Offshore Accidents along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast
In the Biloxi and Pascagoula area, many people work offshore on barges, fishing vessels, cargo ships, casino boats, and ferries, which means offshore accidents are common along the Gulf Coast simply due to the amount of time we spend on the water. When those who own or operate seafaring vessels fail to keep their premises and equipment safe for workers and the public, injury-causing accidents are especially likely to happen. Gardner Law Firm has extensive experience handling offshore accident cases involving maritime law and The Jones Act.
On-the-Job Offshore Accidents
If you have been injured in the course of performing your job working as a crew member aboard a barge, commercial or chartered fishing vessel, a casino boat, or ferry, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries under maritime law. Maritime laws have been established for the benefit of workers who have sustained personal injuries under a number of situations and circumstances, including accidents involving:
- Dock or shipyard injuries
- Oil rigs
- Cargo ships
- Commercial fishing boat injuries
- Tour boats
- Charter fishing boats
If you are injured due to the unseaworthiness of the vessel or offshore oil rig you are working on, you may have a case against its owner or your employer under The Jones Act in addition to any personal injury claims you have against negligent parties responsible for your accident.
The Jones Act was established in 1920 as the Merchant Marine Act. It states that ship owners are responsible for providing maritime workers with safe and seaworthy vessels, maintaining equipment, training employees, and for the safe navigation around vessels or offshore oil rigs. This contributes to a safe working environment for all crew members and protects you from being injured while performing hazardous work.
Common Maritime Accidents and Injuries
Maritime/offshore jobs can be incredibly dangerous. Workers find themselves constantly surrounded by water and heavy machinery, either of which can have deadly consequences. Vessels might be understaffed, have inadequate equipment or maintenance, or companies might fail to provide enough training for seamen who are forced to work long hours under harsh conditions.
Jobs in the maritime industry often pay well, but there is a tradeoff. The injury and fatality rates in this sector can be far higher than others. Some of the most common maritime accidents and injuries we see include:
- Slip and falls – The most common type of maritime accident is a slip and fall or trip and fall injury. The decks on vessels are slippery and can be cluttered with debris, leading to dangerous and even deadly accidents.
- Falling overboard – Seamen can fall overboard while out to sea as well as at the dock by falling in between the vessel and the pier. Rescue efforts can also put other crewmembers at risk.
- Enclosed spaces – Many seamen are forced to work in enclosed spaces such as engine rooms and cargo areas where there is insufficient oxygen or toxic fumes.
- Chemical burns – A vessel’s galley or engine room are common places for chemical burns as well as dangerous voltage accidents.
- Repetitive use injuries – Maritime workers are often asked to repeatedly perform the same tasks without proper training. This can result in different repetitive use injuries to the back, neck, wrists, hips, feet, knees, and ankles.
Ship Owner Responsibilities under The Jones Act
There are many specific items ship owners are responsible for maintaining under The Jones Act, including:
- A vessel’s owner must make sure the ship is able to withstand the rigors of the weather and the seas it is operating in.
- The crew members must be trained and certified competent to maintain the vessel.
- The equipment you work with must be maintained in proper working condition and serviced regularly.
- All decks must be maintained and kept free from trip and fall hazards.
Are You Covered Under the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is one of the most significant maritime laws. Passed by the federal government after the tragic loss of the RMS Titanic, this law gives injured seamen the right to sue their employers for compensation.
Most employees in the U.S. are covered by workers’ compensation, but the Jones Act gives seamen additional rights and protections. The Jones Act only covers certain types of workers; specifically, seamen and sailors hired to work on American vessels. To qualify, at least 30% of your time must be spent on a vessel that is “in navigation,” or not drydocked. A vessel can be anything from a small boat to a large cargo ship. Further, your position must contribute to the mission or function of the fleet.
Your Rights After an Offshore/Maritime Accident
If you are working on a vessel, you should be aware of your rights under the Jones Act and other admiralty and maritime laws. Specifically, you are entitled to:
- A reasonably safe working environment;
- Access to a seaworthy vessel;
- Vessels with adequate crew numbers;
- Vessels with a well-trained crew;
- Vessels with appropriate safety rails and guards;
- Vessels with appropriate equipment and fire suppression systems;
- Vessels that have sufficient living quarters, food, and water;
- Vessels that have properly stored cargo.
If you have been injured as a qualified seaman, you also have the right to:
- File a lawsuit if you were injured due to your employer’s negligence or harmed by another crewmember;
- Request “maintenance and cure” following an injury, which is reimbursement of daily expenses and payment of medical care;
- File a claim for compensation for economic and non-economic injuries that resulted from negligence;
- File a claim for punitive damages if your employer refuses to pay maintenance and cure.
Pursuing a Maritime Accident Claim
While maritime law gives you certain rights, collecting the benefits you are entitled to is not always automatic. You may be required to identify the party responsible for your injuries, which could depend on the circumstances of your accident. Some options include:
- An employer – if there was poor ship maintenance, a lack of training, or other negligence.
- A vessel captain – if there was a collision or other decision that caused the accident.
- A vessel owner – if the vessel was unseaworthy or poorly maintained.
- A co-worker – if another crewmember contributed to your accident.
- A product manufacturer – if there was a dangerous or defective product involved.
Some cases involve more than one at-fault party, and it is not uncommon for an insurance company to try to claim that you were somehow responsible for the accident as well. For this reason, we recommend that you speak with an experienced maritime accident attorney as soon as possible so that you can protect your right to full recovery.
Patron Accidents on Maritime Vessels
In addition to people who have been injured while working offshore, we represent patrons of offshore casinos, marina restaurants, charter boats, and cruise ships who have sustained personal injuries while onboard these vessels. For example, slip and fall injuries frequently occur offshore due to a ship’s motion or rough water, and also because of wet or slippery surfaces on the boat or dock.
In fact, the types of injuries you may suffer as the patron of a boat or maritime facility are virtually limitless. You may hit your head on an unfamiliar low doorway, causing lacerations and concussions. As a cruise ship passenger or dinner marina patron, you may get food poisoning and become sick due to eating food that was improperly prepared, handled, or preserved. Injuries may also occur when boarding or disembarking from boat to deck as the vessel rocks back and forth. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your personal injury, the Gardner Law Firm is there for you with a team of experienced offshore injury attorneys.
Contact Gardner Law Firm after Sustaining an Offshore Injury
If you have been injured offshore, either as a worker or a patron on a maritime vessel, please contact Gardner Law Firm to schedule a free initial consultation with an experienced personal injury and maritime attorney. We help injury victims all along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast get the money they deserve after an accident.