fighting to get you the compensation you deserve after an offshore Work accident.
Seamen and offshore workers are at risk every day of suffering a serious injury at work. There are many dangers present while working on offshore vessels, such as fires and explosions, gas leaks, heavy objects falling, and extreme weather conditions. Maritime law serves to protect workers at sea and ensure that in the event of an injury, they are afforded sufficient compensation, including maintenance and cure.
Understanding maritime law can often be complex. Many workers are unsure which type of maritime law applies to their injury claim. We have seen many workers accept compensation from their employers that did not adequately cover their injury costs and which they were not able to change at a later date. As such, it is extremely important that you speak with an experienced maritime lawyer as soon as possible if you have been injured offshore.
At Abraham Watkins, we have a team of maritime attorneys that can help you at every stage of your case. We know how difficult and stressful it can be to be injured at work and have to worry about paying for all of your costs. Because of this, we want to help you file a claim under the right maritime law to get you compensated for your injuries and ensure that your rights are protected.
Call us today to speak with a Houston maritime lawyer from our law firm at 713-535-9319.
HOUSTON, GALVESTON, AND GULF COAST TEXAS ADMIRALTY & MARITIME LAWYER
Maritime law, sometimes called admiralty law, is a set of laws that applies to maritime workers, employers, and people injured. Generally, the laws govern all maritime accidents and events that occur on the high seas, such as oil platform accidents, dredge accidents, and cargo ship accidents. The ‘high seas’ refers to water beyond the territorial waters of a country or state. Maritime law also applies to territorial water that is within 12 miles of the shore.
Maritime law functions as one of the oldest sets of laws in the country, and as such, it experienced constant change. Traditionally, maritime law only applied to accidents and events that occurred on the high seas; however, it now applies to all “navigable waters” in the United States. Defining navigable waters under the law can sometimes be confusing, and most of the law that we use today is based on previous cases attempting to offer a clearer definition.
Currently, navigable water is defined as water that can act as a “continued highway over which commerce is or may be carried on with other States or foreign countries.”. So, if a body of water enables trade or commerce with another state or a foreign country, it is governed by maritime law. Bodies of water that are part of greater “navigable waters” will also be governed by maritime law, even if they do not directly connect to another state or country.
As such, a body of water that is closed off by a larger piece of land, or ‘land-locked’, will be governed by state law rather than federal maritime law.
Where are Maritime Cases Heard in Houston, Texas?
Texas state maritime law is based entirely on federal law, as provided by Article III Section 2 of the United States Constitution. As such, the federal courts have jurisdiction over all cases involving personal injury and damage to property on navigable water. The only area that state courts may apply their own discretion is in relation to the compensation process for victims.
Although federal law governs all maritime injuries, injured workers and seamen may be entitled to bring maritime claims in state and federal courts in Houston. Injured maritime workers can bring a personal injury claim under the Jones Act in Texas state courts, and offshore oil rig workers can also bring a federal law case to a state court.
The cross-over between state and federal maritime law can be confusing, and often workers are unsure whether they can bring a claim to a Texas state court. One of the maritime lawyers from our law firm can offer you advice on your injury case and help you bring your case to a state or federal court.
Important Maritime Law Acts in Texas
Maritime injury cases and property damage cases are dealt with using a series of acts and general maritime law principles that have been built up over many years. Legal principles governing the right to compensation and medical expenses for an offshore injury, and jurisdiction for claims are set out in these acts.
Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) serves to compensate many different types of maritime employees. Some examples of workers that can claim under this Act include:
- Harbor construction workers.
- Longshore workers.
- Dock workers.
- Cargo workers.
- Ship repairers.
In order to make a compensation claim under this act for a maritime injury, the worker must demonstrate that they are a maritime worker and that their injury occurred on navigable waters or adjacent to such waters, including docks, piers, etc.
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act is an extension of the LHWCA. Workers who are injured on the Outer Continental Shelf of the United States are entitled to make an injury claim under this act. They must show that their work was in relation to exploring and producing natural resources.
