Offshore workers have to deal with a lot of additional risks during their day-day working lives. Working on an offshore vessel, such as an oil rig, there are a lot of hazards that you might have to face. 

Maritime law is designed to provide additional protection to higher-risk offshore workers. If something does happen while working offshore, these laws allow for workers to pursue compensation for their pain and suffering and allows them to seek the recovery of any damages they have incurred.

These laws are complicated, and many offshore workers are unsure of their rights. Knowing which maritime law covers their injury claim is instrumental to seeking the full and maximum compensation available. As a result, many workers accept settlement offers that are much lower than what they should be awarded. Once accepted, you forgo the right to further compensation, which means you cannot seek more, even if your injuries worsen or require more treatment than you thought when you accepted the settlement.

This is one of the reasons why it is so important to seek representation from a law firm that has experienced handling offshore accidents and offshore injuries. A team of dedicated offshore accident attorneys will help you seek what is rightfully yours and help you navigate the complexities of maritime law.

Abraham Watkins – Speak To Our Dedicated Houston Maritime Lawyers Today!

At Abraham Watkins, we have been serving the state of Texas for over 70 years, making us one of the longest-serving law firms across the state. As soon as you call, we can assign a dedicated Houston offshore accident attorney to your case, one experienced in helping victims seek financial compensation following a wide range of offshore accidents.

We offer a free consultation, giving victims the space to ask important questions and seek free legal advice. We can evaluate your case and advise you on the best plan of action. All of our Houston maritime lawyers prioritize the attorney-client relationship and will take the time to listen compassionately to clients while educating them and keeping them informed throughout the entire process.

Call us today to speak with a personal injury lawyer from our law firm at 713-535-9319.

What is Maritime Law?

Maritime law is a group of laws that are specific to maritime workers and their employers, as well as other companies and individuals that work out at sea. They govern what happens following oil platform accidents, dredge accidents, and cargo ship accidents, as well as any other form of an accident on navigable waters, including at high sea.

The “High Seas” refer to any body of water that is beyond the normal territorial waters of a country or state. Maritime law also covers territorial water if it is located within 12 miles of the shore.

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”.

Nowadays, it includes all “navigable” waters in the United States, which ultimately helps more maritime workers. 

Navigable Waters

The current definition of navigable waters is any body of water that can act as a “continued highway over which commerce is or may be carried on with other States or foreign countries.”

This means that any body of water that allows trade between any state or  foreign power is classified as navigable water.

Also, any body of water that is part of greater “navigable waters” is governed by maritime law, even if that water does not directly connect to another state or country.

Important Maritime Laws That Apply to Houston, Texas

There is a range of different laws that cover the majority of maritime injury and property damage cases. These laws have been built up over a number of years and govern the right to compensation and the recovery of medical expenses following an offshore accident.

Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act

This act allows for a range of different maritime employees to seek compensation.

Some examples of workers that can claim under this Act include:

  • Harbor construction workers.
  • Longshore workers.
  • Dock workers.
  • Ship repairers.
  • Shipbuilders.

Under this act, workers must be able to prove that their injury occurred on or adjacent to navigable waters. This includes things like docks and piers.

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

This act is a further extension of the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act. It allows workers who have been injured on America’s Outer Continental shelf to make a claim. This usually covers workers who have been engaging in the exploration, collection, and production of natural resources.

If your oil rig is on the Outer Continental Shelf, you may be able to pursue a claim through this act. The only exception to this is if you work for the US government or a foreign government, you may likely be precluded from recovery under this act.

Death on the High Seas Act

The most tragic event that can happen on the high seas is the wrongful death of a victim. In these terrible cases, if the death occurred outside of the state’s territorial waters, a wrongful death case may be raised under this act.

This act allows for the victim’s family to bring a lawsuit to recover compensation. However, under this act, the family can only claim for pecuniary losses like financial support.

Under this act, you have three years to bring a claim under the statute of limitations following a wrongful death.

Jones Act

Established over a century ago, the Jones Act, or the Merchant Marine Act, allows for seamen to file a claim against their employer if they were partially or wholly at fault for an accident that led to the seaman’s injury.

An employer only needs to be partially at fault for an injury for a claim to be raised under the Jones Act.

Common forms of Jones Act claims include:

  • Employers failing to maintain safety equipment used by their seamen.
  • Employers failing to provide safety equipment for their seamen.
  • Employers failing to take adequate steps when they have knowledge of extreme weather conditions.
  • Employers giving negligent orders to workers.
  • Employers failing to provide adequate and prompt medical treatment to injured workers.

