Maritime work is inherently risky, and the laws that govern compensation for maritime injuries are as complex as the dangers faced by those who work at sea. When injuries occur, whether on a vessel, a chemical plant, an offshore platform, or elsewhere at sea, the statute of limitations places limits on maritime workers and their families for seeking justice and compensation. If you’ve been involved in a maritime accident, it’s important to contact experienced Houston, TX personal injury lawyers as quickly as possible to make sure you meet all deadlines.
Given the varying timeframes and conditions under all the different statutes that could possibly apply, it is crucial for maritime workers and their families to act swiftly. Waiting too long can mean losing the right to compensation. In many cases, once the statutory period has elapsed, there is very little, if anything, that can be done. However, circumstances such as coercion or other extenuating factors that prevent a claim from being filed in time may open the door for legal exceptions. In all cases, seek immediate legal help to assess the viability of your claim and to take action to protect your rights.
Federal Maritime Law
The Jones Act
The Jones Act provides seamen with the right to sue their employers for injuries suffered due to negligence. Under the Jones Act, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the accident or the discovery of an injury. This means that injured seamen have a three-year window to bring forth a lawsuit against their employer for personal injury or death.
However, there are instances where this statute of limitations may be reduced, such as if the claim is against a vessel owned or operated by the U.S. government. In that case, the statute of limitations would only be two years. It’s crucial for injured maritime workers to seek experienced maritime legal counsel as soon as possible to navigate these complexities.
Death on High Seas Act (DOHSA)
When a maritime worker dies, the DOHSA may come into play. This federal statute allows the family of the deceased, including spouse, parents, children, or dependent relatives, to file a wrongful death claim within three years of the date of death. The act is specific to incidents that occur three nautical miles or further from the shore of the United States.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
The LHWCA is another significant piece of legislation that covers maritime workers not classified as seamen, usually involved in longshore operations. The statute of limitations under the LHWCA is generally one year from the date of the accident. However, if an employer provides voluntary compensation and medical benefits post-injury, the one-year countdown starts only after these benefits cease.
To apply under the LHWCA, someone injured in a maritime accident must first submit an “Employer’s First Report of Injury” to the Department of Labor as a prerequisite. If this document is not submitted, the statute of limitations does not begin until it is received by the Department of Labor. This is just one example of the incredible importance of preparing and submitting official documentation correctly to preserve your legal rights.
Maintenance and Cure
Under general federal maritime law, maintenance and cure benefits exist to support injured seamen by covering their living expenses and medical costs. Unlike other statutes, the time limit to file a maintenance and cure claim is not absolute. While the three-year statute of limitations generally applies, claims for maintenance and cure can be subject to laches, which allows a claim to be filed after the standard period has expired if the claimant can prove there was a valid reason for the delay.
Statute of Limitations in Texas Maritime Law
In the state of Texas, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of the injury. This is applicable to certain maritime injuries incurred in Texas waters where Texas law rather than federal is in effect. The shorter timeframe compared to federal law necessitates prompt action by injured workers or their families to initiate legal proceedings within the Texas civil court system.
The Role of Houston, TX Personal Injury Lawyers in Protecting Your Rights
The importance of acting quickly after a maritime injury cannot be overstressed. Delays can lead to missing the opportunity for legal recourse. If there’s any suspicion of coercion or other reasons that may have prevented you from timely filing, seeking immediate legal advice is especially critical.
The complexity involved when there are so many potentially overlapping statutes of limitations for maritime claims makes the role of specialized legal representation absolutely critical. A knowledgeable attorney with experience in maritime law will be able to get through the case, ensuring compliance with the correct statute of limitations, while protecting your rights and ensuring you receive the compensation and redress for losses that you deserve.
Strategies for Filing Maritime Injury Lawsuits
Prompt Filing and Procedural Adherence
Given the tight timeframes of both federal and state laws, the first strategy is to schedule an immediate consultation with a maritime legal expert. This prompt action is essential, as attorneys skilled in maritime law can provide guidance on the most effective course of action, direct a case to the right courts and agencies for redress, ensure all relevant documents are filed correctly and deadlines are met, and protect a victim’s rights along the way.
Don’t Neglect the Fine Print
It is critical for maritime workers to understand the specifics of the statutes that might be applicable in their case. For example, under the LHWCA, the one-year statute of limitations may be extended if the employer is providing ongoing benefits; however, the countdown begins anew once these benefits cease. This is just one example of why it’s not advisable to deal with this issue without a lawyer: or to just give up and assume nothing can be done! There’s a lot of fine print, but that’s what your maritime attorney specializes in.
Documentation such as medical records, accident reports, and witness statements can be pivotal in a maritime lawsuit. These pieces of evidence will support the claim and help you with the statute of limitations by establishing the timeline of events and injury discovery. Once you’ve been injured, keep everything.
Follow All Reporting Requirements
Maritime workers must also adhere to reporting requirements, such as the submission of the “Employer’s First Report of Injury” for LHWCA claims. Failure to follow these procedures can potentially jeopardize the ability to file a claim.
Ask Your Lawyer About Legal Exceptions and Extenuating Circumstances
In cases where there has been coercion or other extenuating circumstances have prevented you from filing a claim, legal exceptions may apply. These exceptions can be very difficult to obtain, however, so having skilled legal representation is essential to be sure you’ve explored all potential avenues for compensation.
Don’t Go It Alone
Professional legal guidance is indispensable in maritime injury lawsuits, which require an informed and proactive approach to be successful. If you’ve been injured in a maritime accident, don’t try to go it alone. Schedule a free consultation with Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner
right now. We have been serving Texans injured at sea for over 70 years and will work tirelessly to ensure your rights are protected.