Maritime Attorney in Houston, TX

Employees who work on the high seas and offshore work in environments that are more inherently hazardous than in 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 the health and safety standard or the standard of their vessels, and something goes wrong, you could be entitled to seek compensation through either negligence or maritime law.

Maritime injury claims can allow employees to seek financial compensation further than that of the automatic benefits on offer to them through 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. Once you have signed off these payments, you forgo any chance of seeking further compensation.

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 accident lawyer will be able to advise and assist you in pursuing what you are truly owed.

Abraham Watkins – Speak To a Dedicated Houston Offshore Accident 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 accidents. 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 bespoke approach 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 the numerous 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.

Navigable Water

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 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 them to bring a claim in either federal court or Texas state court.

As the maritime law that governs Texas is based upon federal laws, it means that the federal court has the power and jurisdiction when it comes to personal injury claims arising from accidents that occur on navigable water.

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. They will be well versed in the laws and the precedence that can be utilized.

Important Maritime Law Acts 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 from your employers for their negligence.

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.
  • Shipbuilders.

If your accident occurred adjacent to navigable workers, in environments such as a dock, a pier, or a shipyard, then you are entitled to make a claim under this act.

Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act

As a further extension of the previous act, 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.

Jones Act

One of the largest and oldest acts is the Jones Act, sometimes known as the Merchant Marine Act. This allows for maritime workers to claim against any employer whose negligence has led, in whole or part, to the accident that caused them injury.

Common forms of negligence at sea include when:

  • Employers fail to maintain the safety equipment used by their seamen.
  • Employers fail to provide safety equipment for their seamen.
  • Employers fail to take adequate steps when they have knowledge of extreme weather conditions.
  • Employers give negligent orders to workers.
  • Employers fail to provide the right medical treatment to injured workers.

If you or somebody you love has been injured during their work 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 seeking 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 the decision going against you is to have your attorney put forward the most compelling case. In this case, they will attempt to demonstrate and 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 costs for things like maintenance, food, and medical expenses while you are on injury leave.

This benefit, while automatic, will not be as substantial as the compensation you may be able to win through a maritime injury claim, but you will not have to fight for these benefits. You also do not need to prove your employer’s negligence in order to obtain this financial aid.

These benefits must be paid to the employee until a point where they have been deemed recovered 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, where they lose their lives.

The following accidents are some of the more common ones we deal with as Houston offshore accident lawyers.

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 and the sea floor.

Due to their speedier setup, due care and attention need to be taken to ensure the right steps were 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, it can be extremely dangerous, and workers can easily be killed or seriously injured. An investigation must take place to understand why it happened, and 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.

Dredge Accidents

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 are covered by many of the same rights as offshore workers, but if you are unsure of your rights, get in touch with an offshore accident lawyer immediately. They will be able to advise and assist you.

Deck Accidents

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.

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 will usually require more financial assistance than you can claim through your automatic maintenance and cure benefits. Retaining an attorney will mean you have the opportunity to pursue the full recovery of your damages.

Cargo Ship Accidents

Transporting around 80% of the world’s goods, the maritime cargo industry is a mammoth industry. 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 fire, explosion, and chemical spills can also lead to injuries.

Cargo vessels are often responsible for transporting high-value goods. This can make them a promising 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 reduce any employer liability.

They do this because cruise ships are a common place for workers to have accidents. Cruise ship workers can be injured while conducting excursions, or they may be physically assaulted by drunken guests. On top of these specific injuries, 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 steps.

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 witnessed by our Texas maritime attorneys include:

Crush Injuries

While working offshore, or adjacent to offshore, one of the most common injuries to occur happen due to a falling object. When objects are not secured properly, or when the restraints are not maintained to a high enough standard and fail, an object can slip on a wet deck very easily.

When workers are crushed by heavy objects, it can lead to serious crush injuries, such as internal bleeding or organ damage, paralysis, or amputation of limbs that have been crushed.

This means that crush injuries can have long-lasting, terrible effects on the lives of employees.

Burn Injuries

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 the quality of a person’s life, and that will require skin grafts and long-term treatment.

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.

Brain Injuries

Head injuries that involve a lot of blunt force trauma to the skull or penetration of the skull often result in brain injuries. The brain does not repair in the same way that the rest of the body does, and this means the damage is often permanent.

An open head brain injury occurs when the skull is cracked open, and a closed injury occurs when the skull is not cracked open.

With both forms of brain injury, if the injuries are not handled 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 often lie hidden, meaning the 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, if it 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 financial cover for your medical expenses following any injury. You do not need to prove any negligence to obtain this medical assistance. 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 receive maintenance and cure payments. These payments should cover your medical costs.
  • Pre-existing conditions – If you are suffering from a pre-existing condition, it is important that you have financial support. Even if your condition was not caused by your work, if your work has aggravated the condition, you are entitled to treatment. Even if the employer’s doctor says you do not need treatment, if your doctor says you do, you will be awarded the treatment.
  • 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 too, 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 will be claiming maintenance and cure costs to cover your bills 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 payment costs 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.

They will advise you in regard to:

  • Jones Act claims for medical expenses relating to your injuries.
  • Maintenance and cure costs for household bills and maintenance, 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 you have already raised. This works in exactly the same way as a normal personal injury case would work. 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 pursue what you are owed.

At Abraham Watkins, we cover the whole of Texas, which means we can usually assign you a dedicated local 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 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.

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:

Medical Costs

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.

Lost Wages

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 might pursue a sum that covers what that lifetime of lost earning potential equates to.

Non-economic Damages

Your non-economic damages are the ones that are subjective and harder to quantify with a physical figure. 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 baseball with your son, 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 are covered by maritime law.

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

The representation of a lawyer is never required, but without one, your chances of 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, the seriousness of the injury, the liability of the employer and the pain and suffering you have been through.

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, the longer the case will take, the simpler the case, the quicker it will take. Things like the 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 numerous 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. This is the perfect time for you to ask some important questions, receive some immediate legal advice and discuss the options on offer to you.

We also work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you risk nothing obtaining our help. You do not have to find any up-front fees to begin the pursuit of your compensation, and you do not have to pay us if we lose your case. 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 accident 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 is on offer to you.Call us today at 713-535-9319.