If you work on an Outer Continental Shelf oil rig, you may be entitled to file a maritime injury claim under this Act. However, if you are employed by the US government, a foreign government, or a state government, you will be exempt from filing a personal injury claim under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
Death on the High Seas Act
All deaths that occur on the high seas, outside of a state’s territorial waters, are covered under the Death on the High Seas Act. This Act provides that family members of workers and passengers who die due to an accident at shore caused by “wrongful act, neglect, or default occurring on the high seas” can bring a lawsuit.
Family members can only recover compensation for pecuniary losses, like financial support, and will be unable to recover medical expenses and funeral costs. The statute of limitations for bringing claims under this act is three years.
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act, was established in 1920 and covers the rights of seamen to file claims against their employers for an offshore injury. Under the Jones Act, workers have a right to file a compensation claim against their employer if they were wholly or partially responsible for their injuries. As such, your employer only needs to play a part in causing the personal injury you suffered to recover compensation. Some incidents of negligence covered under this act include:
- Failure to maintain and prove safe equipment for seamen.
- Having knowledge of extreme weather conditions and not taking steps to avoid them.
- Knowingly giving negligent orders and instructions to workers.
- Failing to provide medical treatment to injured workers.
Injured seamen can make a personal injury claim against their employers for whole or partial negligence in a state or federal court. Workers also retain the right to a jury trial. To bring a claim under the Merchant Marine Act, you should speak with an experienced maritime lawyer who can help you with your claim. Claims under this act can often be complex, and a texas lawyer can help gather evidence on your behalf, build a strong case, and ensure that you receive proper compensation for your injuries.
Limitation of Liability Act
The Limitation of Liability Act allows vessel owners to limit their liability for claims brought in relation to injuries and damages caused by their vessel. This means that if you are injured on any type of vessel, such as personal watercraft or a cargo ship, and suffer serious injuries as a result, the owner of the ship may be able to reduce their liability and minimize the amount of compensation you can recover.
In order to use this Act, vessel owners must demonstrate that they had no previous knowledge of problems or damage relating to their vessel. In cases where the Limitation of Liability Act is raised, a judge must be the sole decider, as it is governed under admiralty law, which is slightly different than maritime law.
If a vessel owner decides to try and use the Limitation of Liability Act, the amount of compensation you will be able to recover will be substantially lower. As such, it is recommended that you seek help from experienced maritime attorneys who can demonstrate that the vessel owner did in fact have prior knowledge of the dangers of using the boat and that they should be found responsible for your injuries.
Seamans Right to Maintenance and Cure
Seamen’s right to maintenance and cure is similar to worker’s compensation. If a captain or crewmember suffers an offshore injury, their employer is required to pay them maintenance and cure costs. Cure costs refer to medical bills for injuries that happened during the course of work or while at-shore. Maintenance benefits are paid to help cover basic living costs.
Maintenance and cure benefits are paid to the employee until they reach maximum medical improvement, which is determined by a physician or doctor. Employees do not need to prove that their employer caused their injury, as these benefits operate on a no-fault basis.
Common Maritime Injury Cases in Houston, Texas
Many offshore workers risk their lives going to work every day. Due to the nature of many maritime jobs, workers are at risk of being seriously harmed due to work hazard environments such as heaving falling objects, gas explosions and fires, faulty machinery, and much more. Maritime law and admiralty law have provisions for workers to get compensation for their injuries and to ensure that their medical expenses are covered.
It is important that you speak with an experienced offshore accident lawyer if you have been involved in any type of offshore accident, including the accidents listed below.
Jack-up Rig Accidents
Jack-up rigs are a common type of oil rig that is used as turbine installation vessels and mobile offshore drilling units (MODU). These types of rigs are somewhat mobile and must be set up safely using secure legs attached to the sea floor. It is important that employers managing jack-up rigs take adequate care to ensure that a jack-up rig is set up properly and fully stable.
