Houston Offshore Accident Lawyers
If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury while working as a maritime employee or harbor worker, you have come to the right place. There is no such thing as an easy job for those who are involved in the commercial maritime industry; offshore accidents are a common, tragic occurrence. When a serious accident occurs, legal questions are likely to arise about the types of compensation that is available for certain types of injuries. With the help of our offshore accident attorneys, you can learn how to go about seeking compensation for you and your family.
What Are Common Causes of Offshore Accidents?
The years of experience that we have in dealing with maritime accidents have revealed a common thread in what causes these accidents to occur. As unfortunate as it may be, employer negligence is one of the most common causes of accidents for employees who are working offshore. Regardless of the specific occupation title, every offshore worker is put under the care of an employer for the majority of their day. It is the legal responsibility of a maritime employer to maintain a safe working environment and to protect employees against avoidable hazards.
Injured offshore workers commonly suffer injuries such as the following:
- Back injuries
- Head injuries
- Lost limbs
- And more
These accidents can be caused by fires, falls, equipment failures, or other deck accidents. Every maritime company is required to train employees on current safety standards and practices, but sometimes employers can become lazy or negligent, and it is the workers who pay the price.
Common Offshore Accidents
Offshore Fires & Explosions
Because of the combustible nature of drilling, offshore rigs are at significant risk of fires and explosions. While these types of events occur infrequently, they are usually the most catastrophic type of offshore accident. One of the most notable explosions occurred in 2010 when the blowout preventer on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig failed. The ensuing explosion killed 11 workers and injured dozens more. Fires or explosions can also be caused by poorly maintained pipelines, improperly stored fuel, or collisions between multiple vessels.
Many scenarios can cause a fire or an explosion on an offshore vessel. Vessels carry a large amount of fuel; something as simple as an improperly maintained pipeline can ignite a fire. These incidents are no light matter. After an explosion, the entire vessel may sink. A fire can be equally as damaging and may quickly spread across the entire offshore platform, trapping workers and leaving no room for escape.
If you have experienced the devastating consequences of a fire or explosion while working as an offshore worker, turn to our firm for caring legal help. At Arnold & Itkin, we have seen the ways that an offshore fire can wreak havoc on a worker's life. Serious physical injuries and emotional traumatization are only the beginning. Often, injured workers rack up hefty medical bills due to hospital visits and rehabilitation, leaving them financially overwhelmed. Time and time again, these maritime workers have found relief from their helpless situation by contacting our firm. When you contact an attorney at our firm, we will fight for the compensation you need to make a full recovery and pay off your medical bills.
Oil Rig Injuries
Offshore oil drilling is dangerous work. The complex equipment needed to drill at such depths is a primary source of hazards. Additionally, most companies do not have the experience drilling offshore that they do with onshore oil rigs. The complexity of offshore drilling combined with the lack of experience increases the chances of an accident occurring on the rig. According to data from the U.S. Minerals Management Service (the federal agency that regulates offshore activity), a significant percentage of offshore accidents are caused by human error.
The deck has a lot of activity. Workers who are not careful could be struck by heavy equipment, slip on a wet surface, or fall off an unsecured ladder. Additionally, a sudden movement of the ship or vessel could cause workers to lose their balance, resulting in back or head injuries.
Equipment failure is almost an inevitable part of life on offshore vessels. Equipment on offshore vessels presents a number of hazards to the workers who are operating the machinery. Limbs can get caught in dangerous parts of the equipment, workers can be pinned underneath a heavy load, or they can be burned or shocked by active equipment. Workers must operate the machines with extreme caution to avoid being injured.
Barge & Tugboat Injuries
Tugboats need to be extremely powerful to assist barges back to shore. However, along with their power comes an added risk of injury. Working on a tugboat is increasingly dangerous while the boat is attached to a barge.
Some of the most common accidents on tugboats and barges involve:
- Tow lines parting
- Handling heavy lines and shackles
- Equipment failure
- Crew negligence
- Slippery decks
- Falls overboard
Offshore Accident FAQ
What rights do I have as an injured offshore worker?
