Offshore Accident Lawyer (Overview: All You Need To Know)

What is an offshore accident lawyer?

What are the different types of offshore accidents?

How can you legally claim damages if you suffered an offshore accident?

We will look at what it means to be an offshore accident attorney, what are the different types of offshore accidents, what type of injuries can be suffered, what to do after an accident on a vessel, the different types of legal resources possible such as Jones Act claims or maritime law claims and more.

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What is an offshore accident lawyer

In the United States, an offshore accident lawyer or offshore accident attorney is a type of lawyer specialized in maritime laws, particularly relating to damages caused resulting from offshore accidents.

Offshore accident lawyers have expertise in recovering damages or getting compensatory damages for those or family of those who have suffered injuries while working as a maritime employee or harbor worker, a passenger on a cruise ship or other maritime vessel.

You can refer to an offshore accident lawyer in different ways:

  • Cruise ship accident lawyer
  • Cruise ship lawyers
  • Offshore injury lawyer
  • Offshore injury attorney 
  • Offshore lawyer 
  • Offshore injury claim attorney 
  • Cruise ship injury attorney
  • Offshore attorney

No matter how you refer to an offshore accident lawyer, he or she is a legal professional trained in legally pursuing maritime businesses, insurance companies, governments or other organizations in the event of an offshore accident to recover compensatory damages for their negligent acts or omissions, gross negligence, willful misconduct or other.

An offshore accident lawyer typically supports his or her clients by:

  • Providing legal advice relating to any type of offshore accidents on a ship, rig, platform or vessel
  • Evaluating, investigating and assessing the legal recourse or cause of claim such as the unseaworthiness of a ship or the employer, shipowner or operator’s negligence 
  • Determining the applicable statute of limitation to file an offshore accident lawsuit
  • Determining the recoverable damages for physical injuries or emotional distress 
  • Filing a lawsuit against the shipowner, employer, cruise ship operator or other party responsible for the damages 
  • Handling the actual lawsuit and legal proceedings
  • Deposing the relevant witnesses, reviewing deposition transcripts, gathering the proper witnesses and handling what happens after a deposition 
  • Evaluating the need for an expert witness, medical report or other evaluations
  • Handling the trial and the hearing on the merits of the case
  • Handling out-of-court negotiations for possible lawsuit settlement 

An offshore accident attorney has a very specialized experience and skills in dealing with specific laws such as the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, maritime laws or applicable common law legal theories. 

What are different types of offshore accidents 

An offshore accident is any type of injury caused to a person working as a maritime employee, harbor worker or a person on a maritime vessel.

There are many types of maritime vessels out there and many types of offshore accidents possible such as: 

  • Cruise ships
  • Oil rigs
  • Transportation boats
  • Tugboats 
  • Barges 
  • Shipping boats 
  • Recreational boards 
  • Watercrafts
  • Riverboats
  • Platforms 
  • Trawlers
  • Crew boats
  • Jack-up rigs 
  • Shrimp boats
  • Oyster boats

Some vessels provide for a riskier environment than others. 

However, accidents can happen on any of them for a number of reasons.

Typically, one or many people can be injured as a result of:

  • Human error 
  • Distracted maritime workers
  • Negligence of the employees working on the vessel
  • Fire on the vessel
  • Falling objects 
  • Equipment failures
  • Electric hazards 
  • Deck accidents 
  • Lack of proper safety standards
  • Lack of proper safety protocols 
  • Use of cell phone 
  • Taking on fuel
  • Loading and unloading cargo 
  • Vessel accidents or collision 
  • Diving accidents
  • Dredging accidents
  • Explosions 
  • Crane failures 
  • Ventilation system malfunctions 
  • Inadequate training 
  • Unqualified workers
  • Lack of equipment maintenance 
  • Chemical accidents 

According to a study from the U.S. Minerals Management Service, a good percentage of offshore accidents are actually caused due to human error

Let’s look at some of the most common types of offshore accidents.

