Gulf Oil Rig Accidents in Louisiana

Besides being a rich source of wildlife diversity, the Gulf Coast of Louisiana is also a significant source of oil and gas for the entire country. As of 2012, it was estimated that there nearly 4,000 oil rigs in the Gulf. With a large increase in offshore oil production has come a significant increase in the number of oil rig accidents. Each year, there are about 12,000 worker injury accidents on offshore oil rigs and most were due to non-compliance with rules designed to make rig workers safe.

The job of an oil rig worker is dangerous, even under the best of circumstances. While a lot of attention was paid to the Infamous Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, which is better known for the massive BP oil spill back in 2010, it also left 11 workers dead and 17 others injured. The fact is, accidents happen too often, and they have a number of causes. Among the most frequent accidents to happen include everything from slips and falls, to struck-by accidents, blowouts, equipment malfunctions, electrocution, oil rig collapses or malfunctions, fires, explosions and even transportation accidents involving boats and helicopters.

Accidents on oil rigs can lead to many types of serious injuries, including broken bones, serious burns, amputations, traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries. While some oil rig workers recover within a few weeks, months or years, many others suffer debilitating, sometimes permanent injuries that require many years of treatment and rehabilitation just to get back to being close to normal. In some cases, such accidents lead to a wrongful death.

In many cases, these accidents are preventable and they occur due to someone else’s negligence. These types of cases are very complex and require a thorough investigation into what happened and to discover which parties are responsible. Often, employers and supervisors fail to follow proper regulations and safe practices, but there are often third-parties who are also responsible. For example, perhaps maintenance was supposed to be performed by a third-party service provider and it either wasn’t performed properly or it wasn’t performed at all. Perhaps a piece of equipment malfunctioned because it was defective. It’s possible for such a third-party to be held liable.

There are also several legal structures that apply to working at sea that don’t necessarily apply to those oil and gas workers who labor onshore; maritime laws, such as the Jones Act, the Death on the High Seas Act and others specifically protect offshore maritime workers. Therefore, in order to recover for all losses and damages, you will need an attorney with a strong knowledge of maritime and workplace safety laws, and the experience to know how to apply them and to access the best experts and offshore investigators available. The offshore oil and gas attorneys at Hoffoss Devall have the skills you need to get everything you’re entitled to. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Louisiana Company Sued for Offshore Injury to Worker

Seamen and dockworkers face numerous hazards in their work. Louisiana employers are required to provide a safe work environment, and many of them do what they can to make that happen. Therefore, it would seem like a simple task to keep the deck of a vessel clear of water and other debris that could result in an offshore injury to maritime workers. Failing to do so could leave a worker with debilitating injuries.

One man claims that this is what happened to him on July 20, 2014. Documents filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Louisiana assert that North American Shipbuilding Inc. employed the man as a fuel rigger. On the day in question, he was assigned to fuel one of Harvey Gulf International Marine’s vessels. While on deck, he says that water and oil on the deck caused him to slip and fall.

He alleges that he suffered back injuries so severe that he is now unable to work. The accident left him with bulging discs in the lumbar region of his back. He blames Harvey Gulf International Marine for failing to provide a safe work environment, among other things.

As would be the case with any other serious offshore injury, the man claims that he has incurred significant medical bills, lost wages and no longer enjoys the same earning capacity as he did prior to the incident. If the court rules that the company was negligent, he could be awarded the damages he seeks. Injuries suffered on navigable waterways are not handled under normal workers’ compensation laws. Therefore, it is crucial for anyone who is injured to gain a clear understanding of his or her rights and responsibilities.

Injured Seaman Files for Benefits Under the Jones Act

Louisiana residents who work as crew members or officers aboard vessels do not fall under the ordinary workers’ compensation system. A federal law called the Jones Act allows them to file personal injury claims against their employers. It also allows surviving family members to file wrongful death claims in the event their loved one is killed while on the job.

For example, a seaman claims that he suffered injuries to his right ankle, left knee and lower spine in an accident while working on board his employer’s vessel. It is claimed that the nature of his injuries resulted in permanent disability.  Seadrill Americas Inc. hired the man as a roustabout. He was then assigned to a deepwater semi-submersible drilling vessel, which is where the accident took place.

The details surrounding the accident were not outlined in the court documents recently filed in the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Louisiana. However, the allegations against Seadrill claim that the vessel was not seaworthy, the seaman was not provided with a safe work environment and was not given any warnings regarding certain hazards aboard the vessel. He seeks relief for current and future medical costs, lost wages and other damages.

A federal judge will ultimately determine whether the evidence presented on behalf of the seaman constitutes negligence on the part of Seadrill. First, however, it must be established before the court that man is a seaman as defined in the Jones Act and that the vessel he was aboard at the time of the accident also meets the definition of a vessel as set forth in the Act. A successfully litigated claim could result in an award of all or a portion of the damages he seeks.

