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Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act

Longshore claims apply to individuals working under contractors providing offshore services. Because these assignments take Longshore workers onto a number of different vessels not under common ownership, these individuals do not meet the definition of a seaman and, thus, do not qualify to make a Jones Act claim because they lack the necessary substantial connection to a vessel or fleet of vessels. Instead, they can often file a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) which covers medical expenses and weekly compensation for lost wages. This is the only remedy for a longshoreman or harbor worker against their employer, regardless of fault or negligence. However, if the worker is injured due to an unsafe condition present onboard of his assigned vessel, or due to negligence on the part of that vessel, he or she may bring a negligence action under the LHWCA.

The location where an injury occurred, as well as what work was being performed at the time, is very important in determining which body of law to utilize for your claim. The decision to file suit under a specific law is one that must not be taken lightly. It can literally make or break your case! An oil platform, by and large, is a stationary structure permanently affixed to the seabed. This differs from an offshore oil rig which may be moved from place to place as the operator sees fit. An injury on an offshore, movable rig may or may not result in a Jones Act claim, dependant upon the injured individual's status. In order to recover under the Jones Act, one must be considered a "seaman" on a "vessel" that is "in navigation". Each of these words is a term of art and has multiple elements that must be satisfied in order to proceed in a court of law.

However, an injury on a fixed offshore platform could result in a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act or even under general maritime law against any third parties that may have contributed to the injury.

Regardless of where an injury took place, it is undoubtedly a good idea to consult an experienced maritime lawyer before you do anything. Remember, when dealing with a maritime injury not just any lawyer will do. The truth is that most lawyers have never and will never handle a Jones Act or Longshore and Harbor Worker's Act claim. This particular area of law is notoriously complicated and rife with pitfalls that the inexperienced attorney will not know how to navigate.

A plaintiff usually receives damages for pecuniary loss caused by the loss of the deceased seaman's services. A DOHSA suit must commence within three years from the date of the seaman's death. If the decedent's negligent conduct contributed to the accident (contributory negligence), an award may be reduced accordingly.

In action for wrongful death of crew member, personal representative could bring general maritime action for wrongful death or action under 46 USCS Appx §688 or Death on High Seas Act (46 USCS Appx §761-768) and was not required to make election among theories of recovery. Puamier v Barge BT 1793 (1974, ED Va) 395 F Supp 1019, 17 UCCRS 745.

DOHSA damages are calculated based upon the value of the financial benefit that would have been received by the relative from the decedent. Dependent children may recover the value of the care and guidance that they would have received from the decedent parent. A surviving spouse can recover the actual value of the financial contribution a decedent would have made to the family, had he lived, subtracting any amount that would have gone toward maintaining the decedent himself.

The act does not allow for a loss of consortium claim. However, spouses can recover the monetary value of any household services the decedent would have provided throughout the remainder of his life. This is calculated using the number of anticipated hours of service the decedent would have provided multiplied by an hourly rate for those services.

If No Recovery No Fee Guarenteed

The Voss Law Firm, P.C. represents clients on a local, national and international basis. We proudly serve companies and individuals along the Gulf Coast and around the globe on a contingency fee basis. Our law firm collects nothing unless we recover on our client's behalf.

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