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Lake Charles Maritime Accident & Injury Lawyers | Oil Rig Injury Lawyer
Lake Charles Maritime Lawyers, Admiralty Lawyers, Offshore Lawyers & Jones Act Lawyers are here to serve you!
The Port of Lake Charles encompasses 203 square miles in Calcasieu Parish alone, which receives and ships 5 million tons of public cargo annually. The Port of Lake Charles is the 12th largest seaport in the United States and offers passenger liner and freight service. The location of this port has helped define the city of Lake Charles, as well as trade in the United States.
Major types of cargo handled at the Port of Lake Charles are bagged rice, flour and other food products, forest products, aluminum, petroleum coke and other petroleum products, woodchips, barites, and rutile. In addition to all this, the Port of Lake Charles houses cruise lines and other passenger vessels.
These vessels are navigated by the members of the Crescent Rivers' Pilot Association and the Lake Charles Pilots Association, which are both parts of a larger group called the Louisiana River Pilots' Association. Countless seamen of all types man the vessels that navigate the Port of Lake Charles, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico each day. Many other Lake Charles workers are employed on offshore oil rigs, platforms, and derricks.
On Louisiana vessels, there are often problems with manning or undermanning a vessel. Inevitably, accidents on these undermanned vessels and offshore rigs sometimes cause injury to the workers who keep them running. When this happens, a variety of legal courses of action might be advisable, from a Jones Act claim, to a claim under the General Maritime Law, or, in some cases where certain Jones Act requirements are not met, a claim under the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA). For advice regarding your legal rights following an injury sustained while in the employ of a vessel, contact one of the Lake Charles maritime law attorneys listed above. Lake Charles maritime lawyers are some of the best in the country and can help you successfully pursue a claim for compensation if you have been injured on the job.
Port of Lake Charles
What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act is a federal law that covers seaman injured on the job. Before the Jones Act was passed by Congress in 1920, there were no written laws or statutes designed to protect seamen and their families in the event that they were injured on the job. Thus, injured seamen were required to resort to the "common law," or General Maritime Law, which is the judge-made law passed down over time and slowly incorporated into the legal system. With the passage of the Jones Act, seamen were finally able to enjoy more predictable and immediate benefits when they were injured.
Unlike Louisiana workers' compensation laws, which actually prohibit an injured worker from suing his employer while collecting benefits, the Jones Act requires a seaman to file a Jones Act claim to receive any compensation. Also unlike workers' comp, the Jones Act is a "fault-based" system and the injured worker must show that the employer was negligent and/or that the vessel he was working on was "unseaworthy." "Unseaworthiness" signifies that some condition on the vessel made it "not fit for its intended purpose." An injured Jones Act seaman is also entitled to "maintenance and cure," which is similar to workers' comp, although it is not statutory like workers' comp. Under the Jones Act, an employer can also be held liable for punitive damages for arbitrarily and capriciously denying payment of maintenance and/or cure benefits. Thus, the Jones Act is a tremendous tool which allows Lake Charles maritime attorneys successfully to pursue claims for accidents and injuries suffered by offshore workers and seamen who travel the intracoastal waterway (ICW).
What damages can a Lake Charles Maritime Lawyer get you under the Jones Act and the General Maritime Law?
The first type of remedy generally available to injured seamen is compensation for maintenance and cure. As part of maintenance and cure, the employee may receive compensation for transportation and wages until the voyage is complete, and for maintenance and cure until the seaman has reached "maximum medical cure." "Maximum medical cure" occurs when further medical treatment will no longer improve the seaman's condition. Unfortunately, this means that if a disease or injury is medically incurable, like a missing limb, maximum medical cure exists as soon after the wound is closed. Next, when a seaman is injured due to negligence on the employer's behalf, he or she may also receive damages for pain and suffering or lost wages. Finally, the general maritime law may provide compensation for injuries or death when the vessel in question is found "unseaworthy" in some respect. A vessel is deemed unseaworthy when the vessel or its crew were not reasonably fit for their intended use and the defect caused or contributed to the seaman's injuries. Courts have generally interpreted these terms liberally in favor of injured seamen and Lake Charles maritime attorneys are experienced with litigating offshore injury claims.
Who qualifies as a Jones Act seaman?
The Jones Act encompasses a broad range of persons into its definition of "seaman." In addition to full time members of the crew, masters of the vessel and other employees who have a substantial connection to the vessel will likely be entitled to compensation for injuries sustained on the job. Some of the typical job titles a Jones Act seaman might have are pilot, deck hand, deckhand, captain, relief captain, mate, engineer and tankerman. The general rule is that any employee that spends over 30% of his or her time on a vessel in navigation (or multiple vessels that are commonly owned) will qualify for seaman status. To recover, the seaman/employee must also work on a vessel that operates on navigable waterways and is engaged in interstate commerce. On the other hand, if the employee spends time on a variety of different vessels or moves between vessels that are not commonly owned, then the employee may instead be protected under either the General Maritime Law or the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA). Despite this limitation, courts have generally interpreted seaman status under the Jones Act broadly, to include a variety of workers onboard vessels, including chefs, waiters, card dealers, cooks, and other entertainers and staff.
What types of vessels do people suffer Louisiana Jones Act injuries on?