Injured seamen are entitled to bring a personal injury claim against their employers that have committed a violation under the Jones Act.

If you have been injured through your employer’s negligence, you should speak to an experienced maritime lawyer immediately. These claims can be extremely complicated, and we recommend obtaining representation from a Texas lawyer with a firm grasp of the law and the process.

Your maritime lawyer can help gather evidence on your behalf, build the strongest case, and ensure that you receive the best available compensation for your injuries.

Limitation of Liability Act

This act provides the owners of sea vessels a way to limit their liability when a claim is brought against them. It covers injuries and damages that have been caused by their vessel.

If you have been injured on any personal watercraft, cargo ship or any other vessel, the owner may use this defense to reduce their liability, reducing the highest level of compensation available to you. Compensation available could be limited to the value of the vessel.

This act only covers vessel owners if they can demonstrate they have no knowledge of the hazards or problems on their vessels. When this act is raised, it is governed by admiralty law, meaning a judge must be the sole decider of this claim.

If the vessel owner successfully uses this act, they will be able to drastically lower the level of compensation you are able to recover.

For this reason, it is highly recommended that you seek help from an experienced maritime attorney. They will assist you in fighting against a limitation of liability by proving that the vessel owners had knowledge of the dangers and that they deserve to be held liable.

Maintenance and Cure

Employers must pay maintenance and cure costs if their captain or crew members have suffered an injury offshore. Maintenance benefits are for covering the day-to-day living expenses while the injured seaman is on injury leave.

Core benefits are paid to cover medical treatment. These benefits must be paid until the employee has recovered enough to be signed off by their physician or doctor. There is no obligation to prove the employer’s negligence with these benefits, they are a no-fault benefits.

Common Texas Offshore Accidents

Offshore work is particularly dangerous, and this means workers risk their lives every single day. The environments that workers work on can be hostile, especially when extreme weather conditions occur. These conditions can increase the chance of accidents via falling objects, fire and explosion, and faulty machinery, as well as simple accidents like slips, trips, and falls.

If you have been involved in any of the following offshore accidents, you should speak to a maritime lawyer immediately to discuss your options.

Jack-up Rig Accidents

Jack-up rigs are a type of mobile oil rig that can be utilized when installing turbine installations. They may also be used as mobile offshore drilling units.

As they are a mobile rig, they have to be set up using legs that connect the vessel to the sea floor. When installing a jack-up rig, due care and attention must be taken to ensure the rig is stable and secure.

When a rig collapses or there is an explosion on board, investigations must be carried out immediately to understand what happened. If due care and attention has not been taken, this negligent behavior can cause catastrophic injuries and damages.

If you or a family member have been involved in an accident on a jack-up rig, you should speak to one of our maritime lawyers.

Oil Platform Accidents

Every year, we deal with numerous cases involving workers on oil rigs. These environments are extremely dangerous. Common accidents are fires, explosions, and negligent co-workers or contractors.

When you are working on an oil rig, you are likely covered under the Jones Act, and this means all medical expenses and damages you suffer should be covered by your employer.

Dredge Accidents

Dredge work includes scraping and cleaning rivers and harbors of debris and weeds to unblock the flow of the waterway. Dredges should be maintained to the highest standards, as should the health and safety on board. Common dredge accidents include faulty machinery injuries, falls, and being crushed.

Even though dredges work in rivers and areas of shallow waters, as a dredge worker, you are still entitled to the same rights as offshore workers. This means you may be covered by the Jones Act, and you may be entitled to a claim if you have been injured while working on a dredge.

Deck Accidents

There are a lot of hazards on board oil rigs, shipyards, and sea-faring vessels. This means deck accidents such as slip and fall accidents and falling objects are a common occurrence, especially when the deck is wet.

We have helped clients who have suffered injuries resulting from:

  • Flying or low-hanging objects.
  • Dangerous or extreme weather.
  • Falling objects.
  • Human error.
  • Faulty or failing equipment.

Deck accidents can often lead to broken bones, brain trauma, internal organ injuries, and even fatalities. If these injuries occurred due to vessel owner negligence or negligence on behalf of your employer, a maritime attorney might be able to help you recover compensation and damages.

Cargo Ship Accidents

As one of the largest trade industries in the country, the cargo maritime industry transports around 80% of all of the world’s goods. This industry is constantly growing, and this means every year, the number of maritime workers increases.

There are a huge number of hazards a cargo worker might have to deal with, including heavy objects, chemicals, fire, and faulty machinery.

Some common cargo ship accidents include:

  • Crushing accidents from falling objects.
  • Fires and explosions.
  • Chemical spills.
  • Sliding cargo.
  • Machinery accidents.