The most common causes of jack-up rig accidents are explosions and collapses. Working on oil rigs is inherently dangerous, and many accidents are caused each year. However, in a lot of cases, adapting proper safety measures and ensuring that jack-up rigs are set up correctly can help prevent rig accidents from happening.
If you or a family member have been the victim of a jack-up rig maritime accident and suffered a personal injury as a result, you should contact one of the maritime lawyers from our law firm who can help you file a claim.
Oil Platform Accidents
Oil platforms are particularly difficult and dangerous work environments. Each year many maritime workers are injured due to fires, explosions, collisions, slip and fall accidents, improper work equipment, and more. For example, on offshore rigs in the gulf coast region of Mexico, there have been over 1,500 injured maritime workers and 60 deaths from 2001 to 2009, which were caused by many avoidable explosions and fires.
If you are a maritime worker injured on an oil platform, you may have a claim under the Jones Act and general maritime law to get all medical costs and expenses covered by your employer. If you suffered an offshore injury or your loved one lost their life due to the negligence of an employer, you should seek help from an experienced maritime offshore accident lawyer who can help you file a compensation claim.
Dredge workers are responsible for clearing rivers, harbors, or other areas of water weeds, rubbish, mud, and any other sentiment that can block a waterway. It is common for dredge workers to sustain injuries due to being crushed because of malfunctioning or faulty machinery, falling materials and objects, or slipping and falling.
Although most dredges operate in shallow areas of water or even onshore, workers are still entitled to the same legal rights and protections as other offshore workers. As such, if you sustain an offshore injury as a dredge worker while at work, or if you can demonstrate that your injury was caused wholly or in part by your employer, you can make a compensation claim under the Jones Act.
Deck accidents are a frequent occurrence due to the many hazards often on board vessels, shipyards, and oil rigs. Slip and fall accidents are a common occurrence due to the deck of a vessel being wet and exposed to the sun. However, we have helped clients with many different types of deck accidents, resulting from:
- Flying or low-hanging objects.
- Dangerous or extreme weather.
- Falling objects.
- Human error.
- Faulty or failing equipment.
Deck accidents can often result in maritime workers suffering serious injuries such as broken bones, sprains, head injuries, brain trauma, and more. Whether your injury was caused by your maritime employers, vessel owner negligence, or an accident, a maritime attorney can help ensure that you get duly compensated for your injuries.
Cargo Ship Accidents
The cargo maritime industry is one of the largest trade industries in the country and is responsible for transporting more than 80% of all goods worldwide. With the continuous growth of this industry and the constant demand for more trade, more maritime workers are beginning to work on cargo ships.
As cargo ships often carry heavy freight, machinery, chemicals, and large shipping containers, there is often a huge risk of an accident happening. Some common cargo ship accidents include:
- Crushing accidents from falling objects.
- Fires and explosions.
- Chemical spills.
- Sliding cargo.
- Machinery accidents.
As cargo vessels often carry high-value goods, they are more prone to pirate attacks, which can result in offshore workers being assaulted on deck. If you have been involved in an accident on a cargo ship that caused you to suffer a personal injury, you should speak with an experienced Houston maritime injury lawyer to get help with your case. They can help you file a claim against the person responsible for your injuries to recover compensation.
Cruise Ship Accidents
Cruise ship accident claims can be quite complex. Often, cruise ship owners have certain clauses in their contracts that limit their level of liability and the amount of time you have to bring a claim against them. However, cruise ship accidents are common, and some of our clients have been injured to slip and falls, physical assault, injury at a salon, or injury while taking part in an excursion.
In the event that you or a family member have suffered maritime injuries while on a cruise ship, you should speak with an experienced maritime lawyer as soon as possible. Proving liability in these cases can often be difficult, as the cruise ship may be partnered with different touring companies or may try to relinquish responsibility. Having a maritime attorney that is experienced working with cruise ship accidents can help ensure that you are compensated fairly.
