Houston Maritime Lawyer
Walker Texas Lawyer is one of Houston’s most experienced maritime attorneys. Maritime lawsuits are often complex and difficult to handle; this is why you need to look to an attorney who has handled those complex cases. Maritime law, which is often referred to as admiralty law often has many inconsistencies. Walker will find these inconsistencies and help you recover what you deserve.
Just like in any industry, seamen are at risk of incurring serious injuries. Thankfully the law recognizes this and protects seamen. Through maritime law, inured offshore workers are protected and able to claim necessary compensation.
The following acts are foundational to maritime law:
- Jones Act
- Death on the High Seas Act
- Limitation of Liability Act
- Longshoreman & Harbor Workers Compensation Act
If you have been involved in a maritime accident do not be hesitant to call Walker Texas Lawyer right away.
Common maritime injury cases we handle:
- Jack-up rig accidents
- Deck accidents
- Tugboat accidents
- Oil platform accidents
- Barge accidents
- Commercial fishing accidents
- Cargo ship accidents
- Shipyard accidents
Common Offshore Injuries
The list of injuries common among seamen and other maritime workers is long, but the following are some of the most serious injuries that can happen while working at sea or on the shore:
- Broken finger, hand, arm, leg, foot, or back
- Burns (common with longshoremen)
- Compartment syndrome (inadequate blood flow to tissues)
- Crushed finger(s), hand, arm, leg, or foot
- Deep cut or laceration
- Drowning or near-drowning
- Injured back and/or neck, including herniated discs and strains
- Loss of limb
- Lung problems, including pleural disease
- Torn muscles, ligaments, or tendons
- Toxic chemical exposure
- Traumatic brain injury
What’s the difference between Maritime Law, Admiralty Law, and Law of the Sea?
Maritime Law and Admiralty Law are two terms that mean the same thing. They can be used interchangeably. These are laws that regard the conduct of vessels and incidents occurring at sea or onshore.
While Maritime law does govern matters connected to the sea, it does differ from “Law of the Sea”. Law of the Sea governs international trade, mineral rights, jurisdiction over coastal waters, treaties, and relations between countries. Maritime Law cases are more local in concept, involving civil suits, individuals, companies, and representatives of those companies. Many aspects of admiralty law are recognized internationally through multilateral treaties.
What Does Admiralty Law Include?
Admiralty law sets forth the following laws involving the sea and seamen:
- The right of a rescuer to claim a Marine Salvage award for recovering property lost at sea.
- The duty for ship owners to provide reasonable care to passengers.
- If a passenger’s injury is the result of negligence, then a suit may be brought against the shipowner.
- The right to place a Maritime Lien against a vessel if creditors or seamen are owed. This acts as security to make sure those parties get paid.
The benefit of “maintenance and cure”, which requires ship owners to care for the injured crew.
- Maintenance obligates ship owners to provide seamen with basic living expenses until they can return to work. Cure obligates ship owners to provide free medical care—even if that care is long-term or permanent.
If you set sail and leave national boundaries, even if you are a U.S. citizen, employed by a U.S. company, and on a U.S. registered ship, some laws would no longer apply. The Merchant Marine Act is one set of laws that is enacted to help restore your protections. The Jones Act is Section 27 of the Marine Merchant Act and helps govern maritime commerce in U.S. waters between U.S. ports.
The Jones Act also includes provisions that have seafaring workers’ rights at their core. Those provisions include (among many others):
- Commerce between U.S. ports is transported only by American-built vessels.
- The owner of the vessel must use reasonable care and maintain it for safety and seaworthiness. The owner can be found liable if it is found that their negligence led to an injury.
- Qualifying sailors (officially classified as seamen) who have suffered injuries or illness while at sea can recover appropriate compensation from their employers by a lawsuit if necessary.
Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA)
The DOHSA covers passengers on a maritime vessel who are killed outside of the three-mile territorial coast of the United States. Once a vessel has crossed the three-mile coastline, families of passengers who are not employed by the vessel are eligible for DOHSA benefits in the event of a high seas death. On a cruise ship, the passengers who are using the cruise ship’s service will be covered under DOHSA in the event of wrongful death. This also holds true for families of passengers who are killed while in an airline disaster 12 nautical miles away from U.S. territory.