Some cargo vessels contain high-value goods, and this means that pirate attacks may occur. An offshore worker may be assaulted or killed in a pirate attack.

If you, or somebody you love, has been involved in an accident or a pirate attack on a cargo ship, you need to seek the help of our skilled Houston maritime lawyers.

Cruise Ship Accidents

If you are a cruise ship worker, bringing a claim can be pretty complex due to the clauses that many cruise ship owners place into the contracts for their employees. These clauses reduce their liability and make it difficult to raise a claim.

Cruise ships are a common place for worker accidents. Workers may suffer slips and trips or physical assaults or may be injured while conducting excursions.

If you have suffered an accident on a cruise ship, your best step is to discuss your options with a skilled maritime injury attorney. They will examine your contract and will ensure you have the best chances of raising a claim.

Common Injuries Sustained By Maritime Workers

Every year numerous offshore workers suffer serious injuries, and there are a number of fatalities. Fortunately, maritime law means that any victim of an accident may have the chance to pursue compensation for their pain and suffering and may be able to recover all damages.

Each Houston personal injury lawyer here at Abraham Watkins has experience in dealing with a wide range of injuries. While working offshore, workers may have to deal with a range of hazards.

Some common injury claims handled by our Houston maritime attorneys include:

Crush Injuries

Crush injuries are some of the most common types of injuries. This can occur when an object falls or heavy machinery malfunctions. A crush injury may lead to injuries that last a lifetime, such as the loss of a limb or paralyzation.

This can lead to lifelong impairment and severe trauma.

Burn Injuries

Burn injuries are another serious form of injury and can cause severe pain, nerve damage, and impairment. They can lead to serious mental trauma and may lead to permanent disfigurement of the body.

Due to their nature, fire is a common hazard on oil rigs and on cargo ships; burns can be caused by chemicals or toxins, as well as engine room fires.

Following a serious burn injury, a victim may need to have skin grafts and long periods of time off work. Burn injuries are also susceptible to infection and sepsis.

If you have suffered a burn injury at sea, you are entitled to have your medical expenses covered under maritime law and seek the costs of future medical care.

Brain Injuries

Brain injuries usually occur from blunt force trauma or penetration to the skull. There are two types of brain injury: an open head injury, and a closed head injury.

Open head injuries involve the skull being cracked open or pierced, and a close head injury does not.

Both forms of brain injury are extremely serious, potentially life-threatening injuries. If they are not handled quickly, they may result in a fatality or permanent brain damage. What makes them even more serious is the fact that they can often be difficult to detect. Victims may feel fine, unaware that they have a serious head injury, until it is too late.

Brain injuries are usually caused by improper safety equipment like helmets, slips, and falls, or an object falling from height.

Common symptoms of brain injuries include loss of memory, seizures, paralysis, depression, and mental impairment.

The Rights of Injured Maritime Workers

As an offshore worker, it is important that you understand your legal rights. This makes it easier to seek the right help if an accident happens. These rights protect you in any scenario where you suffer injuries offshore.

As a maritime worker, you are entitled to:

  • Medical treatment – The Jones Act states that you are entitled to recover all of your medical expenses following an injury. This means that maritime workers do not need to worry about things such as medical insurance. If you are injured offshore, you will receive maintenance payments which will cover all daily living costs. If you have a pre-existing condition made worse by the work you have been carrying out, your employer has to financially support you if you need treatment.
  • Choice of doctor – As a maritime worker, when you suffer an injury offshore, you have the right to use whatever medical provider you wish. You may have your first assessment with a company-approved physician, but you have every right to choose who gives you the treatment after that.
  • Non-recorded accident statement – You are required to report your accident to your employer or the vessel owner as soon as possible after it happens. You do not, however, have to leave a recorded statement on what happened. Under the stress and shock that follows an accident, you may get facts mixed up or say the wrong thing. This means we always recommend avoiding giving a statement.

What Damages Can a Houston Maritime Injury Lawyer Help Me Recover?

Maritime law allows workers to recover their damages following an accident that occurred offshore or on the job. Under general maritime law, your employer must pay your cure and maintenance costs, which can cover certain home bills and cover any medical costs you have to pay.

Employers rarely play ball, however, and our attorneys have seen numerous cases where employers have tried to pay out less than the employee is owed. They may even attempt to get the employee to sign off on payment of costs that are much lower than what is sufficient. Once you have signed off, you forgo the right to seek more later on, and this can leave you out of pocket.

