Offshore Accidents During Hurricanes and Tropical Storms: What Are Injured Workers’ Rights?

Offshore Injuries Aug 31, 2023

It’s hurricane season in the Gulf of Mexico and Southeast Texas. While working offshore is dangerous under any conditions, it is especially dangerous when high winds and heavy rains rapidly approach jack-up rigs and vessels operating well out of sight of land. Unfortunately, many companies give their employees little choice but to go out in these conditions, putting their safety—and potentially their lives—in jeopardy.

When these decisions lead to serious and fatal injuries, workers and their families can—and should—hire an experienced Houston offshore accident lawyer to help them fight for just compensation. While offshore workers and their families have clear legal rights after offshore accidents during hurricanes and tropical storms, asserting these rights can be challenging. An experienced lawyer can help, and hiring a lawyer in this situation costs nothing out of pocket.

The Jones Act Covers Accidents During Hurricanes and Tropical Storms in the Gulf of Mexico and Other Waters

In the vast majority of scenarios, the Jones Act serves as a source of financial recovery for offshore workers and families affected by accidents in the Gulf of Mexico during hurricanes and tropical storms. The Jones Act also covers accidents that occur in Galveston Bay, Trinity Bay and Houston’s other waters

Texas’s workers’ compensation law does not apply to individuals who work on the water. Instead, the federal Jones Act applies to these individuals in most cases. The Jones Act covers accidents in both inland and offshore waters and applies in cases involving serious injuries and wrongful death.

With wind speeds ranging anywhere from 39 mph to well over 100 mph, tropical storms and hurricanes can be extremely dangerous for workers who are offshore when these storms arise. Tropical storms and hurricanes typically bring torrential rains as well, and they can create waves and swells that tower above vessels and crash onto jack-up rig platforms. Even when vessels and rigs are built to withstand these conditions, accidents can—and do—happen. One wrong move can be enough to put an entire crew in harm’s way, and tragically, mistakes during major storms will prove fatal in some cases.

Here are some important facts about offshore workers and family members’ rights under the Jones Act after offshore accidents during hurricanes and tropical storms:

  • At a minimum, offshore workers injured during hurricanes and tropical storms can file for maintenance and cure benefits. As long as an offshore worker qualifies as a “seaman” under the Jones Act, the worker can file for maintenance and cure benefits after being injured during a hurricane or tropical storm. These benefits cover injured workers’ medical expenses and a portion of their lost wages. Under the Jones Act, seamen have the right to see their own doctor—and if you have been injured offshore, you should see your own doctor as soon as you get back to land. When you do, be sure to mention that you intend to file for Jones Act benefits.
  • Companies can (and should) be held liable for sending their employees out into dangerous conditions. In addition to maintenance and cure benefits, injured seamen can file claims for Jones Act negligence in many cases. Grieving families can often file Jones Act negligence claims as well. Under the Jones Act, employers have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to ensure their employees’ safety, and when they fail to take these steps, they can be held fully liable for the consequences of their mistakes. If a company forces its employees to work in dangerous conditions during a hurricane or tropical storm, this can give rise to a claim for Jones Act negligence if it was clear (or should have been clear) that these employees’ safety would be in jeopardy.
  • Unseaworthy vessels can also be responsible for storm-related accidents and entitle offshore workers and their families to just compensation. Surviving a storm in the Gulf of Mexico requires a seaworthy vessel. When a vessel isn’t seaworthy, this can present numerous risks—all of which can put captains, crewmembers and others’ lives in jeopardy. Accidents during hurricanes and tropical storms involving unseaworthy vessel conditions can give rise to claims for full compensation under the Jones Act as well. This applies in cases involving both serious physical injuries and wrongful death.

Even though the Jones Act provides offshore workers and their families with clear legal rights, asserting these legal rights effectively can be difficult. This is especially true after a hurricane or tropical storm when most companies will try to avoid liability by claiming that there was nothing they could do to ensure their workers’ safety at sea. However, these claims are often disingenuous—nothing more than dishonest attempts to escape the consequences of their poor decisions. When you hire a Houston offshore accident lawyer, your lawyer can investigate to uncover the truth, and then your lawyer can use the true facts at hand to seek just compensation for your injuries or your family’s loss.

What Should You Do After an Offshore Accident During a Hurricane or Tropical Storm?

Given all of these considerations, what should you do after an offshore accident during a hurricane or tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico or near Houston?

If you were injured in an accident during a hurricane or tropical storm, one of the most important things you can do is see a doctor promptly. Again, you should see your own doctor as soon as possible—do not solely rely on your ship or rig doctor for treatment. Tell your doctor what happened, and follow your doctor’s recommendations as closely as possible (or seek a second opinion if necessary).

Whether you were injured or lost a loved one, you should also speak with a Houston offshore accident lawyer. You will need help to fully assert your legal rights under the Jones Act. An experienced offshore accident lawyer will be able to explain everything you need to know and will be able to use his or her experience to fight for just compensation on your behalf.

Talk to a Houston Offshore Accident Lawyer for Free

Do you need to know more about your (or your family’s) legal rights after an offshore accident during a tropical storm or hurricane? If so, we invite you to get in touch. Call 800-468-4878 or request a free consultation online to speak with an experienced Houston offshore accident lawyer as soon as possible.

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Houston, Texas 77056

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Houston, Texas 77029

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