Commercial divers perform vital work often far below the water’s surface, including installation, repair, inspection, and removal of various equipment and structures. Diving operations include a broad scope of activities, ranging from salvage operations, pier and bridge repair and construction, off-shore oil rig and pipeline maintenance, and ship inspection and repair. Many divers use a broad variety of tools while diving, including welding equipment, drills, and torches.
Unfortunately, many commercial divers are faced with an unreasonably high risk of serious physical harm or death on the job. Divers are often subjected to harsh and dangerous conditions in the performance of their work, and face occupational safety and health hazards including decompression sickness, drowning, hypothermia, physical injury, and various respiratory and circulatory risks.
Many of these risks are preventable but exist due to a variety of factors including inadequate training and supervision, exhaustion, negligent work practices, defective or improper equipment, and ineffective rescue operations. Failure to adhere to diving guidelines, regulations, and other safe practices to prevent injury is considered negligence. If you suffered injury or a loved one died due to these actions (or lack of action), you may have a right to compensation under maritime law.
Yes. The Jones Act covers any person who is a seaman on a vessel in navigation. It allows a person who has a substantial connection to a vessel and contributes to its mission or function seek recovery for injuries suffered due to a lack of reasonable care by an employer.
Barges, which divers frequently dive from, tend to work somewhat differently than most ships. Many barges, such as salvage or crane barges, frequently are not self-propelled and depend upon tugboats to move. Some may have questions as to whether a barge constitutes a “vessel in navigation.”
Courts have used a broad interpretation of a vessel in navigation. In Stewart v. Dutra Construction Co., the U.S. Supreme Court, citing 1. U.S.C. § 3, ruled that a vessel could constitute any watercraft capable of being used as transportation on the water.
A barge, regardless of whether self-propelled or not, is likely to be considered a vessel if it is used in the transportation of goods or services and commerce. Depending on the circumstances of their employment, divers operating off of a variety of barges and other vessels may be classified as seamen under the Jones Act.
Recoverable damages from a commercial diving injury vary based on the circumstances surrounding the accident, such as the negligence involved and whether the diver was in national or international waters at the time of injury. These details affect which maritime law is applicable to your case, and, therefore, what kind of damages you can pursue. Generally, you are eligible to recover the damages directly related to the commercial diving accident, including:
At Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski, we have decades of experience coast-to-coast serving all kinds of seamen, including commercial divers. We have handled hundreds of Jones Act cases throughout Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and Florida. If you or your loved one has suffered an injury or death in a commercial diving accident, contact the experienced maritime diving attorneys of Anderson Carey Williams & Neidzwski with offices in Bellingham, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco at 1 (800) 262-8529 for a free initial consultation today.
This article was last updated on Wednesday, August 1, 2018.