Suffering an injury at work is stressful, especially when it happens offshore or at high sea. Our offshore injury attorneys understand this, and by working with a dedicated Houston personal injury attorney, you will be able to pursue the full and maximum amount of compensation that may be available to you.

A Houston maritime injury lawyer can help you file for the following:

  • Jones Act and maritime 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 claim.

In certain circumstances, you may be entitled to file more than one maritime claim at a time. If this applies to you, it can increase the level of compensation that may be available to you.

To understand all of the potential options on offer to you, you should speak to a law firm that deals with injured offshore workers on a regular basis.

Filing a Negligence Claim For a Maritime Injury

As well as a claim under maritime law, you may be able to file a negligence claim that is similar to a normal personal injury case. In certain cases we have dealt with, an employee has brought a claim against their employer and a negligence claim against the owner of the vessel or other contractors on board the vessel.

A negligence claim under maritime law works in exactly the same way as a standard personal injury claim. You will have to prove the four elements of negligence, which involve proving the negligent party:

  • 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; and
  • You suffered damages as a result, such as lost wages, medical costs, pain and suffering, or wrongful death.

Negligence claims usually involve vessel owners or maritime companies who have strong, capable legal teams defending them and a lot of resources to throw at their defense. This means that you will need to fight them with the strongest possible attorney in order to successfully win maximum compensation.

Damages In a Maritime Negligence Claim

If you can successfully win a maritime negligence claim, the level of compensation that may be available will be dependent upon the damages you have suffered. This depends on your economic damages, and the level of your non-economic damages, such as your pain and suffering.

A Houston maritime lawyer can help you file for the following damages:

Medical Costs

If your injuries have required treatment, therapy, or physical therapy, you are entitled to seek the recovery of all of your expenses. This includes all past costs you have paid for treatment and the coverage of all your future medical expenses. If you are going to require long-term treatment, then your attorney should retain an expert to determine what the scope of your injuries may look like so they can pursue that amount.

Lost Wages

In almost all injury cases, the victim will have to take time off work. This usually results in a loss of wages in some form or another. In a maritime negligence claim, you can seek the recovery of all of your lost wages. If your injuries mean that you are never going to be able to return to your work again, then your attorney may attempt to pursue a lifetime of lost earning potential and wages.

Funeral Expenses / Loss of Consortium

In the cases that someone you love has been killed following an accident on the water, you may be entitled to seek coverage of funeral expenses and compensation for a loss of consortium.

Non-economic Damages

Your non-economic damages cover a range of things, such as the pain you have been subjected to, the loss of enjoyment of life you may suffer as a result, and the mental/emotional distress you have been through due to the accident.

The fact you can pursue these damages following a maritime accident means that you may be able to pursue a much larger amount of compensation compared to the level of automatic benefits you get through maritime law.

To begin your claim, get in touch with an experienced offshore accident lawyer.

Offshore Accident FAQ

Does My Accident Have to Happen Offshore?

No. Even if your vessel is onshore, if you have been injured while you are performing your duties for your employer, you may be eligible to make a claim.

Do I Need a Houston Maritime Lawyer to Make a Claim?

While it is not required, alone, you will be up against a strong and capable legal team, putting you at a major disadvantage. Your best chance of seeking a fair and reasonable settlement is to seek it aggressively, with an attorney who knows the laws inside and out.

How Much Could I Receive in a Maritime Law Claim?

The value of your claim will always depend on how clear the liability is, the level of your injuries, the value of your damages, and the ability of your attorney.

How Long Do Maritime Cases Take to Settle?

Every single case that we deal with is unique. When it comes to the complex laws surrounding maritime employees and employers, it will always depend on how complex your case is and how much the at fault company will fight.

Contact a Houston Maritime Lawyer at Abraham Watkins Today!

Maritime laws were introduced to ensure that workers at sea and offshore are covered when they get injured on the job. These accidents are often traumatic and painful, and with the additional costs and damages that a victim may suffer, it can be easy to get overwhelmed.

Many offshore workers are unaware of how maritime law offers them protection, and when an accident happens, they may sign for a lower settlement from their employers as they are worried that the alternative option is no payment at all.

If you have been involved in an offshore accident that was caused by the negligence of your employer or another party, and you have suffered injuries, your best option is to contact an attorney immediately. They will ensure you have the best opportunity of seeking the full and maximum compensation that may be available.

As soon as you get in touch with a member of our team, we can assign you a dedicated attorney who will begin investigating immediately. This attorney will work with you throughout the entire process, building the strongest possible attorney-client relationship, and giving you the space to recover while we work for you.

Call us today to discuss your case and learn more about our Houston maritime law services at 713-535-9319.