Maritime Attorney in Houston, TX
Employees who work offshore work in environments that are more inherently hazardous than most other jobs. Oil rigs, dredges, cruise ships, and cargo ships can face extreme weather conditions and require the highest levels of maintenance. When employers act negligently and fail to maintain health and safety standards or the standard of their vessels, and you are injured, you could be entitled to seek compensation through either negligence or maritime law.
Maritime injury claims can allow employees to seek financial compensation beyond the automatic benefits provided by maritime law.
We often see cases where people fail to secure the financial assistance they truly require. Employees rarely know their true rights, and employers will often take advantage of this, getting their workers to sign off for less money than they really need.
If you have been injured during your work offshore, or on the high seas, we highly recommend seeking representation from a law firm with experience and knowledge of maritime law. A Houston offshore injury lawyer will be able to advise and assist you in pursuing what you are truly owed.
Abraham Watkins – Speak To a Dedicated Houston Offshore Injury Lawyer Today!
Here at Abraham Watkins, as one of the states longest serving law firms, we have dealt with numerous cases involving maritime and offshore injuries. Our attorneys are experienced in both personal injury trial law and offshore accident claims.
Through our 70 years of service, we have built up a reputation for success, earned through countless victories for our clients. As soon as you get in touch, we will assign a dedicated offshore injury attorney to your case. They will conduct a thorough investigation and draw upon our law firms’ past victories to assist them in tailoring a customized strategy for your individual case.
We take the time to craft an attorney-client relationship that inspires confidence. We keep our clients informed throughout, endeavoring to educate as well as advise so you know exactly where you stand. Our attorneys listen compassionately, and we never settle for less.
Call us today to arrange a free consultation with a Houston offshore accident lawyer from our law firm at 713-535-9319.
What is Maritime Law?
Maritime laws were developed over the past century to cover the rights of offshore workers of America. From oil-rig engineers to cruise ship workers, these laws govern what happens in the event of an accident.
Maritime law often refers to the high seas. The high seas refer to “any body of water beyond the normal territorial waters of a country or state.”
Maritime law also covers anyone working within territorial water that is located within 12 miles of the shore.
These laws are some of the oldest laws that still stand in the United States, and this can make them extremely difficult to navigate. Over the past 50 years, there have been a number of amendments and attempts to modernize these laws but many of them are still complicated and will require a skilled maritime attorney to decipher.
As one of the oldest sets of laws in the United States, maritime law has changed a lot over the past 50 years. Originally, maritime laws would only apply to victims who had suffered an accident while on the “high sea”.
In modern days, maritime law basically applies to all navigable waters in the United States.
Defining what classifies as navigable waters and what does not can be one of the problems you may face. Often, lawyers dealing with maritime law have to use precedence from previous cases as the laws are unclear in certain regards.
Currently, the definition of navigable water is any body of water that acts as a continued highway. If it allows commerce to be carried out with foreign countries or acts as a highway between states or countries, it is navigable water.
Where are Maritime Cases Heard in Texas?
Maritime laws are federal laws and this means that in maritime law cases, the federal court usually has the power and jurisdiction. Sometimes workers can bring federal certain maritime cases like this in state courts, but it will depend upon the case and the laws.
If you have suffered a personal injury following an accident offshore, on navigable waters, or at high seas, the Jones Act allows you to bring a claim in either federal court or Texas state court.
With so many crossovers between state and federal legislature, maritime law is difficult to navigate. Your best chances of success are always going to be with a dedicated offshore accident lawyer representing you.
Important Maritime Law in Texas
There are a number of different acts and sets of legislation that are included in maritime and admiralty laws. These acts are the most important and commonly used, and cover the majority of cases involving a personal injury accident that has occurred offshore. These laws cover the benefits that you are automatically entitled to, as well as the steps you should take to pursue compensation that you deserve.
Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act
The Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) allows for the following maritime employees to seek compensation:
- Harbor construction workers.
- Longshore workers.
- Dock workers.
- Ship repairers.
If your accident occurred adjacent to navigable waters, in environments such as a dock, a pier, or a shipyard, then you are likely entitled to make a claim under this act.
Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act
As a further extension of the LHWCA , if you are working in America’s Outer Continental Shelf, such as in the exploration, collection, or production of natural resources, and you were injured during your work, you are entitled to claim under this act.
There are a few things to note, however. If you work for either the US government or a foreign government, you cannot make a claim through this act.
Death on the High Seas Act
The biggest fear, and worse event that can happen on the high seas, is an accident that leads to the death of a worker. The Death on the High Seas Act covers wrongful death cases on the high seas that occur outside of the state’s territorial waters.
