Houston Maritime Lawyers

Seamen, like everyone else, are in danger of experiencing work-related injuries at any moment they are on the job. The courts are aware of this and constantly work to protect injured mariners under general maritime law. Marine law allows workers who have been harmed offshore or in the marine industry to seek compensation for their medical consequences. Maritime law is founded on the following acts:

  • The Jones Act
  • Act Concerning Death on the High Seas
  • Liability Limitation Act
  • Compensation for Longshoremen and Harbor Workers Act

General maritime law governs all injuries suffered by mariners. Before digging into the subsequent acts, it is critical to have a thorough understanding of the general law.

How to Choose the Best Maritime Injury Lawyer

Maritime law can be difficult to understand. Although these rules are intended to protect the rights of wounded or ill maritime employees, they can be difficult to understand. This is why it is critical to get legal counsel from an attorney with extensive experience in this area of the law. It is critical to choose an experienced maritime attorney. When picking an attorney, you should ask how many marine cases they have tried. Allow an attorney to dance around your questions; instead, choose someone who is willing to offer you honest, direct answers to all of your questions.

The Fundamentals of Maritime Law

Many sources contribute to marine law, including federal statutes and generic maritime law. Some of the maritime concepts that are widely employed in instances involving vessels, passengers, and crew are provided by these sources.

Many of the essential legal doctrines related to the water and mariners are spelled forth in maritime law, including:

  • Maintenance and Cure: Maintenance and cure refer to the advantages that a seaman is entitled to until he or she recovers and is fit for duty. There is, however, a maximum medical improvement limit that can limit the amount of compensation received. Maintenance expenses include rent or mortgage, electricity, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, and food. Cure is comparable to workers’ compensation payments for employees in that it covers medical treatment costs for work-related harm. A seaman is a captain or crew member on board a vessel in navigation. Maintenance and cure, like workers’ compensation, does not require the sailor to prove blame for their injury—the employer is compelled to pay.
  • The Jones Act is a federal statute that provides sailors with a statutory right to sue their employer for personal injury damages. To qualify for the Jones Act, a seaman must spend at least 30% of their time working on a vessel. The Jones Act not only gives the seaman a statutory right to sue their employer, but it also lowers the burden of proof required to establish causation between the employer’s negligence and the seaman’s injury; under the Jones Act, the employer’s negligence only needs to play a role in the seaman’s injury rather than being a direct cause. The Jones Act incorporates elements of the Federal Employment Liability Act as well. Claims brought in state court under the Jones Act, in particular, are not transferable to federal court.
  • The Death on the High Seas Act: When an individual dies as a result of a wrongful act or neglect on the high seas, the DOHSA provides that a personal representative of the decedent may file a claim.
  • The Saving to Suitors Clause: Absent any language suggesting the opposite within a statutorily created right, such as the Jones Act, federal law provides exclusive jurisdiction over admiralty and marine issues in federal district courts. The “saving to suitors” clause, on the other hand, reserves any non-admiralty remedies that an individual may have. Litigation in which the claim is brought against the ship is an example of an admiralty remedy.
  • The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act: Federal legislation established specific statutory rights for employees who are not necessarily “seamen” but work on harbors or vessels that are being repaired or built. Longshore workers, ship repairers, shipbuilders or shipbreakers, and harbor construction employees are all covered by this rule. Injuries must happen on navigable waterways or in a nearby area, such as a dock. This statute offers compensation and medical care for workers who are wounded on the job, as well as survivor benefits. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act applies the LHWCA to employees working on the Outer Continental Shelf.

Admiralty and Maritime Law History

Maritime law, often known as admiralty law, is nearly as old as the shipping industry and governs the majority of accidents that occur on navigable waters. The origins of the legislation can be traced back to the Egyptians’ and Greeks’ unwritten nautical norms. The first formal regulations, however, were created in 900 BC on the Greek island of Rhodes. The origins of marine laws and codes can be traced back to ancient shipping traditions and rules. 

The Doctrine of General Average, for example, can be traced back to the early shipping customs of the Rhodians and is the concept that all sea cargo stakeholders (owner, shipper, etc.) evenly share any damage or losses that may occur as a result of a voluntary sacrifice of part of the vessel or cargo to save the whole.