The crews of many types of vessels in Louisiana are at risk for injury. For example in the oil industry, dredges, jackup / jack up rigs, supply boats, crew boats, crewboats, platforms, floating platforms, fixed platforms, drilling platforms, oil platforms, tankers, and mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) vessels are places where Jones Act seamen are injured in Louisiana. Tugboats, towboats, and pushboats (also sometimes called tug boats, tow boats, and push boats) as well as pogie boats or pogey boats can be the cause of a Louisiana Maritime Injury. A seaman might be injured on a ship or a fleet of ships or even a barge or while moving between barges. Wires between barges can snap and the ratchets which tighten barge wires can cause injury. Parts of a vessel where injuries are likely to occur include the galley, wheelhouse, stairs, engine room, engineroom, deck, bunk, quarters, bridge and hatch. Read the complete COLREGS U.S.C.G. manual on Navigation, including lighting.
Is the crew of a Riverboat Casino covered by the Jones Act?
The Jones Act only covers people working on a vessel. According to a United States Supreme Court decision, “the word ‘vessel' includes every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.” Unfortunately, there is no clear answer as to whether a riverboat casino or floating casino is a vessel. Each case is different. A court must determine whether the boat can be used as a method of transportation on water. This includes many factors such as: the presence of a crew; how permanently the boat is attached to the pier; whether the boat ever leaves the pier, whether the boat has an engine; the last time the riverboat moved; and other factors specific to each case. If the riverboat is found to be a vessel, then anyone who works on its crew, even cooks and casino dealers, would be considered a seaman, and would be covered under the Jones Act. To be considered a seaman, the worker's duties "must contribute to the function of the vessel or to the accomplishment of its mission," and the worker "must have a connection to a vessel in navigation (or an identifiable group of vessels) that is substantial in both its duration and its nature." Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis, 515 U.S. 347, 115 S. Ct. 2172, 132 L. Ed. 2d 314. Because the mission of a riverboat casino is to make money by gambling, a dealer and a cook both contribute to the accomplishment of its mission.
An experienced Lake Charles Maritime lawyer will be familiar with these laws and can advise you of your status as either a seaman, longshoreman, or otherwise, and help you navigate the legal system regardless of whether you are technically considered a Jones Act seaman.
Why do I need a Southern Louisiana Maritime Attorney to represent me in my Jones Act or General Maritime Law case?
Both the Jones Act and the General Maritime Law can be extremely complex. Numerous legal questions must be answered, and complicated tests govern jurisdiction, "vessel in navigation" status, as well as seaman status under the law. Additionally, the amount of recovery an injured seaman is entitled to will likely differ based on the facts of each case. Courts in different jurisdictions may have reached conflicting interpretations of a law, or the jurisdiction may have conflicting legal precedent on an issue. A competent Lake Charles maritime attorney knows the ins-and-outs of these laws and is skilled in the local court system.
In most cities, very few attorneys specialize in maritime law; however, Lake Charles is lucky to have some of the most experienced maritime lawyers in the country and their expertise can help you obtain the judgment you deserve. Contact one of the expert Mississippi River maritime attorneys listed above for a consultation regarding your rights.
The BP Transocean Gulf Oil Spill
Oil rigs like the one involved in the BP Gulf Oil Spill disaster are owned and run by large companies who look to cut costs and make a profit. Often, these profits are made by cutting corners in their safety procedures. One way large companies can save money is by undermanning a rig or manning it with people who have made big mistakes before. Management at these companies must report all safety issues and be able to do so without fear of retribution from the company who owns the rig or vessel. There can also be problems when the Coast Guard mis-classifies a vessel. For example, the Deepwater Horizon was classified as a Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) when it realistically was also a dynamically positioned vessel (DPV). A DPV uses a complicated computerized system of thrusters propellers and sensors to keep the ship in place. This is important because it changed the crew and manning requirements for the vessel. This could have helped lead to the oil spill. Another problem on drilling vessels is that the captain often is not given control over drilling operations. The captain's purpose is to make all of the final decisions on the ship. When control is taken from him, it can lead to safety problems. If you or a family member is hurt in the Gulf Offshore Oil industry, contact a Lake Charles Jones Act Lawyer today.
How long do you have to file a Jones Act or General Maritime Law claim?
Generally, both Jones Act claims for maintenance and cure or General Maritime Law claims for unseaworthiness against a vessel owner may be filed up to three (3) years from the date of injury. However, when the case is being brought against the U.S. government, the statute of limitations may be somewhat shorter.
Contact a Lake Charles Jones Act lawyer immediately upon being injured to be advised of your legal rights.
To find a Lake Charles Maritime Attorney, see the box in the top-left corner of this page. These Maritime Lawyers are experienced and qualified to represent you.
Louisiana Maritime Training Schools:
Martin International, Inc.
Lafourche Merchant Marine Training Service Corporation
How can you find a quality Lake Charles Maritime or Jones Act lawyer near you?
Contact one of the qualified Lake Charles maritime lawyers listed at top, all of whom have significant experience dealing with Jones Act claims as well as other types of maritime-related lawsuits.
Serving clients throughout Southwestern Louisiana, including Carlyss, Holmwood, Iowa, Lake Charles, Moss Bluff, Port of Lake Charles, Sulphur, Westlake, and other communities in Calcasieu Parish.
These experienced trial lawyers will zealously pursue your claim! Call now for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.