Man Suffers an Offshore Injury While Working for Drilling Company

It takes numerous people to run and maintain a drilling operation off the Louisiana coast. Drilling companies employ a myriad of people, including electronics technicians. One of those technicians suffered an offshore injury during the course of his employment with Seadrill Americas Inc.

On Feb. 18, the electronics technician was assigned to the Sevan Louisiana, which is a vessel that is semi-submersible. At some point, the man fell. He claims in the lawsuit he recently filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana that his right shoulder was injured in the fall.

No further information regarding the accident was provided, but the allegations in the lawsuit claim that his employer failed to keep the vessel free from slipping hazards and spills. He further claims that Seadrill did not provide him with a safe working environment and warnings of potential dangers, among other things. The technician also claims that the Sevan Louisiana was not seaworthy, which led to his injuries.

He is asking for damages, such as lost wages (both past and future), mental and physical pain and suffering, and medical expenses. He further claims that he now suffers a permanent disability that will limit his earning capacity and inhibit his enjoyment of life. If the court determines that his employer was negligent and is responsible for his injuries, it may consider awarding him the damages he seeks under the Jones Act. Companies that employ people to work offshore are required to provide for their safety just as any company on land is required to do. When a worker suffers an offshore injury, he or she retains the right to seek restitution for those injuries and the damages incurred as a result.

Explosion on Offshore Oil Platform Kills 1, Injures 3 More

Louisiana was the hardest hit state in the BP disaster that emptied somewhere in the neighborhood of 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Therefore, word of any offshore oil platform accident is bound to cause the state’s residents to take notice. Many are most likely paying particular attention to the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (BSEE) report that an explosion occurred on the Echo Platform recently.

The platform is approximately 12 miles off the Louisiana coast. Operations were not being conducted on the platform at the time of the explosion, and it was reportedly contained. So far, there is no evidence that any oil spilled into the Gulf.

However, there were four workers injured in the blast — one of them fatally. The other three were taken to a hospital in the area to be treated for the injuries they suffered. No information was released regarding the nature of their injuries or their current conditions.

Fieldwood Energy — a company based in Texas — owns the platform. A spokesperson for BSEE indicated that an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the explosion. More information regarding the incident may be forthcoming in the days and weeks to come.

In the meantime, the workers who survived the accident and the family of the deceased worker may be entitled to benefits under the Jones Act, which provides benefits beyond the traditional workers’ compensation system for those who work on an offshore oil platform. Under the Jones Act, maritime workers are entitled to sue their employers for negligence.  Therefore, in addition to receiving benefits through the workers’ compensation system such as medical expenses and lost wages, a separate claim may be appropriate if an investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident indicates the employer was negligent in a manner that caused or contributed to the accident.

Man Suffers Fatal Offshore Injury, 2 Others Injured

Many people work on oil and gas pipelines off the coast of Louisiana. The work can be hazardous for many reasons, the least of which being the volatility of the oil or gas. Workers accept the combustible nature of the liquids and gases they are dealing with and often take precautions to protect themselves from an offshore injury.

Some companies are more diligent than others are when it comes to the safety of the men and women who are direct employees or contractors. However, even the most careful worker and safety-conscious company may still experience an accident. For instance, a contractor died recently and two other people suffered injuries in an accident that occurred on a platform for a natural gas pipeline owned by Chevron Midstream Pipeline LLC. Maintenance was being done at that gas-gathering point when something yet unknown went wrong.

Details of the accident have not yet been released since the investigation into its cause is in progress. However, there seems to be some controversy over whether gas was released at the pipeline or in the water. Whatever the cause of the accident, containment crews made their way to the site in order to deal with the now shut-in pipeline.

Regardless of the cause, one family is now left to find a way to move forward without a loved one.  When it comes to the financial repercussions of this fatal offshore injury, the family may be entitled to benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Act.  The act works as a workers’ compensation plan for those people who work off the shore of Louisiana, but not on a navigable vessel.

How Does the Jones Act Apply to Louisiana Seamen?

Louisiana seamen are sometimes injured or even killed while working aboard a navigable vessel. A federal law known as the Jones Act allows an injured crew member or officer — or the family of a deceased individual — to file a lawsuit against the seaman’s employer. The most important elements of a lawsuit filed under the Jones Act are the definition of a vessel and a seaman.

In a 2005 case, the U.S. Supreme Court clarified the definition of a vessel under the Act. In order to qualify under the federal law, a vessel must be considered a form of transportation on the water — in other words, navigable. For instance, a barge would be considered a vessel, but a stationary oil rig would not since it does not move.

Defining who a seaman is, however, largely depends on the case. A general definition is anyone who contributes to the operation or mission of the vessel. For example, workers excluded from this definition are dock workers and other longshoremen. In addition, the injured or deceased individual must have been employed by the owner of the vessel at the time he or she suffered the injury or died.