Eleanor of Aquitaine learned about the concept of a separate legal body managing marine affairs while accompanying her first husband, King Louis VII of France, to the Mediterranean on the Second Crusade. Admiralty law derives from the British admiralty courts, which presided over marine disputes independently of England’s common law courts. Because the judicial system in the United States is based on the British system, revised admiralty laws were gradually adopted into our legal system soon after the Constitution was ratified.

When Is Maritime Law Applicable?

Perhaps most plainly, maritime law applies to occurrences that occur on the high seas—accidents that occur outside of any country’s territorial waters. Furthermore, maritime law applies to the territorial sea, which is defined as waters within 12 nautical miles of the shore. However, as one travels further inland, the law’s applicability becomes less clear. Maritime law did not apply to situations that occurred within the “body of the country” early in American history, which excluded incidents involving the Great Lakes and nontidal interior waterways. This isolation, however, gradually faded throughout the nineteenth century.

Maritime law now governs “navigable waters.” 

A waterway is considered navigable if, by itself or in conjunction with other waters, it can serve as a “continued highway over which commerce is or may be carried on with other States or foreign countries.” As a result, if a body of water is completely landlocked within a single state, it is not navigable for admiralty jurisdiction purposes. A body of water, however, does not have to flow between states to be considered navigable. A body of water may be considered navigable if it is part of a network of bodies of water that can be used to facilitate interstate trade. Finally, one state’s commerce must be capable of being conducted in another state or a foreign country. Once this test is satisfied, it is likely that maritime law will apply, even if the vessel is a recreational craft.

In Maritime Law Cases, Who Has Jurisdiction?

The federal courts in the United States traditionally had jurisdiction over admiralty law proceedings. However, under the Saving to Suitors Clause in Title 28 of the United States Code (28 U.S.C. 1333), most admiralty disputes can now be handled by both state and federal courts. The only exception is any dispute involving maritime property, which can only be handled in federal court. If a state court hears an admiralty case, the court must follow admiralty law.

Employer’s Guide to Maritime Law

Ship owners are required by general maritime law to maintain their vessels to a specified condition. The vessel holder, as the employer and owner, must maintain the ship’s safety and structure in a manner suitable for all employees on board. According to maritime law, manning, outfitting, and supplying the vessel are all important parts of a ship owner’s duties. As a result, if a vessel employee is harmed or becomes ill as a result of a ship’s unseaworthiness, the owner will be held liable for any resulting damage.

How Does Maritime Law Protect Injured Workers?

Without maritime law, injured seafarers would be on their own to deal with the pain they experienced while working. When a ship employee is injured or sick, the vessel owner is obligated to compensate them for their losses. Maritime law refers to this compensation as maintenance and cure, which means that the employer must provide for the seaman’s affliction until the seaman fully recovers. This is an unquestionable duty that the shipowner owes to any seaman aboard their vessel, according to the court. Seamen are also entitled to full pay for the duration of the cruise during which they were injured or ill. A seaman’s unearned wages may be restricted by an employment contract.

Incidents that necessitate the services of Texas Maritime Accident Attorneys

Houston maritime injury attorneys are available to assist wounded seamen or dock workers in obtaining the compensation they require to recover from major injuries and afford long-term medical expenditures sustained overseas. This includes any mishaps that happen on “navigable waters” (rivers and oceans) as well as in harbors or docks.

Maritime attorneys have represented individuals who have been wounded in the following incidents:

  • Accidents involving jack-up rigs
  • Accidents involving tugboats and barges
  • Deck mishaps
  • Accidents in commercial fishing
  • Overboard fall
  • Cargo ship mishaps
  • Dredge mishaps
  • Oil platform mishaps
  • Shipyard mishaps
  • Accidents on cruise ships

One noticeable feature of marine accidents is that they are frequently fatal. Oil rig explosions inflict enormous damage, vessel collisions are usually fatal, and oil platforms can adversely affect workers’ livelihoods. Maritime lawyers battle to get workers the compensation they deserve, whether they’ve been injured in a large explosion or as a result of unsafe working conditions. Our maritime attorneys represented more Deepwater Horizon and El Faro crewmen than any other law company. We understand not just maritime law, but also the practices and culture of maritime employers. Speak with us about your situation so that we can discuss your legal and financial possibilities.

