Accidents and Injuries on the Water and at Sea
Throughout the Gulf of Mexico, the coastal regions of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, and on inland waters, oil and gas industry employees, seamen, fishermen, drillers, dockworkers, and recreational water-goers are exposed to dangerous conditions on the high seas.
Although the many hazards of working or enjoying recreational activities at sea are well known, no one can truly be prepared for a fatal accident to happen to a family member or friend.
Maritime incidents which can lead to injury, property damage, and death include:
- Cruise ship accidents
- Offshore oil rig accidents
- Marine crane accidents
- Commercial fishing boat accidents
- Tanker, cargo ship, and barge accidents
- Shipyard accidents
Important Laws Pertaining to Maritime Accidents
Many maritime injury claims are governed by the Jones Act or General Maritime Law also known as Admiralty Law. Maritime law is a distinct body of law which governs maritime questions and offenses. It deals with matters including marine commerce, marine navigation, shipping, sailors, and the transportation of passengers and goods by sea. It also covers many commercial activities, even land-based, if they are maritime in character.
Filing a Jones Act Claim
Seamen and maritime workers have special rights under federal law, including the ability to sue an employer or the ship’s owner for negligence under the Jones Act. This operative provision is found at 46 U.S.C § 688 (a) and provides that: “Any sailor who shall suffer personal injury in the course of his employment may, at his election, maintain an action for damages at law, with the right to trial by jury, and in such action, all statutes of the United States modifying or extending the common-law right or remedy in cases of personal injury to railway employees shall apply…”
With regard to the Jones Act, keep these important notes in mind:
- Any worker who spends less than 30% of his time in the service of a vessel on navigable waters is presumed not to be a seaman under the Jones Act.
- An action under the Act may be brought either in a U.S. federal court or in a state court.
- The seaman/plaintiff is entitled to a jury trial, a right which is not afforded in maritime law absent a statute authorizing it.
Under the Jones Act, the burden of proof is much lower, meaning victims whose injuries were at all caused by the negligence of the employer may be entitled to compensation. Injured victims are entitled to collect damages just like any other personal injury case, including medical costs, lost wages, future earnings, and pain and suffering.