What Is an Offshore Hitch?

In offshore or maritime work, a "hitch" refers to a specific period that an employee works consecutively, often followed by an equivalent or shorter off-duty period. This term is commonly used in the offshore oil and gas industry. For example, an offshore worker might work a "14/14 hitch," which means they would work for 14 days straight and then have 14 days off. Another common hitch schedule is "28/28," where a worker spends 28 days working and has 28 days off. 

Some companies might have variations of these patterns or might offer extended hitches for special projects or circumstances. The exact duration and pattern can be influenced by company policy, the specific nature of the job, logistical considerations, and sometimes labor union agreements or local regulations.

How Do Offshore Hitches Apply to Maritime Injury Cases?

The nature, duration, and specifics of a hitch will play a significant role in shaping the trajectory and outcome of an offshore injury claim:

Determination of Jurisdiction 
The precise moment an injury takes place can dictate the legal framework applied. For instance, if a maritime worker gets injured while actively on a hitch, laws specific to maritime employment, like the Jones Act, would typically govern the claim. If an injury happens during off-time or between hitches, other laws might be more applicable.

Establishing Liability 
Injuries during the active period of a worker's hitch make it more straightforward to tie the injury to work-related activities. This clear link helps establish the vessel owner's or employer's potential liability. On the other hand, injuries sustained during off-duty periods can introduce complexities in determining employer or shipowner liability.

Wage and Compensation Calculations 
The length and earnings of a hitch are essential in determining lost wages. If an injury prevents a maritime worker from completing their hitch or starting subsequent hitches, compensation could be calculated based on the earnings they would have received during current or prospective hitches.

Medical Treatment and Evacuation Timing 
In the offshore industry, immediate medical attention might not always be accessible. If an injury occurs early in a long hitch, there might be deliberation on whether to evacuate the injured worker immediately or to provide first aid and wait for the hitch's end. That can affect the severity of the injury and subsequently influence the compensation claims.

Evidence and Witness Availability 
The offshore setting can be transient, with workers regularly rotating on and off vessels or platforms. If an injury occurs during a hitch, it's more likely that other crew members present can serve as witnesses. The active work environment during a hitch might also mean that there's better documentation (logs, reports) around the time of the injury. As workers go off-hitch, collecting statements or gathering evidence can become more challenging.

The timing of offshore hitches is also important for personal reasons. Workers may want to try to time their hitches according to major events like the birth of a child or even around anniversaries, birthdays, and other important dates.

Have You Been Injured While on Your Offshore Hitch?

During a hitch, an offshore worker will be asked to leave home for weeks at a time. Unlike workers in other jobs where the work is spread out more evenly (ex: eight hours per day), maritime workers perform an enormous amount of work within a condensed period of time. This can be challenging for workers and their families.

If you have been injured while working a hitch offshore, contact Arnold & Itkin.

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