Maritime workers come face to face with many dangers when working offshore and are presented with high-risk situations every day. Whether you work on an oil rig, cargo ship, or cruise ship, you are exposed to many dangers, including environmental dangers, improper safety equipment, and chemical exposure. If you suffer a maritime injury, you may be entitled to recover compensation under maritime laws in Texas.
Maritime law in the US protects offshore workers and provides avenues to recover damages for personal injuries suffered at sea. However, maritime law is complex, and often injured maritime workers are unsure which maritime laws apply to their case and how to file a worker’s compensation claim.
If you are a Texas citizen that suffered maritime injuries and wants to seek compensation for your harm, you should seek legal advice from an experienced maritime lawyer. At Houston Injury Lawyers PLLC, our lawyers have helped many injured workers file personal injury claims under maritime law. Our law firm specializes in helping clients recover compensation for personal injuries and we will fight tirelessly to help ensure that your legal rights are protected in Houston.
Our lawyers could help guide you through the maritime law process, deal with any legal issues you have, and ensure that you recover maximum compensation for your personal injuries. We offer a free consultation for you to come in and discuss your case with no strings attached.
Call us today at 936-251-5246 to schedule a free consultation with our firm.
What is Maritime Law?
Maritime law deals with accidents and injuries that happen on “navigable waters”, such as oil platform accidents, dredge accidents, and accidents on cruise ships. The definition of navigable waters is not always clear. However, it is generally understood to mean waters that flow between more than one state or country and allow trading to occur between these states and countries. This definition also includes bodies of water, such as rivers, that are part of larger navigable waters, such as an ocean.
Previously, maritime law, which is sometimes referred to as admiralty law, only applied to the ‘high seas’, which is any body of water that is beyond the territorial waters of a country. However, it now has extended jurisdiction and allows employees in the maritime industry that work within the territorial waters of a country or state to claim compensation for any accidents or injuries.
Maritime law is governed by federal law rather than state laws, as conferred under Article III Section 2 of the United States Constitution. This means that the federal court has jurisdiction over maritime injury and compensation claims. If a body of water is landlocked, such as a lake or inland water, it will be governed by state law.
When Does Maritime Law Apply?
The purpose of maritime law is to protect workers and employers within the maritime industry and to provide fair remedies for compensation in the event of an accident at sea. As such, the laws and acts within this area of law will apply when an injured worker seeks to recover damages for any injuries and harm they have suffered in an accident.
As maritime law is governed primarily by federal law, the federal courts have jurisdiction over all matters that happen at sea. This means that federal courts must abide by federal maritime statutes and laws in relation to personal injury and compensation. However, sometimes there may be situations that are not governed by federal maritime laws and may allow an individual to pursue remedies under Texas law in state court.
An experienced maritime lawyer from our firm can help you understand the complexities of maritime laws and help you file a personal injury claim or Jones Act claim in a state court in Houston, Texas or in Federal court, respectively.
What Laws Apply When I Am Injured in a Maritime Accident?
Maritime law is one of the oldest bodies of law that we have in the United States. As such, there are many different principles and acts that have been in practice for many years. Typically, an injured seaman can bring a maritime injury case under one of the many admiralty law acts or under general maritime principles.
The Jones Act or the Merchant Marine Act allows injured seamen to file a personal injury claim against their employer for any injuries that occurred while working at sea. In order to have a successful claim under this act, the worker must prove that their injury was caused wholly or in part by their employer’s negligence. The burden of proof for claims under this act is lower than typical personal injury cases, and you can make a claim for lost wages, medical treatment, and pain and suffering, such as emotional distress.
Accidents that may give rise to a Jones Act claim include:
- Lack of or improper safety equipment.
- Oil spills.
- Improper training of employees.
- Giving negligent instructions or orders to employees.
The Jones Act has a statute of limitations of three years, so all claims must be brought within this time frame. The amount of compensation you can recover under this act depends on the harm you suffered and the level of negligence of your employer.
Death on The High Seas Act
Under the Death on the High Seas Act, family members can bring wrongful death claims for an accident caused by a “wrongful act, neglect, or default occurring on the high seas” that resulted in death. The compensation that may be recovered under this act includes only pecuniary financial compensation, such as support to the family. A family will be unable to recover medical expenses and funeral expenses under this act.
The statute of limitations for this act is three years, so families must file a claim within this time period to recover wrongful death compensation.
Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides a worker’s compensation program for all workers that are injured at sea. This act applies not only to seamen but extends jurisdiction to other types of workers such as longshore workers, shipbreakers, dock workers, and harbor workers. As such, it extends the jurisdiction of the Jones Act, which only applies to seamen.
The type of compensation that workers are entitled to under this act includes medical bills, 66% of their wages during their recovery, or loss of earning capacity in the event of a permanent disability. In the event that a worker died at sea, the surviving spouse may be entitled to 50% of their pay.
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act extends the jurisdiction of the LHWCA to all workers on the Outer Continental Shelf of the USA. Some areas included in the Outer Continental Shelf include the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific U.S. coast, and the Atlantic U.S. coast.
