Commercial divers perform vital work, often far below the water’s surface, including installation, repair, inspection, and removal of equipment and structures. Diving operations include a broad scope of activities, from salvage operations to offshore oil rig maintenance. Many divers use a variety of tools while working, 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 an injury or a loved one died due to these actions (or lack of action), you may have a right to compensation under maritime law.
Information for Injured Commercial Divers
- Can Divers Qualify As Seamen Under The Jones Act?
- Recoverable Damages in a Commercial Diving Accident
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 to seek recovery for injuries suffered due to a lack of reasonable care by their employer.
Barges, which divers frequently dive from, tend to work somewhat differently than ships. Many barges, such as salvage or crane barges, are not self-propelled and depend upon tugboats to move. Because of this, you 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 barge or 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. Generally, you are eligible to recover the damages directly related to the commercial diving accident, including:
- Maintenance and cure
- Medical costs – past and future
- Reduced capacity to work
- Lost ability to work
- Lost wages – past and future
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of support (for wrongful death)
- Loss of services (for wrongful death)
- Funeral expenses (for wrongful death)
Pacific Northwest Commercial Diving Injury Attorneys
At BoatLaw, LLP, we have decades of experience 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 BoatLaw, LLP at 1 (800) 262-8529 for a free initial consultation today.