Under this act, a family can claim pecuniary losses like financial support and compensation as a result of the wrongful death. You are bound by the statute of limitations here, meaning you only have three years from the date of the accident to raise a claim.
One of the largest and oldest acts is the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act. This allows for maritime workers to pursue a claim against any employer whose failures have led, in whole or part, to the accident that caused them injury.
Common forms of negligence at sea include when:
- Employers fail to maintain safety equipment.
- Employers fail to provide safety equipment.
- Employers fail to take adequate steps when they have knowledge of extreme weather conditions.
- Employers give negligent orders to workers.
- Employers fail to provide prompt and adequate medical treatment to injured workers.
If you or somebody you love has been injured offshore, and it occurred due to the negligence of the employer responsible for them, you need to get in touch with a dedicated personal injury attorney immediately. The sooner you involve them, the better your chances of obtaining full compensation.
Limitation of Liability Act
Under the Limitation of Liability Act, the owners of a sea vessel have the opportunity to reduce their liability if an accident has occurred on their vessel. This means that if you are making a claim under the Jones Act, and your employer is the owner of the vessel, they may reduce their liability towards you.
To utilize this defense, the owner of the vessel needs to be able to prove and demonstrate that they had no knowledge of the hazards that led to the accident.
As the Limitation of Liability Act is governed by “Admiralty Law” it means that the case must be heard by a judge and that the judge must be the sole decider in the outcome.
As your case will need to be heard by a judge, your best way of avoiding a decision against you is to have your attorney put forward the most compelling case. Your attorney will attempt to demonstrate evidence that the vessel owners did, in fact, have prior knowledge of the dangers and that they deserve to be held liable.
Seamans Right to Maintenance and Cure
All seamen have a right to maintenance and cure. This means that if you are injured during your work, you have an automatic right to claim benefits for daily living expenses and medical expenses while you are on injury leave.
These benefits, while automatic, will not be as substantial as the compensation you may be able to win through a maritime injury claim.. You also do not need to prove your employer’s negligence in order to obtain these maintenance and cure benefits.
These benefits must be paid to the employee until he or she has reached maximum medical improvement by their doctor or physician.
Common Maritime Injury Cases We Deal With In Texas
Due to the fact that offshore work comes with a much higher risk of injury and accident than a normal job, workers risk their lives each and every day. With the hostile work environments that occur out at high sea, extreme weather conditions, and reduced visibility, there are a number of hazards that a maritime worker has to watch out for.
Fires and explosions, objects falling from a height, slippery work surfaces, and faulty machinery can all lead to circumstances where a worker is injured or, worse, killed.
The following accidents are some of the more common ones we deal with as Texas offshore accident attorneys.
Jack-up Rig Accidents
A Jack-up Rig is a type of oil rig designed to be mobile. They can be set up quickly, utilizing a set of legs that connect the vessel to the sea floor.
Due to their speedier setup, due care and attention needs to be taken to ensure the right steps are followed and that the rig is secure and stable to prevent injury.
If a jack-up rig collapses or there is a fire or explosion on board, workers can easily be killed or seriously injured. An investigation must take place to understand why it happened. If it was caused by negligence, you need to speak to an offshore injury lawyer about your case.
Oil Platform Accidents
Oil rig work has always been a dangerous affair, one that requires training and a robust workforce that is educated in health and safety and the correct procedures. This is because small errors can lead to catastrophes on an oil rig.
Oil rig explosions and fires can quickly escalate into full-blown emergencies, and if they are not handled correctly, many people may be injured.
All oil rig workers are covered by the Jones Act.
As a dredge worker, you may not be working out at the high sea, but you are covered under the Jones Act as well as several other maritime laws. Dredges can be highly dangerous work environments and need to be maintained to the highest possible standard.
When the right safety procedures are not followed, or the correct maintenance has not been carried out, there is an increased risk of accidents such as falling, being crushed by moving objects, and faulty machinery injuries.
Remember, dredge workers have many of the same rights as offshore workers. If you are unsure of your rights, get in touch with an offshore injury attorney immediately. They will be able to advise and assist you.
While working on oil rigs, shipyards, vessels, or dredges, deck accidents are common. This is because the deck can often be wet, or in direct sunlight, and this can affect visibility and grip. There are also tripping hazards that are not properly marked.
Common deck accidents include:
- Flying or low-hanging objects.
- Dangerous or extreme weather.
- Falling objects.
- Human error.
- Faulty or failing equipment.
If you have been injured on deck, you might be facing a long recovery period. Common deck injuries include broken bones, brain trauma, and internal injuries, such as internal bleeding or organ damage.
These sorts of injuries will usually require more financial compensation than you can claim through your automatic maintenance and cure benefits. Retaining an attorney will mean you have the opportunity to pursue a full recovery of your damages.