Every case is different, and often requires the assistance of someone versed in the litigation of maritime cases. If you meet that definition of a seaman and were aboard a qualifying vessel when you were injured — or your loved one was at the time of his or her death — a personal injury or wrongful death claim may be filed in a federal or state court in Louisiana. Successful lawsuits under the Jones Act could result in an award of damages, such as already incurred and future medical costs, lost income and related relief.

What is the Longshore and Harbor Workers Act?

Many Louisiana residents work on the state’s waterways. As is the case in any other profession, certain risks and dangers are associated with the job. However, those who work on our nation’s navigable waterways are not covered under traditional worker’s compensation programs. Instead, the federal government passed the Longshore and Harbor Workers Act.

The Act — which is administered the U.S. Department of Labor — provides benefits for medical care and lost income to those individuals who suffer on-the-job injuries and the families of a qualified worker who die as a result of such injuries. Qualified employees are those who work either full or part-time in maritime occupations such as longshoremen and harbor workers. It should be noted that an illness or disease contracting because of the injured party’s work is also covered under the Act.

One of the hallmarks of the Act is that an injured worker may obtain medical treatment from any physician he or she chooses. However, the U.S. Department of Labor maintains a list of medical practitioners who are for various reasons not authorized to provide care under the Act. Many types of disability payments are also available depending on the circumstances.

In the case of death, the surviving spouse, if any, is entitled to half of the worker’s weekly pay until he or she remarries or for life. Children are also entitled to a lower percentage of that pay unless there is no surviving spouse, in which case a child may receive that 50 percent. If multiple children qualify for benefits, they share equally in 66 and two-thirds percent. A $3,000 maximum is paid for funeral and burial costs.

The information about the Longshore and Harbor Workers Act provided herein is simply a general outline of who can receive benefits, what those benefits are and the amount of some of those benefits. Further information can be obtained from someone knowledgeable in the area of maritime injury or death claims here in Louisiana. This article is no substitute for obtaining legal advice on the subject matter.

Captain Suffers Fatal Tugboat Injuries on Louisiana Canal

It can be challenging enough to navigate one boat through Louisiana’s waterways, but tugboats are often navigating for two vessels or large equipment. This adds another dimension to the tugboat captain’s calculations when it comes to obstacles such as bridges. Recently, one captain suffered fatal tugboat injuries when something went wrong as he went under a bridge on the Inner Harbor Navigation Canal (IHNC).

That day, a crane needed to be relocated. As the tugboat captain navigated his boat and the crane through the Louisiana IHNC — also called the Industrial Canal — he required a bridge to be raised in order to pass through. He requested that the bridge be raised to a certain height in order to assure that the crane and his boat could safely pass.

In fact, the bridge was raised higher than he requested, which should have allowed for easy passage under the bridge. However, something went wrong, and the arm of the crane hit a portion of the bridge. The crane then collapsed onto the tugboat’s wheelhouse, where the captain was located.

The Coast Guard, the Harbor Police and New Orleans firefighters and paramedics responded. Despite their efforts to save the 46-year-old captain, emergency medical responders pronounced him dead at around 1 a.m. It took some time to clear the scene, and it could take a while to determine precisely what happened.

While the man’s family waits for answers regarding what led to the man’s fatal tugboat injuries, they will be burying their loved one; not only is his loss difficult, but his family may also have questions about their financial future. A special set of laws governs benefits for maritime workers and seamen. Benefits paid by an individual’s employer are available for the family, but in addition to that, other remedies may be available. Depending on the circumstances, the Jones Act may allow this family to sue their family member’s employer. A review of the case by someone knowledgeable in this area may be beneficial in helping this family deal with the losses incurred as a result of this man’s untimely death.

Seaman Claims Employer Violated the Jones Act in Louisiana Suit

The federal government recognized decades ago that seamen and other maritime workers needed compensation for injuries suffered on-the-job with the passage of the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers Act. The latter act provides for workers’ compensation benefits for workers that are not seaman. Louisiana seaman are most likely aware that the Jones Act provides that they may seek damages for injuries suffered through the negligence of fellow crew members, masters or vessel owners.

It is the owner of the M/V Maersk Alabama that is being sued by a seaman injured during a customs inspection last year. According to court documents, a custom’s officer ordered the seaman to clean a freezer on board the ship. While completing this task, the seaman fell. When he fell, he injured his back and knee.

He claims that his employer failed to timely pay him benefits after a determination was made that he was not fit for duty last July. He accuses his employer, Waterman Steamship, of failing to provide a safe work environment and for failing to provide the crew adequate training in safety procedures. He also claims the master and crew were inactive at the time of his accident.

Every Louisiana worker whether on land or sea deserves a safe work environment free from hazards known to cause injury. Even when employers do what they can to provide a safe work environment and proper safety training, injuries can still occur. When a seaman is injured on duty, he or she is entitled to seek financial damages from his or her employer under the Jones Act.