Common Injuries Sustained By Maritime Workers in Houston, Texas
Depending on the type of offshore accident, a maritime worker may sustain serious or even fatal injuries. Maritime law ensures that workers are entitled to receive compensation for these injuries; however, in many cases, vessel owners and employers are reluctant to pay out high amounts of compensation. By filing a lawsuit or getting help from a Houston offshore accident lawyer, you can substantially increase your chances of getting fairly compensated.
Some common injuries witnessed by our Houston maritime attorneys include:
Our personal injury attorneys at Abraham Watkins have helped many maritime workers recover compensation for crush injuries. Due to heavy machinery and falling objects, offshore workers are at a higher risk of losing limbs or becoming paralyzed due to a crushing accident. Often when heavy cargo or sediment falls from a high object, such as a dredge, or when cargo is unstable and slides across a vessel, it can cause a worker’s legs or arms to be crushed in the process.
As a result of being crushed, many offshore workers have to get their limbs amputated or suffer paralysis due to the accident. On top of the physical effects of being crushed, workers often suffer physiological disorders and severe trauma resulting from the accident.
Burn injuries are another common work-related injury for seamen and offshore workers. In many cases, burn injuries are among the most severe injuries a person can suffer, causing both physical harm and mental anguish stemming from the severe injury.
At sea, burn injuries can be caused by fires and gas explosions, electrical explosions resulting from faulty wires, contact with hazardous chemicals or toxins, and fires in the engine room of a ship. These types of accidents are a real fear for most workers in the maritime industry, and workers are at risk every day by going to work.
Burn injuries can vary from minor first-degree burns to severe third-degree burns that require skin grafts and immediate medical attention. If you suffer a third-degree burn, you are susceptible to suffering an infection, sepsis, hypothermia, and many more complications. Regardless of how serious your burn injury is, you are still entitled to get your medical expenses covered under maritime law. Speak with one of our Houston maritime lawyers if you have suffered a burn injury at sea.
There are two types of brain injuries a person working at sea can suffer; an open head injury and a closed head injury. With an open head injury, the skull itself has been cracked open or pierced. In comparison, a closed head injury does not cause the skull to be pierced or fractured; however, these types of injuries can often have long-lasting complications that are difficult for a medical professional to detect at first.
A brain injury at sea can be caused by a falling object, improper safety equipment, a slip and fall accident, or a cargo accident. Common symptoms of brain injuries include loss of memory, seizures, paralysis, depression, and mental impairment.
What Rights do Injured Maritime Workers Have in Houston, Texas?
It is important to be aware of your legal rights as a maritime worker at all times. If you get into an offshore accident and suffer injuries as a result, you should ensure that you have access to medical treatment, that your legal rights are protected, and that you are financially supported. All injured maritime workers are entitled to the following:
- Medical treatment – Under the Jones Act, all injured maritime workers are entitled to receive medical treatment that is covered financially. Injured workers do not have to worry about having insurance or paying for medical expenses as they are entitled to receive financial maintenance payments and all medical benefits. If you had a pre-existing injury made worse due to the maritime accident, your employer must provide sufficient coverage for your medical treatment. In the event that one doctor says you need medical treatment and another doctor says it is not necessary, the Jones Act ebbs in favor of you receiving treatment.
- Choice of doctor – All injured offshore workers have the right to choose the medical professional that treats their injuries. You may have to have your first evaluation with the doctor recommended by your insurance company or employer; however, who you decide to get treated by is at your discretion.
- Non-recorded accident statement – When you are first injured in a maritime accident, you must report the accident to your employer or the appropriate party at the site of the injury. However, you are not required to give a recorded statement of the accident. Often, shock and pain can cause people to mix up facts or get confused initially, which is why you should not record a statement that you may need to change at a later date.
What Damages Can a Houston Offshore Accident Lawyer Help Me Recover?
As discussed above, maritime law has certain acts that allow workers to recover compensation for an injury that occurred during the course of their work. General maritime law also provides that employers must compensate workers for maintenance and cure costs.
