The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act — Oil Rig Accident Attorney


Congress enacted the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act in 1953 to extend workers compensation to workers on drilling platforms. The law increases protection for workers in key mineral-mining and oil-drilling industries to ensure that companies could find willing workers for dangerous jobs on the outer continental shelf. In some cases, questions arise as to state jurisdiction for accidents on federal land.

The United States claims ownership of the submerged lands on the outer shelf, and the area has been divided into four leasing sections, including the Atlantic, Pacific, Alaska and Gulf of Mexico regions. The United States lays claim to the territory because the regions fall outside any state’s territorial waters. An oil rig accident lawyer has stronger grounds and increased options for initiating wrongful death or injury claims due to the law.

Cases Where OCSLA Applies

OCSLA applies to many types of accidents at sea, and maritime law firms can help you understand your rights and protections under the law. Ships only traveling through OCS waters usually fall under maritime law, and ship workers fall under the Jones Act. OCSLA applies under the following conditions:

  • Accidents taking place on oil rigs, drilling platforms, artificial islands or other structures that are erected in the seabed
  • Artificial structures in the OCS that are not ships or vessels
  • Devices on the outer shelf that cause injuries or accidents
  • People working on developing resources in the OCS even when working on land

Judicial Interpretation Expands Jurisdiction

The law extends but does not limit protections under state law or the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act. Recent court decisions have interpreted the law to offer protection to OCS workers going about legitimate duties on land to further outer continental shelf development. For example, injuries that result from recycling materials from scrapped OCS installations or helicopter injuries while traveling could qualify.

The Supreme Court sided with the plaintiff for an injury on land to a worker who was engaged in OCS-related activity.

A 2005 amendment to the law includes injuries caused by cleaning up oil spills that resulted from offshore drilling.

The law was enacted when many offshore platforms were permanent structures, but modern technology has increased the number of temporary work platforms and artificial islands.

Getting Sound Legal Advice

Everyone has heard about the dangers of offshore drilling, such as the high-profile BP disaster in 2010. The explosion resulted in deaths and serious injuries. Offshore accidents might fall under the nearest state’s jurisdiction, and because of the complexity of OCSLA or other applicable laws, you need expert legal advice to protect your interests if you or a loved one suffers injuries or death related to drilling and OCS exploration.

We’re on your side. Contact us at (281) 645-5000 or email our team to schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

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18 Wheeler Accident Attorneys

Featured Case

FELA/Worker Injury

A 15-year machinist for Union Pacific Railroad was injured when a locomotive coupled into his blue flagged locomotive in the diesel shop at Union Pacific’s Houston facility. Although the machinist failed to engage the shop derails and acknowledge the track alarm, the contention was that Union Pacific employee took one minute and forty-four second water break during a walk around prior to the coupling.

During this water break, the machinist blue flagged his locomotive and began working. Burwell Nebout filed suit against Union Pacific Railroad in Harris County. After a two-week trial in the 157th District Court in Harris County, the jury awarded the machinist $566,105. The jury determined that Union Pacific Railroad violated the federal regulation that absolutely prohibits coupling into a blue flagged locomotive.