The Gulf of Mexico is a hub of maritime activity. It provides major shipping and fishing routes, and is home to the offshore oil industry. Tanker ships, container ships, supply boats, and floating oil platforms are but a few of the various vessels engaged in maritime activity in the Gulf of Mexico. Workers who are injured or killed while working in the Gulf of Mexico are covered by federal maritime law. Maritime law is a unique body of law which differs in many respects from land-based law which is why you need a lawyer who is experienced in handling maritime cases. The lawyers at O’Bryan Baun Karamanian have made maritime law their focus, and have the knowledge and experience to get you the justice you deserve.
Crew members injured while working in the Gulf of Mexico are covered by the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a federal statute that affords a remedy to crew members who are injured while acting in the course of their employment due to employer or co-employee negligence. Negligent acts and omissions serving as the basis for a Jones Act claim can include failing to prevent or remedy an unsafe condition; failing to assign enough crew members to a particular job task; failing to properly train, supervise, or instruct crew members; failing to provide adequate and necessary tools, equipment and machinery; ordering crew members to undertake a task in unreasonably dangerous weather/sea conditions; and negligently failing to inspect and maintain equipment. If, for example, you are injured while working as a deckhand aboard a supply boat because the captain ordered you to accept a cargo transfer hose from a rig when the weather and sea conditions made it unsafe to do so, you would have a remedy against your employer under the Jones Act. The Jones Act allows for recovery of compensatory damages including lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical bills, and damages for pain and suffering.
In addition to the Jones Act, workers in the Gulf of Mexico who are injured as a result of unsafe conditions aboard a vessel also have a claim under the general maritime law doctrine of unseaworthiness. A vessel owner has an absolute and non-delegable duty to furnish its employees with a seaworthy vessel. To be seaworthy, a vessel, her equipment and crew, must be reasonably fit for its intended purpose. Any number of unsafe conditions can render a vessel unseaworthy including unreasonably slippery decks, inadequate crew members assigned to a specific task, and equipment that malfunctions or breaks under normal use. Compensatory damages such as lost wages, loss of future earnings, medical bills, pain and suffering are all recoverable under the general maritime law doctrine of unseaworthiness.
MAINTENANCE AND CURE:
If you get injured or fall ill while serving aboard a vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, you are entitled to maintenance and cure. Maintenance is a daily sustenance allowance payable to the crew member while they are recovering from their injury or illness. Cure refers to payment of all reasonable and necessary medical expenses associated with the injury or illness. Both are payable until the crew member reaches maximum medical improvement. It is not necessary for the crew member to prove fault or blame to be entitled to maintenance and cure. All that must be shown is that the injury or illness occurred while the crew member was in the service of his ship.
*Dennis M. O’Bryan is enrolled to practice before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals which hears appeals from the federal district courts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. He is a member of the bar of the federal districts for the Eastern and Southern District of Texas. In those federal district courts in which he is not generally enrolled to practice, he gains admission pro hac vice, on a case by case basis, by securing the sponsorship of a reputable local attorney. He is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, where his office is located.