Various federal laws apply to injuries that occur in the offshore oil industry, shipping, and related maritime activity. The status of a particular worker is determined based on that worker’s affiliation with a vessel or fleet of vessels. A maritime worker may be considered a “Jones Act seaman,” a “Longshoreman,” a worker whose claim is governed by the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, or even state worker’s compensation. In any event, injuries that occur on shore or offshore may still be governed by admiralty and maritime law depending upon the circumstances. Receipt of state worker’s compensation benefits is not determinative of a particular worker’s status. For example, a Jones Act seaman may be receiving worker’s compensation benefits. However, receipt of those benefits does not preclude the Jones Act seaman from pursuing a cause of action against his employer and/or the owner of the particular vessel where he or she was injured. Jones Act seamen are afforded substantial protections under the law. Specifically, the law recognizes that a shore-based employee is free to assess the situation at a work site, and if he or she feels unsafe, they can merely get in their vehicle and leave. Jones Act seamen are not afforded this luxury. Specifically, a Jones Act seaman’s employer and/or the vessel operator controls the vessel and the fate of all aboard. A Jones Act seaman cannot merely get in his or her car and leave a dangerous work site. As a consequence, the law holds Jones Act employers responsible if their negligence brought about the worker’s injury. Moreover, if the Jones Act employer violated Coast Guard or other federal regulations, the conduct of the injured worker cannot be used to reduce the responsibility of the Jones Act employer.
Jurisdiction and Venue
In Texas, the State District Courts and Federal Courts have jurisdiction over Jones Act claims. The venue of a particular claim refers to the county in which the lawsuit can be filed. Generally speaking, a admiralty/maritime case can be filed in the county where the services were provided, in the county where the defendant resided at the time of the incident or in the county where a deceased person’s estate is pending in Probate Court.
In injury cases that arise as a consequence of admiralty/maritime, the injured worker may have standing to bring a claim against various defendants, depending upon the status of the injured worker. For example, a Jones Act seaman can bring a claim directly against his or her employer. In death cases, the victim’s parents, spouse, and children all have standing to bring a claim. In addition, a survival act claim may be brought on behalf of the victim’s estate to recover damages suffered by the victim from the time of injury until the time of death. These damages include hospital bills, damages for pain and suffering, and funeral bills.
The information contained on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel. The Klein Law Firm maintains its principal office in Houston, Texas and handles cases across Texas. The availability of this website in jurisdictions in which The Klein Law Firm or any of its attorneys are not licensed should not be deemed or construed as advertising of its services in those jurisdictions.
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