Cargo Ship Accidents
Transporting around 80% of the world’s goods, the maritime cargo industry is a major powerhouse. Every year, with the constantly growing demand for cargo, more and more workers are entering the industry.
As a cargo worker, there are a number of hazards to be aware of. Faulty machinery and falling objects are the most common causes of injury, but fires, explosions, and chemical spills can also lead to injuries.
Cargo vessels are often responsible for transporting high-value goods. This can make them a target for pirate attacks. Sometimes offshore workers are assaulted in pirate attacks, and in rare, tragic situations, offshore workers have been killed by pirates.
Cruise Ship Accidents
As a cruise ship worker, it becomes a lot harder to bring a claim against an employer. Cruise ship workers often sign contracts that have clauses that help or protect the employer from injury claims.
They do this because cruise ships are a common place for workers to be injured. Cruise ship workers can be injured while conducting excursions, or they may be physically assaulted by drunken guests. There is still the risk of falling objects and deck accidents.
If you have signed a contract and have suffered an injury while working on a cruise ship, you should arrange to have your offshore injury lawyers examine the contract. They will be able to advise you on your best options.
Common Injuries Sustained in an Offshore Injury Claim
There are a number of accidents that can happen due to employer negligence and even more injuries that can arise as a result. Injuries can range from minor to extreme, and this means that the damages you suffer can vary.
Some common injuries seenby our Texas maritime attorneys include:
While working offshore, some of the most common injuries to occur are the result of a falling object. When objects are not secured properly, or when the restraints are not maintained and fail, an object can slip or fall over very easily.
When workers are crushed by heavy objects, it can lead to serious crush injuries. This includes internal bleeding or organ damage, paralysis, or amputation of limbs that have been crushed.
Crush injuries can have long-lasting, terrible effects on the lives of offshore workers.
Burn injuries are some of the most painful injuries that an employee can suffer. On top of the severe pain that comes with a bad burn injury, there can be nerve damage and a high chance of infection and sepsis. There could also be lifelong disfigurement that can affect a person’s quality of life.Skin grafts and long-term treatment is very common.
Fire is a common hazard at sea and offshore. Oil rigs and cargo ships, in particular, with their flammable chemicals, and ship engine rooms, have an increased risk for fire.
Head injuries due to blunt force trauma to the skull or penetration of the skull often result in brain injuries. The brain does not heal in the same way that the rest of the body does. This means the damage is often permanent.
There are different types of brain injuries. If the injuries are not treated quickly, they could prove fatal. Even with immediate attention from a paramedic, the damage may still be permanent or fatal. What’s worse, with brain injuries, symptoms can be different to see andthe victim may be unaware until it is too late.
There is a range of reasons why a brain injury may occur, from faulty safety equipment to slips and falls and falling objects.
What Rights do Injured Maritime Workers Have in Texas?
If you are an offshore worker, you should familiarize yourself with your legal rights. This means that when an injury happens, you know exactly what benefits you are entitled to, and you know how you are protected.
Under maritime law, you are entitled to:
- Medical treatment – Perhaps most importantly, with offshore accidents, if you are injured while working, you are entitled to cure benefits for your medical expenses. You do not need to prove any negligence to obtain this financial assistance for medical treatment. This means you will not have to use medical insurance to cover your medical costs if you have been injured while working offshore. If you do sustain injuries offshore, you are entitled to receivecure payments. These payments should cover your medical costs.
- Maintenance benefits – These benefits provide financial support for daily living expenses while you are recovering from your offshore injury.
- Choice of doctor – You are entitled to use whatever medical provider you wish, even if you have already been seen by the company’s insurance-approved doctor. From that point on, you have the right to choose your provider.
- Non-recorded accident statement – While you are required to document your accident as soon as possible after it happens, your employer cannot force you to leave a recorded statement. It is not usually a good idea to leave a recorded statement as that can be used as evidence against you. In the aftermath of an accident, you may say things you did not mean to, such as saying you are fine.
What Damages Can a Houston Maritime Injury Attorney Help Me Recover?
As per maritime law, you are entitled to recover your damages following any accident that occurs offshore. In the majority of cases, you should be claiming maintenance and cure costs to cover your daily living expenses and medical costs.
In certain cases, your employer may not want to pay out what you are truly owed. Often, they will attempt to have the employee sign off on payments or a settlement that do not equal the true cost of the injuries and the damages suffered. The employee, who may not have knowledge of their true rights, might accept this, signing off on the payments and forgoing the right to pursue any further payment.
You should always work with a dedicated personal injury lawyer. They will know exactly what your rights are and will be able to ensure the scope of your injuries is considered.
