Work onboard offshore oil platforms is rife with risks that could impact production and harm crew members. Although it reportedly resulted in no injuries, the recent fire at the Texas Petroleum Investment Company-owned rig in the Breton Island area in Louisiana shows a current example of the hazards associated with oil drilling and processing. When a death happens onboard a platform like this, there are certain considerations that may impact how it is legally assessed.
On their website, attorneys Delisle & Hall spell out the difference between different fatal work situations, including when the Jones Act might apply. General maritime law offers a means of taking legal action if the death is deemed to be due to negligence on the employer's part. However, the Death on the High Seas Act may not be valid, depending on the exact location of the platform.
Even when the rig is operated miles from the shore, companies need to be aware of the legal regulations that pertain to them and which governing entity they trace back to.
"Therefore, if a diver is killed off of the coast of Louisiana while aboard a fixed platform, the wrongful death laws of Louisiana would apply," Delisle & Hall say on their site. "On the other hand, should the incident occur on Federal waters, beyond three miles of the shoreline, the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) would apply." The source goes on to suggest that deaths on platforms within state waters may be subject to general maritime law-based solutions.
The distance from shore and specific cause of a seaman's death will dictate the defense that is legally allowed. The right marine insurance could help employers prepare for disasters that fatally injure crew onboard stationary platforms.