, provided that the individual has not acted with willful negligence (e.g., intentionally tried to harm themselves). It is part of general maritime law, and it consists of two separate components: (1) maintenance and (2) cure. The first component, maintenance, refers to payments intended to make up for lost wages. The second component, cure, covers the seaman’s medical expenses.
Unseaworthiness – The employer responsible for the vessel on which seamen perform their duties is required by law to ensure that the ship is always seaworthy. A vessel can be ruled to be unseaworthy if it contains defective equipment, unsafe walkways, inadequate (or missing) safety gear, or other features that could lead to harm. The ship may also be considered unseaworthy under the law if its crew members were denied sufficient training.
Jones Act violations – If the employer is found to be in violation of the Jones Act, then the seaman is entitled to financial compensation similar to that provided by maintenance and cure. What’s the difference between the two causes of action? To qualify for compensation under the Jones Act, it must be shown that the employer is responsible for the seaman’s injury or illness. This is the statute that we will explore in more detail later on.
Keep in mind that it’s possible to invoke multiple claims of actions when pursuing a case against an employer. For example, an injured seaman can qualify for compensation under the provisions of maintenance and cure in addition to the Jones Act.
Overview of the Jones Act
The Jones Act, otherwise known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, was signed by President Woodrow Wilson in an effort to bolster the U.S. maritime commerce industry. This statute—still very much in force today—consists of a variety of laws governing a wide range of matters pertinent to this industry, but the only part that concerns our present discussion is 46 USC 30104: “Personal injury to or death of seamen.” This section legally endows “a seaman injured in the course of employment… with the right of trial by jury, against the employer.”
Definition of a Seaman According to the Jones Act
The Jones Act grants important rights to seamen who seek compensation for their on-the-job injuries—but who does this statute classify as a seaman? The question isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.
For example, if the employee is an independent contractor rather than a salaried employee, should he or she be considered a seaman who is entitled to Jones Act protections? (Incidentally, judges often rule that this is indeed the case.)
What about someone whose job duties only infrequently bring them on board a vessel? When Jones Act cases go through the courts, it must be determined whether the plaintiff qualifies as a seaman. What the courts tend to look at is the nature of the employee’s role on the vessel (e.g., whether they perform duties essential for the operation of the ship) and the length of their employment.
Negligence and the Jones Act
Now we arrive at the heart of the issue: negligence. The primary distinction between maintenance and cure compensation and Jones Act compensation is that while the former does not depend on proving employer negligence, the latter does.
To prevail in a Jones Act case, the plaintiff must prove four separate elements relating to negligence:
- Duty – It must be shown that the employer had a duty of care—e.g., the responsibility to provide reasonable training, properly functioning equipment, and acceptable safety practices. Under general maritime law, the employer has a non-negotiable duty to maintain a seaworthy vessel.
- Breach – It must be shown that the employer violated this duty of care.
- Causation – It must be shown that the employee’s injury or illness was caused by this breach. In Jones Act cases, this element is governed by the standard of so-called featherweight causation, which means that even slight negligence on the behalf of the defendant is enough to prove liability.
- Damages – It must be shown that the employee suffered real harm. An injury that does not require the employee to miss work or seek medical aid would probably fail to meet this standard.
These four elements are common to all negligence cases, not merely those involving the Jones Act.
Comparative Negligence Under the Jones Act
Comparative negligence is the idea that financial compensation for personal injury should be calculated according to the degree of responsibility borne by each party. It is the standard recognized by the Jones Act and used to determine financial compensation in these cases.
Here’s an example. If a plaintiff is ruled to be 40% responsible for their injury, then the amount awarded by the court will be lowered by 40%. Let’s say that their injury is determined to be worth $100,000. The plaintiff will receive only $60,000, as their partial responsibility for their condition is factored into the payout.
In many negligence cases that do not involve the Jones Act, the plaintiff must prove that the other party’s negligence was the primary cause of the illness or injury under consideration. Not so with Jones Act cases. The employer can be found to be negligent even when the seaman is chiefly at fault for their injury.
In fact, the plaintiff can prevail in a Jones Act case even if it is shown that they bear almost all of the responsibility for the incident under consideration. However, in these instances, the court will sharply reduce the monetary award to be granted to the plaintiff.
If the seaman is found to be entirely responsible for their injury, then no compensation will be awarded. Nonetheless, the seaman may still qualify for maintenance and cure payments.
Negligence Per Se
The doctrine of negligence per se constitutes an exception to the standard of comparative negligence. This simply means that the employer will be found entirely responsible for a seaman’s injury if it is found to result from the employer’s violation of a safety statute. It does not matter if the employee may have been partly at fault for the harm they sustained—the employer’s failure to abide by these safety laws supersedes these considerations.
Damages Under the Jones Act
When calculating damages to be awarded to the injured seaman, the courts consider multiple factors, including lost wages, pain and suffering, and medical expenses. The courts weigh not only the losses already incurred by the seaman but, also, if applicable, the projected diminishment of their future earning ability and quality of life.
If you or someone you know suffered significant injury as a result of employer’s violation of the Jones Act, you need to contact experienced legal professionals to analyze your case. You can contact Maintenance and Cure: Schechter, McElwee, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., for a free confidential case evaluation.