Understanding Maritime Worker Protections Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

Understanding Maritime Worker Protections Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) is a piece of federal legislation that governs actions that occur on the outer Continental Shelf. This region is recognized as part of the United States and includes all “submerged lands, subsoil and seabeds that belong to the United States;” however, no one state’s laws apply to this region. If a maritime worker becomes injured while working on the outer Continental Shelf region, his or her recovery will be limited to the workers’ compensation provisions in the OCSLA.

The workers’ compensation provisions of the OCSLA cover employee deaths and disabilities that result from injuries that occur as a result of operations conducted on the outer Continental Shelf “for the purposes of exploring, developing, removing or transporting natural resources by pipeline, or involving rights to the natural resources, the subsoil or the seabed of the outer Continental Shelf.”

In a recent case, Valladolid v. Pacific Operations Offshore, LLP, the court was asked to determine whether an employee must be injured on the outer Continental Shelf in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under OSCLA. The maritime worker in the case was killed in a work-related accident while he was working on his employer’s onshore oil-processing facility. However, prior to his death, he had been stationed on an offshore drilling platform. The deceased employee’s wife contacted a maritime lawyer to discuss her right to compensation. The maritime lawyer filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits on behalf of the deceased employee’s wife.

The maritime lawyer argued that offshore deaths and injuries should be compensated under the OCSLA if the employee’s work duties primarily involved working on the outer Continental Shelf as a maritime worker. The court agreed with the maritime lawyer; however, they ultimately found that the employee’s work duties, which involved disposing of scrap metal, did not amount to maritime employee status under the law. If the employee’s work duties had been different, the maritime lawyer may have been able to secure compensation for his client.

If you have been injured while working at sea or on the outer Continental Shelf, you should contact an experienced maritime lawyer immediately to have your case evaluated. The OCSLA is a rather complex area of the law. A maritime lawyer can analyze your case and explain which programs you may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits under.

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