Can I File a Claim if I Injured Myself Working Offshore?

Jones Act Sep 22, 2023

There are lots of hazards involved in working offshore. No matter what you do for work, if you spend your days on the open waters of the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico, there is always a chance that you will get injured on the job.

This includes injuring yourself. From working on deck to working in the engine room, all jobs on a ship present risks. Even if you are being careful, it’s not hard to injure yourself accidentally. No matter what happens, if you are dealing with an injury you suffered on the job, you should speak with a Houston offshore accident lawyer about your legal rights.

You Can File a Jones Act Claim Even if You Injured Yourself

As an offshore worker, you are most likely protected under the Jones Act. This is a federal law that provides a source of financial recovery for “seamen” who are not eligible for Texas workers’ compensation benefits. The Jones Act entitles injured seamen to financial compensation in a wide range of circumstances—including circumstances in which they are responsible for their own injuries.

To be clear, there are some exceptions. For example, you generally cannot file for Jones Act compensation if you intentionally injured yourself. You may also be ineligible if you accidentally injured yourself because you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But, when it comes to your legal rights, it is important not to make any assumptions, and if you have questions about filing a claim, you should not hesitate to contact a Houston offshore accident lawyer.

But, let’s say you were sober and you accidentally injured yourself on the job. In this common scenario, what financial compensation can you recover under the Jones Act?

At a minimum, you should be eligible for maintenance and cure benefits (as long as you qualify as a “seaman”).

Maintenance and cure benefits are available to injured seamen on a “no-fault” basis. This means two key things:

  • You don’t need to prove that your employer was at fault for your injury, and,
  • Your employer and its insurance company can’t use your fault as an excuse to deny payment (except in limited circumstances, as discussed above).

The “maintenance” portion of maintenance and cure helps cover your living expenses during your recovery, while the “cure” portion covers your medical expenses. Even though these benefits don’t cover all of the costs of an offshore injury, filing a successful claim is still important for your health and financial stability.

Are You Actually Responsible for Your Offshore Injury?

Remember how we said it’s important not to make any assumptions? When you are dealing with an injury that you suffered while working offshore, you should never assume that your injury was your fault—no matter the circumstances involved.

Why? Because if your accident wasn’t your fault, you may be entitled to substantially more financial compensation under the Jones Act.

Even if it seems like you are responsible for your own injury, your employer (or the vessel’s or platform’s owner) could still be to blame. If so, a Houston offshore accident lawyer may be able to help you file a claim for unseaworthiness or Jones Act negligence. If you have either of these claims, your lawyer may be able to help you recover full compensation for your financial and non-financial losses—significantly above the amount you can recover for maintenance and cure.

Let’s look at three common examples:

  • Slip and Fall Injuries – If you slip and fall, it is easy to blame yourself for any injuries you suffer as a result. But, your injuries might not be your fault. If your ship or platform had inadequate guardrails, inadequate anti-skid protection or any other deficiency that left you prone to suffering injuries in a fall, you may be entitled to full compensation. The same is true if you were forced to work in hazardous conditions or with inadequate safety gear.
  • Lifting Injuries – Lifting heavy objects is a part of the job for deckhands and many other offshore workers. But, it can be dangerous without adequate rest and proper safety equipment. If you injured yourself while lifting because you were overworked, didn’t have access to safety equipment or were working in dangerous conditions, you may have a claim for unseaworthiness or Jones Act negligence.
  • Injuries During Equipment Operation – Different types of vessels and platforms have varying types of equipment onboard. However, no matter what type of equipment you use on the job, working with heavy equipment can be especially dangerous at sea. Here, too, hazardous working conditions, inadequate commitment to safety and other similar types of issues can all justify claims for full compensation even if you were working alone when you got injured on the job.

Proving Your Legal Rights After an Offshore Injury

Whether you have a claim for maintenance and cure, unseaworthiness, Jones Act negligence, or all of the above, you need to be careful to protect your legal rights after suffering an offshore injury. You need to be able to prove the claim(s) you are eligible to file, and you need to carefully document your losses so that you do not settle for less than you deserve.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your accident, there is a good chance that your employer (or its insurance company) will try to blame you for your own injury. You should not accept this as the final work on your claim, and you should not let this tactic prevent you from recovering the full financial compensation you deserve. To make sure you avoid costly mistakes and maximize your chances of a full recovery, you should speak with a Houston offshore accident lawyer right away.

Discuss Your Legal Rights with a Houston Offshore Accident Lawyer for Free

Did you injure yourself working offshore in the ocean or the Gulf of Mexico? If so, we encourage you to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation about your legal rights. To speak with an experienced Houston offshore accident lawyer in confidence, call 800-468-4878 or tell us how we can reach you online today.

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