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Maritime employees, such as drillers, sailors, and riggers, work in some of the most dangerous workplaces in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), offshore oil rig workers have a fatality rate seven times the national average. Similarly, workers in port operations and marine terminals have a fatality rate that is five times above the average.

Read on to learn why maritime work is dangerous, why safety is important at sea, and what laws protect maritime workers. We’ll also cover how an experienced Tyler, Texas maritime lawyer can help you if you or a loved one have been injured or killed by a maritime occupational accident.

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Why Is Maritime Work Dangerous?

Offshore rigs and ships are risky places to work because of their proximity to the sea. As such, employers of maritime workers have a heightened responsibility to keep workers as safe as possible by maintaining proper safety standards. If an employer’s negligence creates an unsafe work environment, employees can hold them accountable for any injuries or deaths resulting from that oversight.

Employer negligence can cause the following injury-causing incidents, some of which may be fatal:

Working at height. An abseiler wearing complete personal protective equipment (ppe) sitting on gas pipeline for painting activities.

The Importance of Safety at Sea

Because sailing comes with so many risks, ship owners are required to upload certain safety standards to ensure the safety of employees. Specifically, maritime law requires them to maintain three critical aspects of the ship:
  • 1
    Equipping refers to the equipment used on the vessel to conduct business. If the equipment isn’t provided or properly maintained and this leads to an accident or death, the ship owners may be responsible for the resulting losses.
  • 2
    This refers to how the staff function onboard. Ship owners may be liable if an injury or death occurs due to understaffing, poor leadership, or failing to train the seamen properly.
  • 3
    Ship owners are responsible for providing an adequate supply of provisions that matches the difficulty or length of the journey. They may be held liable for accidents caused by a lack of provisions.

What Laws Protect Maritime Workers?

Fortunately, the U.S. court system has passed several laws to provide maritime workers and their families compensation for death or injury while on the job. The most important maritime laws are:
General Maritime Law
The courts have established that ship owners must provide for their employees if they become sick or injured during the voyage. Called ” maintenance and cure,” this provision provides compensation for the worker until their full recovery. However, there are limitations to this, since ship owners can’t provide treatment for an unlimited period of time. As such, most ship owners will pay a maintenance rate between $30 to $45 a day. Alternatively, they may choose which medical treatments to cover.
The Jones Act
Also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act gives seamen the right to sue their employer when injured at work. It has a “featherweight” or extremely light burden of proof, making it easy for sea workers to get the compensation they deserve. Note that only seamen are covered by the Jones Act. The Jones Act defines a seaman as someone who works on a boat or ship as a crew member or captain. The Act requires employers to give seamen a safe work environment and maintain the vessel in a reasonably safe condition. As such, this law is extremely useful when a seaman sustains life-changing catastrophic injuries, such as:
  • Amputation
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
  • Paralysis
  • Burns
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Internal organ damage
If you have suffered such injuries, a Tyler, Texas Jones Act attorney can help you recover medical care, lost wages, and other expenses. The right maritime law attorney will also help you get compensation for the cost of future medical care, the lost or reduced ability to work, and pain and suffering resulting from the accident.
Longshore & Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA)

If you’re not a seaman, you can seek workplace injury claims under The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).

This Act pays benefits to injured maritime workers who have temporary or permanent total or partial disabilities. The benefits cover all necessary and reasonable medical treatments, a portion of lost wages, and travel expenses for receiving those medical treatments. The Act also provides free job retraining if the worker can’t return to maritime employment after their injury.

Additionally, the LHWCA provides compensation for the surviving spouses of maritime workers who died of work-related injuries.

Death on the High Seas Act
You can also seek compensation through the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) if you believe that a loved one’s death was caused by neglect or a wrongful act while at sea. To sue, the accident or incident that caused the death must have occurred beyond three miles from the shore of the U.S. Deaths that happened within three miles of shore are covered by the Jones Act, state law, or general maritime wrongful death provisions. Unlike most wrongful death and survival provisions, DOHSA only provides for pecuniary loss. Pecuniary losses are losses that you can easily calculate, usually by producing a bill or receipt to show that you’ve paid an expense. A typical example would be the loss of financial support from the deceased.

Partner With an Experienced Tyler, Texas Maritime Accident Attorney

Maritime accidents can cause life-altering catastrophic injuries such as amputations, burns, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and even death.

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries or death as a result of a maritime accident, reach out to our Tyler maritime law attorneys. We at Morris & Dewett have over 20 years of experience fighting for victims of workplace accidents. Known throughout Texas and Louisiana for personalized counsel, we know what it takes to win the toughest maritime injury cases and secure maximum damages inside and outside the courtroom.

Interested in experiencing the Morris & Dewett difference? Email us or call (318) 221-1508 for a free consultation. We’re available 24/7 for confidential consultations and advice. What’s more, you don’t pay if you don’t win.

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