Being injured in an offshore accident can be quite traumatizing. Many injured maritime workers fail to seek compensation for their injuries because they are unaware of their rights and of the maritime laws that protect workers in the event of an injury. While working offshore, whether it is on an oil rig, a dredge, or as a shipbreaker, you are protected by certain federal maritime law statutes and general maritime law in the event of an accident or injury.
If you have suffered offshore injuries in Texas, it is important that you speak with an experienced offshore injury lawyer regarding your case. Maritime law involves many different acts, statutes, and general principles, and trying to figure out your legal rights without prior knowledge can be complicated.
A personal injury lawyer from Houston Injury Lawyers PLLC could help ensure that your legal rights are protected following a maritime accident and help guide you through the legal process. Our law firm has been helping injured maritime workers for many years and we have significant experience with maritime law in Houston. By hiring legal representation, you could substantially increase your chances of getting fair compensation for your injuries.
Call us today at 936-251-5246 to schedule a free consultation.
Legal Rights Of Maritime Workers in Houston
As an injured maritime worker, there are certain rights that you may have under maritime law. It is important that you seek legal advice from an experienced attorney in the event of an offshore accident to better understand your rights as an injured offshore worker and to ensure that they are protected. Some legal rights that you may have include:
- Choice of doctor – As an injured offshore worker, you could have the right to choose the doctor that treats you and conducts a medical assessment of your personal injuries. You are not required to be treated by your company or insurance company’s doctor.
- Legal representation – It is important to have strong representation from a lawyer for all maritime injury cases. You may reserve the right to legal representation for claims brought against your employer.
- Compensation – As an injured offshore worker, you may have the right to compensation for your injuries including medical expenses, lost wages, household bills, pain and suffering, and more. The compensation that you are entitled to will depend on your particular circumstances and whether or not another party was at fault for the accident. A lawyer can help advise you on the level of compensation that you may be entitled to.
- Medical care – Vessel owners and operators are required under maritime law to provide medical care to all injured crewmembers on their vessels. The injured offshore worker should not have to pay medical bills for their injuries and a vessel owner cannot simply abandon a crewmember if they are injured or become ill.
If you work offshore, you are exposed to certain risks that many workers in Houston are not exposed to, such as oil and gas leaks, explosions, extreme weather conditions, and fires. As such, it is important that your legal rights are protected at all costs and that you are not put in unnecessary danger while at work.
Maritime Law For Offshore Workers in Houston
The rights and protections that maritime workers are afforded derive from maritime law and admiralty law. All maritime laws in Houston are based on federal law, and the federal courts have jurisdiction over all accidents and injuries that occur on the high seas or in all “navigable waters”. Navigable water is defined as any body of water that allows trade to occur between more than one state or country, or that is part of a bigger body of water that does or could allow trade between states and countries.
Maritime law consists of a series of acts and general principles that allow injured workers in the maritime industry to recover compensation for any injuries they have suffered at work.
Merchant Marine Act
The Merchant Marine Act, or the Jones Act as it is more commonly known, provides compensation rights to all seamen that are injured offshore in an accident. It extends the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) to injured seamen. To recover compensation under the Jones Act, the injured worker must demonstrate that their employer was either completely or partly at fault for their injuries. The burden of proof for claims under this act is generally lower than typical personal injury claims.
The type of compensation that a maritime worker may recover through a Jones Act claim includes lost wages, medical expenses, future earnings, and pain and suffering damages. It is important to get help from an experienced offshore injury lawyer if filing a Jones Act claim, as the process can be quite complex. Injured workers in Houston have three years from the date of their maritime injuries to file a claim under this act.
Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act
As the Jones Act applies only to injured seamen, the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) extends the right to claim compensation for an injury to all injured offshore workers. Types of offshore workers that can make an injury claim under this act include:
- Longshore workers.
- Harbor workers.
- Dock workers.
- Ship repairers.