However, our maritime injury lawyers have seen many cases where employers tried to get workers to sign off on an initial payment that was not sufficient, while also were then unable to make a claim for recovery. We understand that suffering a serious maritime injury is stressful, and we want to ensure that you get the fair amount of compensation you deserve, which is why we recommend always speaking to a Houston maritime injury lawyer before signing off on any deal.
A Houston maritime injury lawyer can help you file for the following:
- Jones Act claims for medical expenses relating to your injuries.
- Maintenance and cure costs for daily living expenses.
- Unseaworthiness claim if your injuries occurred due to unsafe equipment or vessel condition.
- Negligence claim.
It is possible to file more than one maritime injury claim at a time, depending on your circumstances. By doing so, you can increase the amount of compensation you can recover. Speak with a Houston maritime lawyer to figure out what damages you are entitled to.
Filing a Negligence Claim For a Maritime Injury in Houston, Texas
If you are unable to recover compensation under the maritime acts or general laws, or simply want to file more than one maritime injury claim, our lawyers can help you file a negligence case against the party or parties responsible for your injuries. In some cases, our clients have made a Jones Act claim for medical expenses against their employer while at the same time filing a negligence claim against the non-employer vessel owner.
Maritime negligence claims function the same way as a standard personal injury claim. In order to prove a negligence claim, your maritime injury lawyer must demonstrate that the individual:
- Owed you a duty of care.
- Breached this duty of care through negligence or recklessness.
- The harm or maritime injury you suffered was caused directly by the breached duty of care.
- You suffered damages as a result, such as lost wages, medical costs, pain and suffering, or wrongful death.
Negligence claims can often be complex and difficult to prove, as vessel owners and employers often have a huge amount of resources and lawyers fighting to ensure that you do not get added compensation. To ensure that your negligence claim is successful, it is important that you get help from a maritime injury lawyer.
Damages In a Maritime Negligence Claim
The damages a worker can recover in a negligence claim can be much greater than what they are entitled to under the maritime law acts and laws. The amount of compensation you can recover depends on the particular damages you are entitled to. The more damages you can prove, the more compensation you will get. A Houston maritime lawyer can help you file for the following damages:
- Medical costs – If you were hospitalized because of your injuries, or had to see a doctor or therapist, you can claim for all costs relating to medical appointments, treatment, and therapy.
- Lost wages – You can make a claim for past and future lost wages as a result of being injured and unemployed. If you are unable to work in the same capacity again due to the injury, you can make a claim to recover the loss of earned income.
- Funeral expenses – In the awful event that you lost a loved one in an accident on the water, a maritime injury lawyer can help ensure that you get the funeral expenses covered and in some cases, a loss of income to the family household.
- Non-economic damages – If you suffered physical pain or emotional anguish as a result of the incident, it may be possible to recover pain and suffering damages through a negligence case.
Although workers are in many cases entitled to medical costs and maintenance expenses through maritime law acts, you may be able to recover much more by filing a negligence claim. One of our offshore injury lawyers can help guide you through the process of filing a negligence claim and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
Contact an Experienced Admiralty and Maritime Lawyer
Maritime law and admiralty law were established to ensure that offshore workers get equal protection under the law when it comes to accidents at work. Suffering an injury or being involved in a serious accident at sea can be extremely stressful and traumatizing. Often, offshore workers are unaware of the protections they are guaranteed under law and may settle for lower compensation from their employer.
If you have been involved in an offshore accident and suffered an injury as a result, you should speak with an experienced maritime injury lawyer as soon as possible. At Abraham Watkins, we have a team of maritime attorneys that can help ensure that you get fairly awarded for the harm you have suffered. Our Houston law office has helped many clients win personal injury settlements for maritime injuries, and we want to do everything in our power to help you.
Once you contact our firm, we will assign a maritime attorney to your case to begin investigating what happened, advising you on your legal options, and building a strong case to ensure that you get your compensation. We have built up a strong attorney-client relationship through our years of practice, and you can count on us to fight strongly for your rights.
Call us today to discuss your case and learn more about our Houston maritime law services at 713-535-9319.
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