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July 3rd, 2009

Oil Platform Injury Gets Maritime Workers Comp Benefits

The Fifth Circuit has found that a man injured while living and working on an oil production platform qualifies for workers compensation benefits designed for maritime employees even though most of his work was not for marine purposes.  This finding affirms the ruling of an ALJ and benefits review panel that such workers are entitled to benefits under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA).

In this case, the ALJ, benefits review panel and the appeals court all ruled that a nearby barge and platform are part of one “overall area” for the purposes of this law. To qualify for benefits under the statute, the employee must work on a site normally used–but not exclusively used–for maritime purposes.

The appeals court found that if even if the specific site of the injury is not used for loading cargo, the worker still qualifies for benefits if that location is associated with items used as part of the loading process. The law does not require “every square inch” of a location to be used for marine purposes for a worker to qualify for benefits, the court wrote.

Workers who fall under the LHWCA are eligible for certain compensation benefits even though they are, technically, not seamen. Jones Act benefits are only available to seamen as defined by the act, and the LHWCA was passed to protect workers who are not seamen, but still perform important activities like loading and unloading cargo or building and performing repairs on vessels, terminals and platforms. These benefits include payments for medical expenses, rehabilitation and compensation for any occupational disease that may arise in the course of maritime employment.

People who have been injured in an accident on board a tanker, oil rig or other vessel may be eligible for benefits and should seek the counsel of an experienced maritime attorney.

If you have been injured in a maritime accident, contact a maritime attorney at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris, L.L.P., Accident & Injury Lawyers for a free evaluation of your case.

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