Offshore fire accident

Offshore file accidents can be caused by faulty pipelines, lack of proper maintenance, poor fuel storage, the collision between vessels, poor manipulation or storage of flammable material or even on oil rigs caused by the drilling of combustible resources.

For example:

In 2010, an important explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig resulted in 11 deaths and many injuries.

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig accident was primarily caused due to a failed blowout preventer.
Author

Fire accidents on an offshore vessel can cause significant physical injuries and damage to the individuals on board the vessel and result in potentially major property damage.

Oil rig accident

Working on an oil rig or other platforms can be rewarding but dangerous at the same time.

There are many pieces of equipment and everything must work perfectly to avoid catastrophic accidents.

Also, the purpose of an oil rig is to drill into combustible natural resources resulting in an inherent risk to the maritime employees and workers on the oil rig.

Deck accident

Deck accidents are a more common type of offshore accident leading to offshore injuries. 

An offshore lawyer, cruise ship injury lawyer or Jones Act lawyer is an expert in evaluating deck accidents and injuries caused in the following ways:

  • Falling object
  • Person struck by an equipment
  • Offshore vessel slip and fall
  • Falling on wet surfaces 
  • Person falling off a ladder
  • Unexpected vessel movements 
  • Loose stairway welds 
  • Corroded walkways 
  • Ledges without handrails 

Equipment failure accident

Typically, commercial offshore vessels carry a lot of equipment.

As a result, equipment failures can happen and it may lead to offshore injuries.

Depending on what type of equipment fails, the vessel may collide with another vessel, fire may break out, heavy loads may fall, parts of the equipment may become electric and hazardous. 

Tugboat accident

Accidents can happen on tugboats can also happen.

Tugboats are powerful vessels that are designed to push or pull other vessels by direct contact or by means of a tow line.

In the event of a failure of any kind while towing another vessel, accidents and injuries can happen very quickly.

Distracted offshore worker

There are many accidents that can happen on a cruise ship or a transportation or passenger maritime vessel due to human error or distracted offshore workers.

According to studies, human error is the leading cause of physical and bodily injuries on board a vessel.

Cell phone use

Just like cell phones can cause car accidents on the road, the same is true on navigable waters.

Maritime employers must exercise prudence and care in defining, implementing and enforcing policies and procedures designed to prevent mariners, workers, employees, crew or other staff to use cell phones while on the job.

A moment of distraction can cause serious accidents at sea.

Cruise ship accident

Cruise ship accidents happen when a person suffers injuries on board of a cruise ship.

Typical accidents are sudden movement of the cruise ship causing injuries, slip and fall on wet surfaces, falling objects and faulty equipment.

You should contact a cruise ship attorney or cruise accident lawyer to seek legal advice in the event you suffered injuries causing you damages.

What type of injuries can offshore accidents cause

There are many types of injuries an offshore worker or person on board a ship, platform, rig or vessel may suffer.

Offshore injuries can include:

  • Back injuries
  • Lost limbs
  • Head injuries
  • Fire injuries 
  • Traumatic event causing emotional distress
  • Electric shock injuries 
  • Deep cuts 
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Brain injuries 
  • Orthopedic injuries
  • Eye injuries 
  • Crush injuries 
  • Broken bone injuries 
  • Burns 
  • Amputation 
  • Hearing loss 

In some cases, the person suffering an accident may fully recover (and that’s great).

In other cases, the person or victim of the accident will remain with long-term impairment or injuries.

For example, in some cases of traumatic brain injuries, a person may end up with long-lasting neurological malfunctioning.  

You can also have paralysis or other physical injuries causing temporary or permanent damages.

In the United States, the following laws provide some protection to offshore workers, oil and gas employees or other workers with some legal protection:

The Jones Act provides a “seaman” protection when carrying out dangerous jobs in risky environments causing illnesses, injuries or death.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides legal protection resulting from workplace injuries and occupational diseases. 