An experienced lawyer will advise you in regard to:
- Jones Act claims.
- Maintenance and cure costs for household bills and medical bills.
- Unseaworthiness claim if your injuries occurred due to unsafe equipment or vessel condition.
- Negligence claims.
Sometimes, you might be entitled to file more than one type of maritime claim at one time. This increases the level of compensation that may be on offer to you.
Filing a Negligence Claim For a Maritime Injury in Texas
You also have the right to file a negligence claim as well as any maritime law claim. This works in the same way as a normal personal injury case. In these cases, you may be up against an insurance company that employs an aggressive legal team, and you will need a strong, capable maritime attorney to show that you are serious and will pursue what you are owed.
At Abraham Watkins, we help people across Texas, which means we can assign you a dedicated attorney. For example, if you reside in Houston when you are back on shore, we can assign you a Houston personal injury lawyer from our office in Houston, giving you the advantage of an attorney with local knowledge of judges and courts.
Raising a negligence claim can allow a maritime worker to seek compensation from the owner of the vessel while they raise a maritime claim against their employer.
You will be expected to prove the four elements of negligence, just as you would in a personal injury case. The four elements are:
- Your employer owed you a duty of care.
- They breached this duty of care through negligence or recklessness.
- The harm or 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.
Damages In a Maritime Negligence Claim
When a person successfully wins a negligence claim under maritime law, the damages awarded are usually much higher than the benefits they could claim automatically for maintenance and cure.
Dependent upon the damages you have suffered and the level of your pain and suffering. You will most likely have suffered economic and/or non-economic damages, which need to be calculated for a settlement offer to be formulated.
A Texas maritime attorney can help you file for the following damages:
Under a negligence claim, you are entitled to pursue the recovery of all medical costs. This includes past costs and the cost of any future treatment you might need as a result of the injuries.
For long term treatment, your maritime attorney may seek the help of a medical expert to gauge what a lifetime of treatment may look like in terms of costs, allowing them to pursue this amount.
When you have been injured, you will usually have to take time off work, and for many jobs, this will result in lost wages or a loss of income. This can be anxiety-provoking, especially when you have bills to pay.
Some injuries are so severe that a worker will never be able to return to work in the same capacity. In these situations, your attorney will pursue what that lifetime of lost earning potential equates to.
Your non-economic damages are the ones that are subjective and harder to quantify with a number. A common example of non-economic damage is your pain and suffering. All of the pain and the emotional suffering your injury has caused you should be compensated for, and your non-economic damages should represent this.
Another common non-economic damage is loss of enjoyment of life. If, as a result of your injuries, you can no longer play with your children or enjoy the same quality of life and activity, you should be compensated for this loss of enjoyment of life.
Texas Offshore Injury FAQ
Does My Injury Have to Happen Offshore?
No, even when your vessel is onshore, if you are carrying out duties for your employer and you are injured, you can still be covered by maritime law.
Do I Need a Texas Maritime Lawyer to Make a Claim?
The representation of a lawyer is never required.Without a lawyer, your chances of successfully fighting the aggressive legal teams against you are slim. With a reputable maritime attorney behind you, your chances of a successful claim go up massively.
How Much Could I Receive in a Maritime Law Claim?
The value of any maritime law claim will depend entirely upon the damages suffered, including the seriousness of the injury, the liability of the employer and the pain and suffering you have been through, as well as the liability of the employer.
How Long Do Maritime Law Cases Take to Settle?
All maritime law cases are complex and unique and could take several years to complete. The more complex cases take longer while simpler cases tend to resolve more quickly. The complexity of liability and seriousness of the injuries will influence how long your case takes to complete.
Contact a Texas Maritime Attorney at Abraham Watkins Today!
Maritime laws were designed to protect America’s offshore workers in case they are injured while working offshore. Due to the hazardous nature of these jobs, when accidents happen, they can be traumatic and severe. This means the damages suffered are often high, and the distress caused is usually strong.
Most offshore workers lack knowledge when it comes to their true rights and the protection on offer to them. This can lead to them accepting offers that are lower than they deserve. This is an underhanded tactic and one we will help you fight against if you obtain representation.
We offer a free consultation to all victims of accidents offshore. We also work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you risk nothing obtaining our help. You do not have to pay any up-front fees to begin the pursuit of your compensation, and you do not have to pay us if there is no financial recovery for you. If we win, we simply take a percentage of your settlement, as discussed in the initial consultation.
The moment you get in touch, we will assign a dedicated Houston offshore injury lawyer who will work with you through every step of the process. They will build a personal and secure client-attorney relationship with you, giving you the confidence to pursue the compensation that you deserve.
Call us today at 713-535-9319.