Algae is a persistent issue on all types of vessels. It can present risks for land-based maritime workers as well. If you are an offshore or maritime worker and you got injured slipping on algae, what are your legal rights? Here’s what you need to know:
Why is Algae So Slippery?
Algae is a type of marine organism that can grow extremely quickly under the right conditions. Moist and warm environments are ideal for algae, which can “bloom” on an extraordinary scale overnight. However, algae can also grow slowly over time, and as algae builds up on ship decks and other surfaces, it can become very slippery. This is due to a combination of algae’s high water content, durable structure, and smooth texture.
In fact, studies have shown that wet algae can even be more slippery than ice—though just barely. While studies have found ice to have a coefficient of friction of 0.017, algae’s coefficient of friction can be as low as 0.015. If you think about how dangerous it can be to walk on ice, you can get an idea of the dangers of walking on algae on the job.
Offshore and maritime workers also face a high risk of slipping on algae because most walking surfaces in the maritime work environment are designed to prevent slips and falls. If you are used to walking on a ship deck that is textured to provide traction, you might not be prepared for the slip-and-fall risk of stepping on algae. This is one of several reasons why vessel owners have a legal duty to keep their ships’ decks clean and free of hazards.
Do Vessel Owners and Maritime Employers Have To Prevent Algae Buildup?
Vessel owners and maritime employers have a general obligation to provide employees with a safe work environment. This includes providing an environment that is free from slip-and-fall risks, including algae. While algae is a natural occurrence, and while vessel owners and maritime employers may claim that there is “nothing they can do” to stop algae from growing, they still have an obligation to take all necessary steps to keep workers safe on the job.
What Are Your Rights if You Slipped on Algae at Work?
While vessel owners and maritime employers have a legal duty to prevent algae-related accidents, injured offshore and maritime workers don’t necessarily need to prove negligence in order to recover financial compensation. This is because the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) both include provisions for injured employees to receive “no-fault” benefits.
1. Filing a Claim Under the Jones Act if You Slipped on Algae on a Vessel
If you qualify as a “seaman” under the Jones Act, you can file a claim regardless of why you slipped and fell. Even if your employer or the vessel owner had no opportunity to clean up the algae before your accident, you are entitled to maintenance and cure benefits.
But, if your employer or the vessel owner did have an opportunity to protect you, you may be entitled to additional compensation for Jones Act negligence or unseaworthiness. While maintenance and cure benefits provide coverage for medical expenses and a portion of your lost wages, filing a Jones Act negligence or unseaworthiness claim allows you to recover full compensation for your out-of-pocket costs, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and other losses.
2. Filing a Claim Under the LHWCA for an Algae Slip-and-Fall Accident On Land
If you work at a port, dock, or marina, you can seek “no-fault” benefits under the LHWCA. These are similar to the benefits available under state workers’ compensation laws. Under the LHWCA, injured maritime workers are entitled to medical coverage and partial wage replacement until they get better or reach their maximum medical improvement.
What if you slipped on algae on a vessel, but you don’t qualify as a “seaman” under the Jones Act? In this scenario, you may have a claim under the LHWCA. In addition to protecting qualifying maritime employees who work on the land, the LHWCA also protects those who work on vessels at ports, marinas, and in other land-based operations.
What Should You Do if You Need to File a Jones Act or LHWCA Claim for an Algae Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you slipped on algae at work, what should you do to protect your right to compensation under the Jones Act or LHWCA? As soon as possible, you should:
- Seek Medical Treatment for Your Injuries – Seeking medical treatment promptly is important for protecting your health and your legal rights. While “seamen” can choose their doctor under the Jones Act, maritime workers filing under the LHWCA have limited options. If you need help deciding where to go for treatment, we encourage you to contact us promptly.
- Document the Accident and Your Injuries – You should try to document the accident and your injuries as much as possible. If you can, you should take photos of the location where you fell (or ask a coworker to take photos for you). You should also report your slip-and-fall accident to your employer promptly, as this will also help with documenting your legal rights. Take photos of your injuries and be sure to keep copies of your medical records as well.
- Get Legal Advice about Your Jones Act or LHWCA Claim – Even if you are entitled to “no-fault” benefits under the Jones Act or LHWCA, collecting these benefits won’t be easy. To give yourself the best chance of securing benefits as quickly as possible, you should discuss your legal rights with an experienced attorney.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation about Your Legal Rights
Did you slip on algae onboard a vessel or at a dock, port or marina? If so, we encourage you to contact us promptly for a free consultation about your legal rights. To discuss your Jones Act or LHWCA claim with an experienced attorney in confidence, call us at 800-468-4878 or tell us how we can help online today.