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Commercial diving is an extremely dangerous job, where divers are at risk of severe injuries, health complications, and even death every time they work. 

Unfortunately, employers may try to convince injured divers they are not classified as a “seaman” under the Jones Act. They may try to avoid paying the required compensation and benefits and a potential negligence lawsuit. 

If you’ve been injured as a commercial diver, consult with George Vourvoulias at the Maritime Injury Law Firm before you make any statements to your employer or an investigator. Our experienced team can help you avoid statements that can be used against you later on, and make sure you get the compensation that you deserve.

Dangers of Commercial Diving Work

Divers work on serious projects using complex equipment in hazardous situations, so they need extensive training and support. 

This career can cause serious injuries and medical problems. If not treated properly, conditions such as an air embolism or decompression sickness can be fatal. Of course, there are many more examples of injuries and potential health effects, but these are two of the most common.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act is a federal law that covers maritime employees, guaranteeing that they have paid time off to fully recover from injuries, and the right to sue their employer for negligence.

Commercial divers may be covered under the Jones Act depending on many factors, including:

  • the location of your accident, 
  • your relationship with your employer, 
  • the type of vessel or platform your dive originated from, and 
  • whether other companies or parties may have acted negligently

The courts have ruled that commercial divers are considered “seamen” under the Jones Act if they meet the following requirements:

  • The diver’s job duties contribute to the function or mission of a vessel in navigation. (Divers who dive from land-based structures wouldn’t be covered.)
  • The diver must have a relationship or attachment to the vessel in navigation that is substantial in both “nature and duration.” This is simple enough for divers who work for one company, but a freelance diver may have some difficulty making this argument.

Maintenance and cure

After a diver is injured, the Jones Act entitles the victim to specialized types of compensation specific to the maritime industry: maintenance and cure.

Maintenance compensation is supposed to help the diver handle living expenses while they’re not on board, and cure compensation covers medical expenses.

If you are injured during a dive, you have the right to maintenance and cure, whether negligence played a role in the accident or not. 

If you qualify under the Jones Act, you should receive maintenance and cure automatically. Then, if you can prove your employer was negligent, you can also sue for damages.

Employer Negligence in a Louisiana Commercial Diving Accident

Your employer has the responsibility to ensure a safe working environment. 

If the smallest requirement is not met, any resulting accidents can be blamed on negligence, and you can potentially sue your employer for damages.

This means your employer must provide the following:

  • Adequate work training
  • Proper safety training
  • Appropriate equipment in good condition for the job 
  • Appropriate safety equipment, also in good condition
  • Adequate break times
  • Working conditions that are not unreasonably hazardous

For example, if you work a longer shift than you are supposed to because your boss is pressuring you to get the job done, you could have an accident due to fatigue. Your employer would be found negligent.

What other options do commercial divers have?

Any person who suffers an injury at sea has rights under general maritime laws, including the right to file lawsuits for product malfunctions and wrongful death. 

There are some more employee protection options, though, for commercial divers;

  • Worker’s compensation through your employer
    • Divers who are employed by a contracting company may be covered under the employer’s workers’ compensation coverage. This insurance can be useful for contracted commercial divers who suffer injuries during shore-side construction or activities on land, which may be excluded under the Jones Act.
  • Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act
    • Freelance or contracted divers who do not qualify for Jones Act benefits may be covered under the LHWCA, which provides wage replacement benefits based on the diver’s average weekly salary.

It’s also important to know that the statute of limitations for maritime injury compensation is 3 years from either the date of the injury or when you become aware of an occupational injury and its cause. 

Having an experienced attorney well-versed in maritime law means you won’t be racing the clock.

Contact The Maritime Injury Law Firm today

Our experienced team will listen to your situation and analyze every detail to fight for everything you are entitled to under maritime law. This area of law is very comprehensive, but The Maritime Injury Law Firm is prepared to answer all your questions so you can rest and recover. Contact us today.

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