Mississippi has several ports and rivers and is open to the Gulf of Mexico.
There are many people in maritime occupations working along the shores of the state, as well as offshore in nearby waterways. These jobs are dangerous, and worker injuries are not uncommon.
Particularly due to the inherent danger of some of these jobs, maritime employers have a duty to their employees to maintain as safe a working environment as possible.
Examples of employer negligence that would qualify a maritime worker for compensation under the Jones Act include:
- Poor workplace maintenance;
- Inadequate safety equipment or precautions;
- Improper or inadequate training of employees; and
- Incompetent staff members.
An experienced Mississippi offshore injury lawyer can help after workplace injuries happen to maritime workers.
Common Offshore Injuries
Common injuries that can happen to maritime workers include:
- Slip-and-fall injuries;
- Dangerous chemical exposure;
- Steam or fire burns;
- Back or spinal injuries;
- Repetitive use injuries; and
Other injuries could include paralysis, hypothermia, and brain injuries, though this is not an exhaustive list. The type of injuries that could qualify is limitless.
Offshore Workers’ Legal Rights
Maritime or admiralty law governs navigable waters, including oceans, bays, rivers, and lakes. It also covers certain activities done on-shore if they’re maritime in nature. Offshore workers are protected by maritime common law principles and federal statutes.
The four big maritime laws designed to help employees injured offshore are the Jones Act, the Limitation of Liability Act, the Death on the High Seas Act, and the Longshoreman and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).
Maintenance and Cure Principle
Under the maintenance and cure principle, the owner of a vessel must take care of an employee injured aboard.
The vessel owner must compensate them for living expenses like rent, electricity, and transportation. They must also pay for the employee’s medical expenses until the worker’s healing reaches maximum improvement. However, the principle of maintenance and cure does not provide for the employee’s pain and suffering, future medical treatments, or future lost wages.
The Jones Act
The Jones Act protects maritime workers in American waters or on American vessels. It puts the maintenance and cure principle into statute. It creates a duty for vessel owners and employee supervisors to maintain a safe working environment. Their vessels must be free of hazardous conditions that could cause accidents.
It covers losses for employees injured because of their employer’s negligence or because a vessel was “unseaworthy”—meaning that it was defective or unsafe. The employee must prove that the employer was at fault.
The Act compensates for:
- Lost wages and lost earning capacity;
- Present and future medical expenses;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Living expenses while the employee recovers.
The Jones Act also provides for punitive damages if the employer initially refused to pay maintenance and cure. Families of workers killed offshore may bring wrongful death claims under the Jones Act as well.
Workers not covered under the Jones Act include contract workers, longshoremen, and harbor workers, but they may have a legal claim under other maritime laws.
The Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act
The LHWCA is a federal workers’ compensation law. It provides legal protections to offshore employees, longshoremen, dockside workers, and certain other maritime employees that do not spend most of their time working on vessels.
The Act provides them with a means of receiving compensation for medical expenses and disability payments. Benefits of the LHWCA could also include wrongful death claims. The LHWCA does not cover ship captains or crew.
The Death on the High Seas Act (DHSA)
The DHSA provides monetary compensation to family members of offshore workers killed while working. It covers non-employees such as contractors as well. However, there is no recovery for lost earning potential, future medical expenses, or pain and suffering.
Limitation of Liability Act
The Limitation of Liability Act allows ship owners or leaseholders to limit their liability to only the post-accident value of the vessel and cargo. The Act does not apply when the worker’s injury occurred in a situation where the vessel owner knew or should have known about the acts of negligence or unseaworthy state of the vessel.
Mississippi State Law
In most cases, offshore injuries will be governed by federal law. Generally, maritime claims fall under federal law so long as they:
- Occur in navigable waters;
- Have a substantial relationship to traditional maritime activity; and
- Could disrupt maritime commerce.
If these criteria do not apply, the claim will likely fall under state jurisdiction.
Hiring a Mississippi Offshore Injury Attorney Is a Must
Navigating a maritime legal claim requires highly specific legal expertise. These laws are complex and nuanced. Not every attorney is qualified to handle these claims. And you only have three years to bring your maritime claim. And under certain federal statutes, such as the LHWCA, an injured maritime worker only has one year to bring a claim.
You must take care to find a Mississippi offshore injury law firm that will aggressively fight for your rights. You need someone that understands nuanced maritime laws and which one applies to your situation.
In maritime claims, you are likely going to be coming up against large corporations and their insurance companies.
These entities will have their own Mississippi offshore injury lawyers that are specially versed in this area of law, whose entire job is to make sure the companies pay as little compensation as possible. To be sure you are fairly compensated for your injuries and not taken advantage of, you will need the right legal representation.
The Harris Law Firm Are Mississippi Offshore Injury Attorneys
Your employer has a duty to keep you and other employees safe and to provide a workplace that is reasonably free from dangerous conditions. As a maritime worker, your job is already dangerous enough without having to worry about whether your equipment will fail or if the vessel is safe.
Maritime laws are very complex, and winning an offshore injury case is not easy. The Harris Law Firm has the experience necessary to fight for fair compensation for your injuries. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and discuss your claim with one of our Mississippi offshore injury lawyers.