The Death on the High Seas Act provides legal protection in cases when a sea worker dies on international waters resulting from the unseaworthiness or negligence of his or her employer. 

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act provides legal protection to employees working on fixed platforms off the cost of the continental United States.

Offshore workers can include many people such as:

  • Crew members
  • Deckhands
  • Offshore drilling rig workers
  • Commercial fishermen
  • Oystermen
  • Shrimpers 

Jones Act claims or other maritime law claims allow offshore workers to file a lawsuit against their employer and recover:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Loss of future income
  • Disfigurement damages
  • Mental distress 

If you qualify for the “seaman” status, you may also file maintenance and cure claims along with seaworthiness claims in addition to Jones Act claims.

In the event of an offshore accident to a worker, your Jones Act attorney must file the Jones Act lawsuit within three years of the accident representing the statute of limitation to filing such claims.

Claims against the U.S. government may require that you:

  • Send a notice of claim to the government in writing and give them six months to respond to your notice
  • Should the government fail to respond or not respond to your satisfaction within six months, a civil lawsuit should be filed within two years 

In some cases, the Jones Act may not apply but you may have the option to file a lawsuit under general maritime law or admiralty law.

You should consult with a Jones Act lawyer or offshore accident lawyer to know precisely your rights, the claim procedure, the type of damages recoverable and the applicable statute of limitations.

What to do after an offshore accident

Following an offshore accident, it’s important to take certain steps to ensure that you preserve your legal rights as much as possible.

Here are the steps that should be taken:

  • Get immediate medical treatment
  • Complete an offshore accident report 
  • Notify the shipowner, cruise ship or employer of your injury 
  • Gather all the facts and information relating to the accident 
  • Contact an offshore accident lawyer for legal advice and guidance 

Getting immediate medical treatment may be challenging on a vessel as the communication services may not be operational, emergency crews are not readily available or it may take hours before medical help arrives.

It’s important to be diligent and attempt to get medical support as quickly as possible by reaching out to the crew, emergency staff or whomever who can provide support.

Once you’ve gotten your treatment, it’s important to send a notification to the shipowner or representative, your employer or the company in charge of the vessel advising them of the accident.

What’s also very important is to gather all the facts, evidence and material surrounding the accident and how it happened such as photos, witness names, documents, where the accident happened, what equipment was used and so on.

The last step is to provide all the relevant information to a competent and experienced offshore accident attorney to have them help you navigate the applicable rules, regulations, policies and applicable standards.

Offshore accident lawyer FAQ

Offshore Accident Lawyer FAQ

What is the Jones Act

The Jones Act refers to the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 being a U.S. federal law designed to regulate maritime commerce.

Particularly, it allows seamen and seawomen to file a lawsuit within three years from the time an offshore accident occurred. 

Further to the Jones Act, an offshore worker can claim damages from his or her employer for preventable offshore accidents, the negligence of their employers or ship owner including the acts or omissions of the captain and crew members.

We refer to this as claims of unseaworthiness or negligence claims.

What can be recovered in an offshore injury case

Jones Act claims allow offshore workers to file a lawsuit against their employer and recover:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Loss of future income
  • Disfigurement damages
  • Mental distress 

It’s important to work with a Jones Act attorney to support you in the evaluation of your legal rights, filing of your lawsuit, defining your recoverable damages, depositions, Jones Act lawsuit settlements and more.

What are some offshore injury statistics

Here are some offshore injury facts and highlights according to the Health and Safety Executive’s study in 2012 and 2013:

  • Many offshore injuries were caused due to the handling and manipulation of things
  • Some of the dangerous accidents related to diving accidents and drilling accidents
  • Over 90% of major injuries affected a person’s limbs 
  • Over 90% of the type of injuries were caused by a person slipping and falling, objects falling or moving 

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