Over the course of your practice, have any laws involving divers changed (or added) that have dramatically altered how you operate?
Not really. In reality, the laws protecting the American diver with respect to his/her employer have been in place (written by the U.S. Congress) and confirmed by the United States judiciary for nearly a century. The laws protecting the American diver with respect to the vessel on which he works have their origin in the Admiralty Courts from the United Kingdom and have been the foundation for centuries.
You’ve lectured at several dive schools in the states. What types of topics do you cover in these teachings to up-and-coming divers?
I have had the honor of lecturing on primarily four areas:
- The legal rights and obligations of the commercial diver in connection with on-the-job injuries
- Medical/legal fitness to dive issues with respect to entering the commercial diving workforce, returning to work physicals following a diving related injury and presenting for yearly physicals
- Drug testing and the consequences of drug use offshore
- Dealing with the men and women in the suits…LAWYERS.
Many of your cases represent individual divers. Do you also represent the other side of it – maritime companies?
I have on very rare occasion provided consultation to maritime companies on safety issues. I have never represented diving contractors against a diver. Ever.
Do most of your cases deal with specific legal issues in the maritime field, or are they all different?
Mostly, I represent commercial divers whose careers are in jeopardy or have been terminated by injuries occurring in the underwater workplace. Unfortunately, many of my clients are loved ones who have lost their diver in an underwater catastrophe.
The legal issues I address focus on recovering compensation for lost careers, lost futures and lost loved ones.
What are some of the biggest challenges associated with representing international clients?
Many of the challenges for the diver working abroad that is out of the United States, involve poorly designed (on purpose) laws that truly fail to address the needs of the injured diver or the family of a diver killed in the line of duty as a commercial diver.
American divers oftentimes are asked to sign contracts seeking to reduce their legal rights by a foreign contractor. Foreign divers are oftentimes requested to sign contracts that select foreign laws rather than American laws that are written to provide very limited recovery or provide that legal disputes are governed by binding arbitration in place of the American judicial system.
A diver asked to sign an employment contract should be very wary as the document may be written to his detriment.
Approximately how many cases has Delise & Hall been a part of?
I have been representing divers since 1979. It is not possible for me to quantify how many divers I’ve represented. It’s in the hundreds.
How does your location near the Gulf of Mexico provide a good base for clientele?
Historically and operationally, the Gulf of Mexico is the center of the United State commercial diving universe. A great deal of the commercial diving technology, hyperbaric medical science and birth of working divers came from the Gulf of Mexico. That’s just history.
With this in mind it has been very rewarding to be a part of this evolution.
What’s the most rewarding part of representing divers for you?
It is most rewarding when I can guide a diver through the uncharted waters of the legal process without the need of the divers hiring me or instituting legal proceedings. Of every 100 divers who contact me, only 10 really need to hire me.
It’s rewarding when the information provided personally or via our website can help a diver.
What’s the most important advice you could give to commercial divers before they start their first job?
I would advise a young diver to learn their legal rights and obligations by developing a relationship with an attorney who knows the business. I give free advice all day. I’m a free call away.
It is also imperative for the young diver to seek counsel from the older divers who have “mastered” their profession.
– Bobby Delise, Attorney of Delise & Hall
Delise & Hall has represented diving litigation for over 30 years, advising and commercial, recreational and many other divers. They are based out of Louisiana.