Working offshore on an oil rig or platform comes with many hazards and risks. Accidents like fires, explosions, collisions, falls, and equipment malfunctions can and do happen. When an offshore accident occurs, injured workers may require the services of an experienced offshore accident attorney.
Why Hire an Offshore Accident Attorney?
If you’ve suffered an injury while working offshore, hiring an offshore accident attorney is highly recommended for several reasons:
- Maximize Compensation: Offshore accident laws are complex. An attorney will know how to navigate the laws and build the strongest case possible to obtain full and fair compensation. This includes calculating past and future lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages.
- Prove Liability: Proving negligence and liability in offshore accidents can be difficult without legal representation. An attorney will investigate what happened, gather evidence, and determine all parties that may be at fault. This provides the highest chance of a successful claim or lawsuit.
- Handle Communications: After an accident, injured workers may be contacted by insurance adjusters who want to take recorded statements. This can potentially harm your case. An attorney serves as your representative and handles all communications.
- Negotiation Experience: Most offshore accident cases settle out of court. An attorney has the negotiation skills and experience to achieve a fair settlement from the company’s insurance carrier. This is better than trying to negotiate alone.
- Level the Playing Field: Offshore companies and operators almost always have legal representation from major corporate law firms. An experienced attorney levels the playing field and handles the litigation process for you.
How to Choose an Offshore Accident Attorney
Not all attorneys have specific expertise in offshore injury cases. When selecting legal representation, consider these factors:
- Maritime Law Experience: Look for an attorney well-versed in maritime personal injury law which governs accidents offshore. This is a complex subset of law.
- Offshore Accident History: Choose a lawyer that has represented multiple clients in offshore accidents and litigation. Their experience leads to better case strategies.
- Resources: Handling an offshore injury case takes substantial resources for investigation, expert witnesses, maritime law research, and more. Select a law firm with the resources to fully commit.
- Reputation: The attorney should have a proven track record of delivering successful verdicts and settlements for offshore accident clients. Check their case results.
- Contingency Fees: Most offshore accident attorneys work on contingency fees, meaning you pay nothing upfront. The attorney only collects if you win your case.
Types of Offshore Accidents
There are many types of accidents and injuries that can occur while working offshore:
- Oil rig explosions: Oil and gas igniting can cause powerful blasts leading to severe burns and trauma.
- Falls from heights: Falling from platforms, ladders, helicopters, or into the sea can cause various injuries.
- Equipment malfunctions: Mechanical failures can cause workers to be struck by or caught in machinery.
- Crane/rig collapses: Structural failures and collapsed components can crush or trap workers.
- Boating collisions: Support vessels can crash into platforms, resulting in injuries.
- Chemical exposures: Toxic fumes, vapors, and materials can harm workers if improperly contained.
- Electrocutions: Contact with faulty wiring and electrical systems can electrocute workers.
An experienced offshore accident lawyer has handled cases across this range of accidents and injuries.
Damages Available in Offshore Accident Claims
For injured victims, the law provides the right to recover full and fair compensation for their losses and damages. With an attorney’s help, offshore accident victims can seek damages including:
- Medical expenses, both current and future treatment costs
- Loss of past and future income due to disability
- Costs for rehabilitation, job retraining, assistive devices
- Compensation for disfigurement and physical impairment
- Pain, suffering, mental anguish
- Punitive damages in cases of gross negligence
The value of a claim depends on the severity of the injury, length of disability, body parts affected, required medical treatments, and other case specifics. An attorney thoroughly calculates and documents all damages.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations is the deadline for filing an injury lawsuit. For offshore accidents, the statutes include:
- Jones Act Claims: 3 years from the date of injury.
- Death at Sea Claims: 3 years from the date of death.
- Maritime Lawsuits: 3 years under general maritime law adopted by most states.
The clock starts ticking on the day of the accident or death. Meeting the deadline is crucial, so contacting an attorney soon after the incident is important. An attorney can advise on the applicable statutes and protect your right to take legal action even as time passes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the main causes of offshore accidents?
The most common causes are oil/gas explosions, equipment failure, capsizing vessels, falls, fires, collisions, and human errors in operating procedures.
If I’m receiving workers’ comp benefits, can I still pursue an injury lawsuit?
Yes, workers’ comp and injury lawsuits are separate and you can seek both. Workers’ comp only covers lost wages and medical costs, while a lawsuit allows you to potentially recover full damages.
How long do offshore accident cases typically take to resolve?
Most cases resolve in 1-2 years, though complex cases with multiple defendants can exceed 3+ years. An attorney works to resolve your case efficiently.
Is it still worth pursuing a claim if I was partly at fault for the accident?
Yes, you are still entitled to compensation even if you shared in the fault under maritime law’s comparative negligence rules. Your damages are reduced by your percentage of fault.
Can family members recover damages if a loved one dies in an offshore accident?
Yes, surviving spouses and other relatives can pursue a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages such as funeral costs, loss of support/services, and loss of companionship.
Suffering an offshore injury can be devastating, resulting in immense losses and disruption. Seeking experienced legal representation maximizes your chances of obtaining the full compensation you need and rightfully deserve. With an offshore accident attorney guiding your case, you can focus on recovery while trusting your rights are protected.