DOSHA applies only to maritime worker and passenger deaths that are caused by unseaworthy vessels and/or negligence. Proving negligence can be difficult, particularly because the incident occurred in foreign waters. It takes a detailed investigation to uncover evidence that proves negligence, which is a failure to act with proper care or caution under the circumstances.
Limitation of Liability
Maritime law states that the owner of a vessel may be subject to liability for any losses or damages that happen during the voyage. Many ship owners, however, attempt to avoid responsibility for accidents and deaths that occur on their vessels under the Limitation of Liability Act. This act allows owners in certain cases to limit liability if the unseaworthy condition of the vessel occurred without the knowledge of the owner. The act covers personal injury losses such as deaths and collisions. It also covers cargo losses like loss of property, goods, or merchandise.
The Limitation of Liability Act was enacted nearly 170 years ago. At that time, the hazards of maritime trade were extreme. Vessel owners needed protection. This protection came from limitations on liability to the value of their ship. Today, maritime hazards are still present. However, we have the tools and resources to mitigate them. Instead of using the Limitation of Liability Act for its intended purpose, some vessel owners are using it to limit injured seamen’s valid claims. They are trying to get around their responsibility to the hard-working employees on their ships. However, an experienced and skilled attorney can challenge this act and often win.
Longshoreman & Harbor Workers Compensation Act
The Longshore & Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) is a federal law that grants workers’ compensation for injured employees who work in the areas used for loading, unloading, crafting, and repairing a sea vessel. The LHWCA also covers workers who work on navigable waters within the U.S. The act ensures that employers properly compensate an injured worker when a work-related injury requires medical care, vocational rehabilitation, or missed workdays. The LHWCA also covers survivor benefits. The LHWCA has the same goal as the Jones Act, it just covers a different group of workers.
The key to the LHWCA is who it covers. It covers maritime occupations such as harbor workers, ship repairers, shipbuilders, and longshore workers. Additionally, the act covers private and personal workers who are employed on a defense base, employees who work on the Outer Continental Shelf, and employees who work as non-appropriated fund instrumentalities of the Armed Forces. Those workers that are excluded from the LHWCA are seamen covered under the Jones Act, government employees, intoxicated employees, employees who harm themselves, and workers that are covered under state workers’ compensation laws.
Do You Know Your Rights If You Are Injured at Sea?
After an accident, one of the most important things you can do is to ensure that all your needs are being met: medically, legally, emotionally, as well as financially. However, this can be difficult so it is very important that you know your rights:
Make sure you get medical attention. You have the legal right to select your doctor. Never feel obligated to choose the doctor’s office or attending physician your business or insurance company may be pushing on you. Often, you will need to see the recommended doctor for an evaluation, but this is the extent of your obligation.
You are entitled to medical treatment. The provision of medical benefits is protected under the Jones Act, so injured maritime workers need not worry about being compensated for recovery. This is true regardless of who may be at fault for the accident. Furthermore, the Jones Act protects injured seamen who may be given differing opinions by doctors.
You are entitled to medical benefits and financial maintenance payments, whether or not you sign paperwork brought forth by an insurance adjuster. In fact, it is in your best interest to be cautious of any documents brought to you by an insurance adjuster. Insurance adjusters do not work for you. They work to get the insurance company the best deal.
You are not required to give a recorded statement after any sort of accident. You need to protect your interests. Insurance company adjusters and opposing attorneys will try to get statements they can twist and use against you. Don’t sign any documents, approve any settlement offers or sign any statement without consulting a maritime attorney.
Get the names of any coworkers or witnesses who saw the accident or perhaps even noticed a hazard that might have contributed to your injury.
Houston Maritime Attorney
Maritime law can be complex. Although these laws are designed to protect the rights of maritime workers who become injured or ill, they can be difficult to navigate. This is why it’s crucial to seek legal representation from an attorney who has a deep background in this specialized area of the law. It is essential to select an experienced maritime lawyer. If you have questions about a maritime case contact Walker Texas Lawyer today.