Row, Row, Row Your Boat: Louisiana Maritime Law

Maritime law is one of those areas of law that not many people know about or care to know about; however, if you work on a body of water, this is the law that will protect you in the event that you get injured on the job. 

In the state of Louisiana, there are many men and women working in the Gulf of Mexico as fishermen, divers, and oil riggers. The sea can be dangerous, especially when matched with the heavy equipment these workers deal with each day. A New Orleans maritime injury attorney says, “all maritime workers should be aware of their rights before working a job because injuries at sea happen much too often.” 

Your Rights as a Maritime Worker

Similar to jobs on land, maritime workers can and should depend on their superiors to protect them from harm while at work. If a maritime worker is working on a ship, it’s the duty of the ship captain to ensure all safety equipment is on board and in the right place. In any maritime job, it’s the company’s duty to ensure all employees are trained properly because, in occupations such as this, improper training can lead to dangerous mistakes.

Shipowners must provide a boat that is seaworthy and safe and, if hazardous or unsafe conditions are present, maritime workers can’t be required to work. In the event that a worker is required to work in unsafe conditions and gets injured, the owner can be held responsible for any damages that incur.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, extended the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) to seamen. Maritime workers now have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against their employers in the event that they get injured at work. This act also allows maritime workers the right to a jury trial in these cases, even though maritime law generally wouldn’t allow a jury. 

In the event that a maritime worker dies in an accident at sea, a personal representative of the deceased worker can bring forth a wrongful death claim against their employer on behalf of the worker.

Essentially, maritime workers have many of the same rights as those working on land. If you work off the coast, knowing the specifics of your job contract is important. Because offshore jobs are so dangerous, your employer takes on a lot of liability by employing you. They may try to protect themselves against lawsuits by putting something in your initial employment agreement. Speaking to an attorney and knowing your rights can ensure you’re protected before going out to sea.