If you’re an injured offshore worker, you are protected by the Jones Act. This outlines and protects your right to file suit against your employer if their negligence caused you harm. You can also file a lawsuit if you were injured because the vessel you were working on was unseaworthy. The Jones Act allows you to seek financial compensation not only for medical bills and lost wages but also for pain and suffering, loss of future income, disfigurement, and mental distress. The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act also protects the rights of injured offshore workers, covering medical expenses and missed work or incomplete voyages.
How long do I have to bring a Jones Act claim after an offshore accident?
The statute of limitations for offshore injuries under the Jones Act is three years. This means you have three years from the date of your injury to file suit. Once three years have passed, you may lose your right to file a Jones Act claim unless you did not show signs of an injury or were not diagnosed until after the incident. If you were working on a vessel owned by the U.S. government, you must submit your claim in writing to the government, wait six months, and then file suit. After that six-month waiting period, you have only two years to file your lawsuit.
What if someone other than my employer was involved in my offshore accident?
If someone other than your employer was responsible for your injuries in an offshore accident, you can still take legal action. The Jones Act may not apply if your employer acted with proper care, but you could file a lawsuit under general maritime law. For example, a product liability lawsuit may be filed against the manufacturer of a defective piece of equipment or machinery, such as a crane, winch, pulley system, engine, door, latch, etc. If your employer was negligent and a third party was also responsible, you could have both a Jones Act claim and a personal injury lawsuit.
Common Causes of Maritime Injuries
At Arnold & Itkin, we recognize that maritime injuries can be debilitating to the victim. We also know that no two maritime cases are the same. Should you choose to work with our legal team, you will be able to rest assured knowing you will have an advocate on your side who is deeply knowledgeable about all areas of maritime law. No matter the cause of the offshore accident that caused you injury, you can trust we will go the distance in our efforts to protect you. Just some of the different causes of maritime injuries that we can help with include the following:
Shipping accidents on navigable waters may occur because the navigator of a ship or crew is distracted by a cell or other wireless device. Just as phones and texting can distract drivers on the highway, wireless devices can lead to serious accidents at sea, including collisions and groundings. The U.S. Coast Guard recently issued a safety advisory warning the maritime industry of the risk of use of cell phones and other wireless devices while operating a vessel. Unfortunately, too many mariners don't pay attention to the warning until after a serious accident occurs.
Ships & Cell Phone Use
The Coast Guard strongly recommends ship owners and operators develop policies regarding the appropriate use of cell phones and wireless devices while on duty. When mariners are navigating a ship, the use of wireless devices unrelated to the task at hand may cause lapses of attention, disrupt the exchange of information, and lead to serious offshore accidents involving injuries and fatalities. Similarly, full attention and active communication are demanded when crew members are loading or unloading cargo, taking on fuel or other potentially hazardous activities.
The National Transportation Safety Board has found that the use of cellphones and other mobile communication devices can slow response times, hinder performance, and increase attention lapses of those in safety-sensitive positions. All crew members are supposed to act as lookouts for potential accidents aboard ship. In two recent investigations, the NTSB determined that Coast Guard crew were engaged in texting or cell phone conversations unrelated to work at the time of two maritime collisions involving patrol boats that left 1 child dead and 10 injured.
The casual use of a cell phone or wireless device by a co-worker or crew member before a serious maritime accident may reflect a lack of proper supervision or lack of attention to safety and may be evidence of negligence. The Coast Guard has said it now recognizes the hazard of distracted mariners and says other maritime employers should work to reduce preventable accidents.
Contact a Texas Offshore Accident Lawyer for Help: (888) 493-1629
At Arnold & Itkin LLP, our entire legal team is thoroughly acquainted with your rights as an offshore worker. We have dedicated countless hours to studying maritime laws such as the Jones Act and the Limitation of Liability Act so that we can provide you with exceptional legal representation for any situation. If you are suffering from an offshore accident, now is the time to act. An experienced lawyer from our firm is waiting to help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your injury claim so that you can receive the maximum amount of compensation available!
"It was just a pleasure to work with them. They’re all very friendly and honest with you. They don’t sugarcoat nothing."- Stacy A.