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Metairie Louisiana Legal Blog

Refrigeration systems on vessels present injury hazards

Many of the vessels off the coast of Louisiana have refrigeration systems on board. The compounds used in those systems could pose significant dangers to those working on, near or around them. Without taking the proper precautions, injury hazards could put several people at risk at any given time.

The two primary chemicals used in vessel refrigeration systems that could cause injury include halocarbons and ammonia. Many people believe that ammonia's strong smell, whether in liquid or gas form, should alert workers who will then evacuate the area. However, after repeated exposure to this particular chemical, a worker may not be able to smell it as well, which could put him or her in danger.

Admiralty and maritime law and the big FEMI event

Working on a oil rig requires daily safety checks. Louisiana residents who work on oil rigs may come to consider their days as routine, but they are often anything but that. Every day is another opportunity for a 'fixed equipment mechanical integrity failure' to occur, which could lead to catastrophic injuries that require pursuing compensation under admiralty and maritime law.

When considering what constitutes a big FEMI event, think of injection point failures, heat exchanger ruptures and brittle equipment failures. These events often result in serious injuries and fatalities, along with a significant amount of media attention. Each day, Louisiana oil rig workers inspect for and stop leaks, complete necessary mitigation efforts and inspect equipment on a timely and routine basis.

How long does the process for the LHWCA take?

If you receive any major injuries or diseases while working on Louisiana waters, you will want to receive compensation as soon as you can. You need to cover any medical expenses that arise from the incident, especially if your condition is negatively impacting your ability to work.

The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA) has limitations on when you can report this injury and when you should receive compensation. It is imperative to be aware of these time frames so you know how long you have to report and injuries or diseases and when your employer should provide you with the coverage you need.

Does Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act cover you?

Working on the waters in and around Louisiana may provide you with a lucrative living, but it also exposes you to certain risks and hazards. You may understandably be concerned about how your injuries will be covered if you are hurt while working. You may know that you may not receive benefits under the traditional workers' compensation insurance, but you may not know whether you qualify to receive compensation under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act.

You may have reason to wonder since the LHWCA is not the only act covering people who work on the country's waterways. Generally, if you load or unload vessels or repair or build vessels, you may qualify under the LHWCA. An extension of the act called the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act covers those who work on oil platforms that lie within the waters of the United States. It may be easier to talk about the people who would not qualify for compensation under this act.

Which workers receive coverage under the Defense Base Act

Ever since the Defense Base Act’s creation in 1941, there has been confusion over what types of workers are eligible for insurance coverage under this program. While we’ve already discussed how the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs oversees this act, it is crucial to know which employees can sign up for it to obtain the compensation and disability coverage they need.

Will the Defense Base Act cover your injuries?

Many Louisiana residents want to see the world. One way to do that is to work for a company that provides you with the opportunity to travel. Perhaps you ended up working for the Armed Forces or another federal agency in a foreign country, a U.S. territory or a U.S. possession. While there, you suffered injuries. You may wonder whether you could receive benefits through the Defense Base Act.

Even if you work for an organization that benefits members of the Armed Forces, you may qualify for benefits under the DBA if you suffer injuries. Construction workers employed to repair, build or remove structures used by the United States or its allies, along with others who work service contracts pertaining to U.S. wartime activities or the national defense on U.S. military bases or in the country's territories or possessions. The act includes many nonmilitary personnel, including U.S. citizens, nationals, residents and foreign nationals.

What's the difference between the Jones Act and the LHWCA?

The Jones Act and Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) are two acts with mutually exclusive coverage. Knowing which act you are eligible for can be confusing if you are a maritime employee and have been injured on a vessel or around a vessel. Whether you’re involved in an accident at sea or become injured on land, you could receive compensation for any pain or suffering.

What is the Jones Act?

What does an injured worker have to prove under the Jones Act?

Louisiana workers who are eligible for workers' compensation benefits are not required to prove much above whether the accident occurred at work and in the performance of work duties. However, for seamen who fall under the Jones Act instead of workers' compensation, the situation is a bit more complex. Injured seamen do need to meet a certain burden of proof in order to receive compensation for their injuries.

Fortunately, the burden of proof for those filing claims under the Jones Act is not as high as in "regular" personal injury claims. In a personal injury claim, the injured party must prove to the court that the other party's negligence was a substantial cause, or a proximate cause in legal terminology, of the injuries suffered. That puts a significant burden on the plaintiff.

Getting medical care under the Defense Base Act

Getting injured on the job is never the ideal situation. For anyone. Then, when your employment situation has a lot of different levels, things starts to get complicated very fast. You're working in a government area and those are the people who supervise your work, but your paycheck comes from the agency that contacted you about the job.

Trying to figure out who you can see and what to do about your injuries can get complicated quickly. There are a lot of people giving you a lot of information, and some of it may not be completely accurate. Like what doctor you can see to get treated for your injuries.

Admiralty and maritime law address seafarer deaths as well

Most seafarers know that if they suffer injuries while working on Louisiana's navigable waters, they can turn to either the Jones Act or the Longshore and Harbor Workers Act for compensation. What about the families of those seamen who lose their lives while performing their duties? In that case, qualified family members may turn to the Death on the High Seas Act, which is another part of admiralty and maritime law enacted to protect seamen and their families.

Qualifying family members include those who relied on the income of the deceased seafarer such as spouses, children and siblings. Not only could they be entitled to monetary compensation for the lost income, but through amendments to the act, family members may also receive restitution for the mental anguish and trauma caused by the loss of a loved one. The problem is that computing the amount of damages could be complex.

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