If you’ve found yourself involved in a maritime accident, the path toward resolution may seem daunting. No matter how you ended up fighting this legal battle, our experienced attorneys at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in Houston, TX are here to help you understand each step of this process and how long you might be expected to wait for the justice you are entitled to.
Factors Influencing a Maritime Accident Case Timeline
The complexity of a case influences its timeline. Complex cases often involve severe injuries, high damages, or difficult legal questions, all of which can prolong the duration of a maritime accident case.
Maritime accidents may also involve multiple parties, from ship owners and operators to manufacturers of maritime equipment. Each of these parties will have their own legal representation, adding layers of negotiation and litigation to the case. Dealing with multiple parties not only adds complexity, but can also significantly lengthen the case’s timeline. We are here to ensure that no amount of complexity gets between you and the justice you deserve.
Statute of Limitations
An important aspect to consider in the timeline of a maritime accident case is the statute of limitations. In Texas, the statute of limitations for maritime accident cases is typically three years from the date of the accident. If you do not proceed with your case within this time frame, the likelihood of you winning your case is greatly diminished. The Jones Act, which covers seamen injured in the course of their employment, also has a three-year statute of limitations.
Under the Jones Act, the “discovery rule” may apply, meaning the clock starts when the injured party discovered or reasonably should have discovered their injury. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA), which provides for compensation and medical care to maritime employees, excluding seamen or government employees, has a one-year statute of limitations from the date of injury or from the last payment of compensation, whichever is later.
Investigation and Gathering Evidence
In the aftermath of a maritime accident, an extensive investigation often occurs. At this stage, our team of qualified legal professionals meticulously gather evidence, review safety regulations, examine maintenance records, and conduct interviews. This phase is vital as it lays the foundation for your claim. The time taken in this step can range from a few weeks to several months, depending on the complexity of the accident and the amount of evidence to be reviewed.
The discovery phase is a crucial part of the legal process in maritime cases in which both sides exchange vital information related to the case. The information includes witness testimonies, expert reports, documents, photographs, and more. In complex cases, the discovery phase can extend the duration of the case, as it requires thorough examination and vetting of the data exchanged.
Determining the compensation in maritime accident cases can be complex and thus extend the time required to reach a resolution. Multiple types of damages could be claimed, such as lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, and, in fatal accidents, wrongful death claims. Each of these needs to be accurately calculated, requiring detailed financial analysis and, in some cases, consultation with experts such as forensic economists or medical professionals.
If negotiations fail to yield a fair settlement, we will prepare to take your case to court. Court proceedings can be lengthy due to a variety of factors such as court schedules, witness availability, and the time taken by each side to present their case. This stage could take anywhere from a few months to over a year.
Our team is well-equipped to fight for your rights in the courtroom. We operate on a contingency basis so that you only pay for a case that we have successfully won on your behalf.
After a verdict, the losing party may decide to appeal the decision, further extending the timeline of your case. The appellate process involves the submission of legal briefs by both sides and an oral argument before the appellate court. The court then reviews the trial court’s proceedings for any legal errors that may have affected the outcome. This stage can add several months or more to your case’s timeline.
The Impact of Legislative Provisions
The Limitation of Liability Act
In relation to the Jones Act, the Limitation of Liability Act, a federal law, may significantly impact the timeline of a maritime case in Texas. This law permits the owner of the vessel in question to limit their liability to the value of the vessel and its freight at the end of the voyage, which could significantly reduce the compensation available to injured workers. If invoked, this may prolong the duration of the legal process and your case.
Maintenance and Cure Provisions
Another aspect of maritime law that can impact the case timeline is the obligation for employers to provide ‘maintenance and cure’ as determined by the Jones Act. These are benefits an employer must provide to an injured seaman, regardless of who was at fault for their injuries. ‘Maintenance’ refers to daily living expenses, while ‘cure’ pertains to medical expenses. Determining appropriate rates and extents of these benefits can be contentious, leading to further negotiations and potentially prolonging the legal process.
Disputes Regarding Seaman Status
The Jones Act specifically protects ‘seamen,’ a term with a particular legal definition. Whether or not a maritime worker qualifies as a seaman can sometimes be a matter of legal dispute, with employers often arguing that injured workers don’t meet the criteria to reduce their liability. Resolving these disputes can add further delays to the legal process.
While existing legislation provides substantial protections, navigating a claim under these provisions can be complex and demanding depending on the extent of your injury or nature of your accident. A knowledgeable attorney who specializes in maritime law can ensure injured maritime workers fully understand their rights, guide them through the legal process, and help them secure the compensation they deserve.
Common Types of Maritime Accidents in Texas
Chemical Plant Accidents
Texas is home to a significant number of chemical plants, making accidents in these facilities a considerable concern. Maritime employees working in these plants can be exposed to hazardous substances, leading to critical injuries or chronic health problems. Accidents often result from equipment malfunction, improper storage or handling of chemicals, and lack of proper safety protocols.
Explosions and fires are among the most catastrophic types of accidents that can occur in a chemical plant. These incidents often lead to severe injuries, including burns, respiratory problems, and trauma from the force of an explosion. Chemical leaks and spills pose additional risks, including potential exposure to harmful toxins and the threat of environmental contamination that can harm marine life and local communities.
Offshore Maritime Accidents
The offshore sector, which includes oil and gas exploration, fishing, and shipping activities, is another area where maritime accidents frequently occur. Texas, with its vast offshore oil and gas fields and busy ports, is, unfortunately, a hotspot for such incidents.
Offshore oil rig accidents can result in devastating consequences, given the dangerous nature of the work and the hazardous environment. Workers can suffer injuries due to equipment failure, explosions, fires, or even accidents involving helicopters transporting staff to and from offshore locations.
Consult With a Maritime Accident Attorney in Houston, TX
While it’s natural to desire a swift resolution, we believe that thoroughness, diligence, and patience are key to obtaining the best possible outcome for you. Contact us today at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner in Houston, TX to schedule your first consultation with a maritime accident attorney and win your case.