About Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) Claims

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Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) claims allow employees to receive benefits and compensation when they are injured while working on the Outer Continental Shelf. If you have been injured, you may qualify to receive benefits.

The Houston maritime injury team at Haun Mena explains Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act claims.

What is the Outer Continental Shelf?

The Outer Continental Shelf is the submerged soil and seabed that surrounds the United States, beyond the jurisdiction of the individual states. It’s the submerged land beneath navigable waters lying seaward, controlled by the United States, but past what is controlled by the states.

The Outer Continental Shelf is divided into four regions: Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic, Pacific, and Alaska. Usually, state jurisdiction extends three nautical miles, but it is about nine nautical miles off the coast of Texas and parts of Florida.

What is the significance of the Outer Continental Shelf?

The Outer Continental Shelf is rich in resources. It contains sediments and hard minerals that are valuable. The U.S. government controls the mining of the OCS. The U.S. Government leases lands for exploration and resource production.

With industrial activity occurring on the Outer Continental Shelf, employees work on the OCS.

When these employees are hurt on the job, the OCSLA gives them important rights and remedies.

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) Claims

The OCSLA is an important law for workers on the Outer Continental Shelf. An employee may qualify for medical care, replacement income, disability, and other benefits when they are injured in the course of their employment.

Extending the LHWCA to Continental Shelf Activity

The OCSLA extends the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act to operations conducted on the Outer Continental Shelf. § 1333(b) states the applicability of the LHWCA to disability and death claims because of employee injury.

Coverage of the LHWCA – a brief history

The LHWCA has been amended multiple times to extend coverage to additional groups and circumstances beyond its initial coverage. For example, employees of the District of Columbia were included for a period of 54 years, then removed in favor of their own workers’ compensation system. Certain overseas military, public contractors, and civilian employees are now included. In 1953, coverage was extended to workers on the Outer Continental Shelf.

For the OCSLA to apply, the following must be true:

  • Death or disability
  • Of an employee
  • From an injury
  • Resulting from OCS operations

When the OCSLA applies, the injured worker may claim compensation payable under LHWCA provisions.

The OCSLA extends the LHWCA to a variety of activities occurring on the OCS, including:

  • Exploring
  • Developing
  • Removing
  • Transporting by pipeline
  • Other activities involving natural resources

The portion of the OCSLA extending LHWCA injury benefits to activities on the Outer Continental Shelf is short – just one subsection discusses it. The LHWCA itself provides additional details for filing claims.

What Workers Does the OCSLA Cover?

Workers on any of the following may be covered by the OCSLA:

  • Oil rigs, natural gas rigs, offshore oil platforms
  • Man-made islands
  • Floating dry docks
  • Windmills, wind turbines
  • Floating production systems

The OCSLA does not apply to crewmembers and masters of vessels. It also doesn’t apply to officers or employees of the United States or employees of the government of another country.

What if I’m not covered by the OCSLA?

If you are a maritime worker that is excluded from the OCSLA, there may be other laws and programs to assist you if you are injured on the job. The LHWCA may apply directly. In addition, the Jones Act may apply.

Benefits Available under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)

If you are an injured worker, OCSLA benefits may include:

Wage benefits

Wage payments are based on the worker’s earnings before the injury. Typically, the payment is 2/3 of your average weekly wage before becoming disabled. There are minimum and maximum amounts based on national averages.

Compensation for disability

If an injury leaves a worker disabled, they may receive total disability benefits. Benefits continue until the disability ends. If a partial disability allows a worker to return to work at a lower wage, they may receive 2/3 of the difference between their new wage and their old wage. When a worker has permanent partial disability benefits, they may receive compensation according to a benefits schedule.

Medical care

Medical treatment for the injury or illness is covered. There are no copays or costs for the injured worker. Even prescriptions and the cost of travel should be covered.

Vocational rehabilitation

Vocational rehabilitation prepares the worker to return to employment.

Disability after retirement

An illness that is work-related may not manifest until after employment ends. Retirement disability benefits are payable according to a percentage of impairment.

Survivor benefits

Survivor benefits are payable to qualifying family members if a death occurs. A surviving spouse may claim benefits. A surviving child may claim benefits to age 18, age 23 if a student, or indefinitely if disabled. There is also a cash allowance for burial and funeral expenses.

Does It Matter Who Is at Fault for the Injury?

Generally, compensation payable under the OCSLA doesn’t depend on fault – you don’t have to prove that the injury is the fault of the employer. However, you may not claim benefits if you intentionally hurt yourself or if the injury is caused by your own intoxication.

Potential Interaction with the LHWCA and the Jones Act – Protect Your Rights

If you work on the seas or in the maritime industry, it’s important to understand that there are different bodies of law that may apply to a claim. The Jones Act may apply, and it has different standards and potential benefits than the LHWCA and the OCSLA. When you determine the correct body of law that applies, you may determine the benefits available to you and the process for making a claim.

Talk to a Houston Maritime Injury Lawyer

The Haun Mena injury team helps injured workers get the benefits they deserve. We invite you to contact our attorneys. See if the OCSLA applies and other options you may have for claiming compensation following a workplace injury. Contact us today.

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