What Federal Law Applies to Offshore Drilling Injuries?

Dozens of offshore oil-and-gas production platforms were evacuated in the Gulf of Mexico last month to protect workers from Hurricane Harvey. According to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, as of August 29, 2017, workers from 102 platforms (out of 737 manned platforms in the Gulf) and 5 drilling rigs (out of 10) had been evacuated.

Offshore drilling in the Gulf accounts for almost one-fifth of the nation’s crude oil production; thus, even a partial reduction in drilling capacity deals a major economic blow, especially for drivers dealing with increased gas prices. But for workers, the bigger concern is safety and ensuring that they aren’t working in hazardous conditions after the facilities are back up and running. Employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their vessels and facilities, and if you are injured while working on an offshore oil-and-gas production facility or vessel, then you are entitled to compensation for your injuries.  But, what law is applicable to your claims?

Different Federal Laws

There are multiple federal and state laws that apply to injured workers. For example, under the Jones Act, employers must provide seamen with a reasonably safe work environment and take care to maintain their vessels. If conditions on a vessel are unsafe, then the employer can be held liable for any resulting injuries. While the Jones Act sometimes applies to offshore drilling injuries, the determining factors are whether the worker qualifies as a “seaman” and whether the vessel is “in navigation.” Workers on stationary/fixed offshore drilling facilities likely aren’t eligible for Jones Act protections.

If the Jones Act does not cover an injured offshore oil worker, the Longshore Act may apply. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act is a federal law that provides compensation to injured maritime workers. The most important distinction between the Jones Act and the Longshore Act is the scope of coverage. While the Jones Act only applies to seamen, those seamen are not covered under the Longshore Act. Coverage under the Longshore Act extends to any longshoreman, or other person engaged in longshoring operations, and harbor workers, including shipbuilders, ship repairmen and ship-breakers.

If neither the Jones Act nor Longshore Act applies, then general maritime law may apply. General maritime law covers all activities that take place on navigational vessels on oceans, seas and lakes. Maritime law governs marine trade, shipping, sailors, passengers and the transportation of goods.

Every case is different, and not every set of facts fits squarely into one legal box. An experienced attorney will help you determine which law applies to your particular circumstances.

Contact Us Today

Contact Patrick Yancey Law Firm today for a free consultation if you or a loved one has been injured while working on an offshore oil-and-gas production platform or drilling rig. We will determine what law applies to your situation and help you recover compensation for your injuries, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.