Hurricanes do more than shut down oil production, commerce, and cause flooding or other storm damage. When maritime and offshore workers are in the path of a hurricane or tropical storm, they are at risk of being injured or killed. Companies have a legal duty to evacuate workers off manned oil and natural gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The crews for many liftboats, jack-up rigs, and semi-submersibles have been brought in, or forced to shelter in place aboard their rigs. Because companies have a financial interest to keep employees out working until the last possible minute, workers are put in danger in two ways. The first danger is that crews coming back to shore will be traveling in rougher weather than usual. Second, some companies with ships or rigs on the edges of the storm will gamble with their crews' lives by keeping them offshore. Unpredictable at best, these storms can change course, increase in intensity, or stall. All of which can endanger the lives of offshore workers.
When an offshore worker is injured during a storm or while evacuating before a storm, their claims are covered by the maritime laws of the United States.
If more than a third of your job is spent at sea on a vessel, you're most likely considered a "Jones Act" worker. This means two things: your injury claims aren't covered by regular worker's compensation, and your company has to follow strict safety rules to prevent putting its workers in harm's way. If you are hurt while working as a member of an offshore crew, your employer must pay for your medical care. This obligation is called "Cure" under maritime law. Also, your employer must pay you a portion of your daily wages while you are unable to work, known as "Maintenance." An offshore worker's employer must pay Maintenance and Cure automatically. You, the injured employee, do not need to show that your employer did anything wrong.
The part of the Jones Act that requires companies to keep workers out of harm's way applies to hurricanes and tropical storms. Companies may be paying attention to their bottom line by keeping workers offshore as long as possible, however they have a higher duty to keep you safe. If your company did not evacuate your rig or bring your ship in to port in time and you were injured in a tropical storm or hurricane, your employer can be held liable for your injuries.
We represented several crewmembers of a liftboat that capsized in the Bay of Campeche during Tropical Storm Nate, as well as the families of two of the workers who died during the storm. The liftboat company failed to evacuate the crew in time, the liftboat collapsed during the storm and sank. The crew and the surviving family members turned to us to help them hold the company accountable for putting profits over safety. If you are injured in similar circumstances, or you've lost a loved one during a hurricane or tropical storm, that's where we come in.
Contact our maritime attorneys right away if you're injured during a hurricane or if you've lost a loved one because the company failed to evacuate their crews before a storm. We can help you hold the company as well as the owner of the vessel accountable for your losses and get you the compensation you deserve.