- Some land-based workers.
Like the Jones Act, workers must prove that their accident or injuries were caused by the negligence of their employer or the vessel owner, either wholly or in part. Maritime employees must report their injuries to their employer within 30 days of the accident to qualify for a claim under this act.
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act extends the jurisdiction of the LHWCA to offshore employees working on the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States. The Outer Continental Shelf includes areas such as the U.S. Pacific Coast and the Gulf of Mexico. Many oil and gas workers are protected under this act in the event of an accident and may make a compensation claim for injuries they suffered due to an at-fault accident.
There are certain limitations to this act, however, and workers that are employed by the state, federal, or foreign government, will not qualify to make a claim.
Maintenance and Cure
General maritime law provides maintenance and cure benefits to all workers injured in maritime accidents. Maintenance and cure benefits operate similarly to worker’s compensation, and employers in the maritime industry are required to compensate their employees for injuries they have suffered regardless of whether they were at fault.
As such, even if you were entirely responsible for an accident, your employer may be required to pay you benefits for medical expenses and maintenance costs such as rent, utility bills, or mortgage costs. You may be entitled to these benefits until you reach maximum medical improvement or until you are able to return to work.
When accepting cure and maintenance benefits from your employer, it is important to ensure that you do not sign up for an offer that does not adequately cover the costs of your medical treatment and household bills. An experienced offshore injury lawyer could help you ensure that the benefits you receive are fair and that you are not left without adequate compensation for medical costs and maintenance costs.
Do I Need an Offshore Injury Lawyer in Houston?
Offshore accidents are more complicated than standard personal injury cases in Houston. As these accidents typically happen at sea, it is difficult to conduct an investigation into the root cause of the accident. Many vessel owners and employers do not want to be held responsible in the event of an accident as it may ruin their reputation and reduce their profits, and they may have to pay you and other workers compensation.
As you are entitled to maintenance and cure compensation by your employer, regardless of whether they were at fault, an employer may try to minimize the amount of compensation you receive and suggest a lowball offer. Our lawyers have witnessed many injured clients being offered low compensation by their employers, making it difficult for them to properly recover from their injuries.
Without legal counsel, fighting against your employer or a vessel owner for fair compensation can be quite difficult. An injury lawyer that has experience handling maritime cases will be well-versed in the tactics of maritime employers and know how to help protect your legal rights. An attorney could help your case by carrying out an independent investigation of the accident, speaking with witnesses, advising you on your legal rights, building a strong case on your behalf, negotiating, and helping you bring a civil suit.
Having an experienced offshore injury lawyer is the best way to increase your chances of recovering maximum compensation for your injuries and ensure that your rights as a maritime worker are protected.
What Are My Rights If I Have Been Injured Offshore?
As an offshore worker, you are faced with serious threats and dangers every day simply by going to work. The likelihood of suffering an offshore injury is high, whether it is due to an oil spill, improperly maintained equipment, lack of safety equipment, chemical exposure, or fires. It is important that offshore workers are made aware of their rights and understand how they can recover damages for any harm that they have suffered.
If you are an injured maritime worker in Houston, Texas, our law firm recommends that you seek legal assistance from an offshore injury lawyer. Trying to understand maritime laws can be confusing, and if your accident was caused by a wrongful act of your employer, you may be scared to file a compensation claim against them.
Having the backing of a maritime lawyer could make understanding your legal rights and filing an injury claim much easier. At Houston Injury Lawyers PLLC, our lawyers have been helping clients claim compensation for maritime injuries for many years. Through our years of practice, we have built up a strong attorney-client relationship. Our law firm takes a client-focused, compassionate approach to all injury claims and our goal is to ensure that our clients feel more confident navigating through the legal system.
We have significant experience battling offshore injury cases in Houston, and we have helped many clients get favorable outcomes in their cases. We offer a free consultation for you to speak with an offshore injury lawyer with no strings attached.