As an American working overseas on oil rigs and vessels, a major concern if you suffer an injury or illness may be the location where you are required to file suit in order to collect fair compensation. Even if your accident occurred in a foreign country, you still may be allowed to file your claim in a United States Court.
Normally, the United States Court will seek to determine if you have any fair and comparable ability to receive compensation in the country in which your accident occurred. With most countries, an injured American will not obtain proper relief due to his injury and accident. The United States is fortunate to have a well-organized, efficient and speedy trial system when compared to other countries. By showing that you are not able to obtain a fair trial and receive similar compensation in the country where your accident occurred, you are often allowed to file your claim in the United States.
There are additional ways in which you can obtain jurisdiction in the United States over your foreign injury maritime claim. This area of law is very complicated but you can read a ruling here where a court agreed with us and refused to require our client to file his claim in Nigeria after he was shot by Nigerian rebels while working aboard an oil rig off the coast of Nigeria.
Maritime workers face countless risks while onboard a ship, offshore drilling rig, tugboat, or barge. Workers may be injured by numerous causes, including:
- Falling objects
- Lack of safety regulations
- Harsh weather conditions
- Human error
- Equipment failures
- Fires or explosions
Fortunately, U.S. citizens injured while working overseas on an oil rig or vessel can often file their Jones Act maritime claim in the United States. If you can demonstrate that you cannot receive a fair trial or receive similar compensation in the country where your accident occurred, you will likely be allowed to file your claim and collect compensation in the United States. The fact is that most injured Americans cannot receive the proper relief in a foreign country. Many are therefore allowed to pursue their claim here in the United States.
Offshore Injuries in Foreign Countries: What to Do Next
If you are injured while working overseas, it is important to act quickly after the accident. Every action that you take may have a direct impact on your ability to receive fair and adequate compensation for your losses. Consider taking the following actions after an overseas offshore injury:
- Seek immediate medical attention, and obtain a second opinion from a doctor that you trust.
- Consult with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney who can help protect your legal rights.
- Report the injury to your supervisor captain as soon as possible.
- Complete an accident report detailing as many of the factors leading to your injury as possible.
- Obtain contact information for all witnesses to the accident.
- Refuse any requests for a recorded or written statement relating to the accident without first consulting with your attorney.
- Keep accurate records of your medical treatment, communications, and copies of all bills or expenses relating to or caused by the injury.
- Take pictures of the accident area if possible.
You will want to use your cell phone camera, if available, to take numerous pictures of any dangerous condition or equipment that may have caused or contributed to your accident. It is also important to take photographs in general of the rig or vessel to show where you worked and the general conditions of the rig or vessel. These pictures will allow a jury to understand the heavy manual labor nature of your job as well as the decks and surfaces that you were required to work on.
One of the most difficult challenges in successfully obtaining a good settlement or judgment for an overseas maritime Jones Act worker relates to obtaining photographs of the rig and any and all equipment involved in the accident. While it may be impossible to compel a rig inspection after you file your lawsuit, such an inspection would be extremely costly as it would require an expert to fly overseas at great expense, a much simpler, and often better, solution is for you to simply take photographs of any and all important items, equipment or even documents which you still have available to you while you are working on the rig.
Remember, you will want to provide your own evidence in order to prove your case if necessary. You can often do this by using a simple cell phone camera to take photographs of such evidence while you are still on the rig and able to take such photographs. Or, often a coworker can do this for you and email the pictures.
Don’t Forget: You Could Also Be Injured While Onshore in a Foreign Country!
While working overseas, offshore injuries are not the only dangers to be wary of. Workers can be harmed while onshore as well. One danger that every worker should be alert to is the risk of contracting an infectious disease native to the foreign country where you are located. These diseases could impact your ability to work, as well as require substantial and ongoing medical treatment and rehabilitation.
Fortunately, there are precautions that you can take to help reduce your risk of contracting a foreign illness. These precautions include:
Obtaining all appropriate shots before heading overseas.
Conducting all recommended medical tests before working in the foreign country.
Remaining up-to-date on the specific infectious diseases threatening the region where you are working.
For valuable information such as a vaccination checklist, tips on staying healthy while onshore, and advice on how to prepare for a trip to your particular country, visit the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention website.
Be Wary of Overseas Medical Treatment Following an Offshore Injury
Before heading overseas for your offshore assignment, it is very important to research reputable health care facilities in the area where you will be working. Health care abroad is not always as efficient, reliable, or sanitary as here in the United States. Your employer may be held liable if he does not provide you with adequate medical care.
We encourage you to store all of your important travel items, including your passport, TWIC card, MMC, and money, in our free travel case. This case has been specifically designed to allow for quick and easy access to all of your vital travel documents in the event of an injury.
Why Do You Need An Attorney After an Overseas Offshore Injury?
Attempting to navigate the complex waters of maritime law alone, especially for injuries occurring in foreign seas, could drastically impair your ability to receive adequate compensation after your accident. Working with an experienced attorney can help you with all of the following:
- To avoid giving detrimental statements as a result of scare tactics.
- To ensure that your claim is heard in the courts of the United States, even if you were working for a foreign employer at the time of your injury.
- To collect fair and adequate lost wages, since working offshore while overseas can often be very lucrative. There are also unique tax and cost of living issues that come with working abroad.
- To pursue claims involving multiple parties, even where one party is not subject to suit in the United States.
- To pursue a claim against an employer if you are not a U.S. citizen.
Suffering an injury while working in foreign seas is a frightening and intimidating experience. Fortunately, offshore workers injured while abroad may be entitled to the protections of U.S. law. You may be able to pursue a Jones Act claim even if you are not a U.S. citizen. To learn more about protecting your legal rights, contact the attorneys at the Young Firm today. We have helped countless clients successfully obtain the compensation that they deserve following an offshore injury. We encourage you to read their stories on our client testimonials page.