Most jobs on the Outer Continental Shelf involve the exploration, sourcing, or development of natural resources, such as work on oil rigs. Under this act, workers who are injured on oil rigs or on structures within the Outer Continental Shelf of the US may be entitled to make a claim for medical expenses and lost income. Government employees, whether by the US government, federal government, or state government, are exempt from filing a claim under this act.
Limitation of Liability Act
The purpose of the Limitation of Liability Act is to allow vessel owners to limit their liability in the event of an accident or injury caused by their vessel. Vessel or ship owners will often bring a claim under this act when an accident or injury occurs on their vessel, and the amount of compensation that the victim can recover will often be much lower. This act can be used by all types of vessel owners including a ship owner, cruise line, or recreation watercraft owner.
There have been many famous cases in which the Limitation of Liability Act was used by vessel owners to limit their liability for serious injuries and even death on their vessels, such as The Titanic and SS El Faro. In all cases brought under the act, the vessel owner is required to prove that they lacked knowledge of any problems regarding their vessel before the accident occurred. If they can successfully prove this to a judge, victims may receive significantly less compensation for any harm they suffered.
In order to bring a claim against vessel owners that are attempting to reduce their liability under this act, a lawyer must demonstrate that the vessel owner did have knowledge of damage or problems with their vessel prior to the accident that caused your injuries.
General Maritime Law
Under general maritime law, seamen have a right to general maintenance and cure for any injuries that occur while at work. Maintenance and cure benefits are no-fault, meaning that injured crew members and workers do not need to prove that their injury occurred due to the fault of their employer or the owner of the vessel.
Maintenance benefits seek to cover general living expenses that an injured seaman may not be able to pay due to their injuries, such as their mortgage and utilities. Cure benefits will often be provided to injured seamen for medical bills which can include hospital costs, appointment bills, and any other costs related to medical care. Once you are able to return to work or have reached maximum medical improvement, your maintenance and cure benefits will be cut off.
How Can I Recover Medical Expenses for Maritime Injuries?
If you suffered a maritime injury and had to receive medical care as a result, it is important that you recover damages to cover any medical expenses you incurred. As discussed previously, your employer has a duty to provide maintenance and cure benefits in the event of an injury at work however these benefits may not be enough to cover all expenses.
It is important that an injured person gets fair compensation for any harm they have suffered at work, including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and lost earning capacity. If your maritime employer or the ship owner was at fault for your injuries, a lawyer from our firm could help you recover compensation by:
- Filing a Jones Act claim for medical costs, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering. This act only applies to injured seamen.
- Filing an LHWCA claim for medical care and lost income. This act applies to all injured workers in maritime occupations.
- Helping you increase the maintenance and cure benefits you receive from your employer.
- Filing a negligence claim against your employer. If you are unable to receive compensation under general maritime principles, the Jones Act, or LHWCA, it is possible to bring a personal injury claim against your employer based on standard principles of negligence.
Injured maritime workers should always seek help from an experienced maritime lawyer. Filing a claim against your employer or a party responsible for your injuries, whether under the Jones Act or principles of negligence, can be quite complex. A lawyer could help you understand the complexities of maritime law and take over the case on your behalf.
Maritime Attorneys at Houston Injury Lawyers PLLC
At Houston Injury Lawyers PLLC, we want to help you in any way that we can with your maritime injury claim in Texas. Our law firm has vast experience handling personal injury cases and helping clients get favorable outcomes. We understand how traumatizing it can be to suffer a personal injury, particularly when at sea, and we want to ensure that you are fully informed of your legal rights and that they are protected throughout the process.
Our attorneys prioritize helping our clients and ensuring that they are treated compassionately and with fairness. With maritime cases, we could investigate your case by speaking with engineers, examining safety gear on board, consulting a medical professional that is not your company doctor, speaking with crew members, and helping collect evidence to support your claim.
Our lawyers are highly experienced with negotiation and litigation and have received multiple accolades and awards for their hard work and deep understanding of personal injury law. Our law firm has built up a strong attorney-client relationship through our years of practice and dedication to clients. We have the experience and knowledge necessary to help guide you through your case, offer you a deeper understanding of maritime principles, and we could help you maximize the compensation you recover.
Contact Houston Injury Lawyers PLLC Today!
Suffering a maritime injury can be a stressful and traumatizing ordeal. You may be out of work, unable to keep up with bills, undergoing serious medical treatment, and at a loss as to how you can get back on track. Maritime workers in Houston are protected by multiple laws and acts in the event of an injury, such as the Jones Act and maintenance and cure benefits. However, knowing which act applies to your particular case can be confusing.
If you have suffered a maritime injury in Houston, Texas, it is strongly advised that you seek legal assistance from a personal injury lawyer with experience handling maritime law cases. Houston Injury Lawyers PLLC is here to help protect your rights as an injured maritime worker and help you get the compensation that you deserve.
The lawyers from our firm can help guide you through maritime and admiralty laws, advise you on how to receive compensation for your injuries, help you bring a claim under a maritime act, or file a maritime lawsuit on your behalf. We want to use our extensive experience with personal injury cases and civil lawsuits to provide you with greater confidence in navigating through your maritime injury case.