Understanding Maritime Accidents

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in 2013 that examined fatal maritime injuries from 2003 to 2010. It discovered that offshore oil and gas employees are seven times more likely to die than workers in other industries. 

The oil and gas industry, however, is not the only common sector for maritime injuries. 

Dangerous conditions exist wherever individuals are on a vessel or working in the maritime industry, and vessel owners and employers must take adequate precautions to protect them.

Those in command of a vessel are liable for marine injuries. Vessel owners and employers must ensure that workers receive safety training and that their ships and rigs are seaworthy. Even in the face of natural calamities and severe weather, such as hurricanes and tropical storms, this is true. Rough seas are no excuse for a vessel to capsize or sink if the owner was aware of the storm and failed to evacuate the crew or take precautions to avoid disaster.

Vessel owners and employers are responsible for ensuring the following conditions exist:

  • Safety instruction
  • Equipment for safety
  • Maintenance of vessels
  • Workplace safety procedures

Offshore employees who experience maritime injuries have recourse under the Jones Act. 

Full Compensation for Maritime and Offshore Accidents

Injured seamen may face a slew of expenses following a major mishap. These have an immediate impact but can have a long-term influence. In virtually all cases, the immediate consequences are clear, such as incapacity to work, large bills, and pain and suffering caused by the accident or sickness. Even the long-term expenses of rehabilitation are frequently understood. However, it is not always straightforward to predict the long-term costs of an injury. In some situations, the individual may require lifetime medical care or may die as a result of the negative effects. As a result, it is critical that the injured and their families receive just compensation for their injuries under maritime law.

Consider the following costs that could occur from a seaman’s accident or death at sea:

  • Hospitalization
  • Rehabilitation for the long term
  • Home health care
  • Wages and earning capacity have been lost.
  • Counseling for both emotional and financial issues
  • Rehabilitation for the workforce
  • Catastrophic Maritime Accidents

In certain cases, an offshore accident might result in injuries that are so severe that they permanently alter a person’s life. These types of injuries are so well-known that they have their own term in the medical and legal communities: catastrophic injuries. When a person sustains this type of offshore accident, their injuries are likely to have long-term consequences. Certain injuries may prevent a person from earning a living via physical labor as they formerly did. In other words, the degree of a person’s injuries affects every element of their existence.

Serious marine injuries that alter people’s life include:

  • TBI (traumatic brain injury)
  • Injuries to the spinal cord
  • Paralysis
  • Amputation
  • Burn wounds
  • Crush wounds

These offshore injuries frequently necessitate lifelong medical attention. When workers are injured in an accident that was not their fault, they are entitled to compensation for the treatment that would make their lives as comfortable as possible.

Burn Injuries on the High Seas

A burn injury is one of the most serious injuries that can occur in a maritime accident. If you were burned in a marine accident, you should call a top-rated Houston maritime burn injury lawyer as soon as possible. Arnold & Itkin has represented hundreds of injured seamen, including those who have sustained devastating burn injuries while working offshore. Fires can start in almost any offshore location, according to experienced marine employees. These events can result in serious burn damage.

The following are some of the most common causes of offshore burn injuries:

  • Hazardous Chemical Contact: Highly flammable chemicals can cause severe burns.
  • Electrical Mishaps: Faulty or incorrectly managed electrical equipment can cause a fire.
  • Engine Room Fires: Engine room malfunctions can result in an explosion or fire.
  • Malfunctioning Equipment: Dangerous or malfunctioning equipment might start a fire.
  • Explosions: Caused by highly flammable chemicals employed onboard ships or equipment.
  • Types of Burn Injuries that a Maritime Worker Can Sustain

Burns are classified according to their severity. Extreme heat, electricity, chemicals, radiation, or friction can all produce burn injuries. On seagoing boats or offshore rigs, any of these burn hazards may exist.

Burn injuries can range from minor to fatal, and include:

  • First-degree burns are often superficial and do not necessitate medical attention.
  • Second-degree burns are more serious and may create blisters and extend past the skin’s surface. 
  • Third and fourth-degree burns are the most dangerous burn injuries because they penetrate the entire layer of tissue beneath the skin. Structures such as nerve endings, sweat glands, hair follicles, and blood capillaries are found in this layer. These burn injuries are significantly more serious and will take much longer to recover.
  • Complications of Serious Burn Injuries
  • Hypothermia is caused by a loss of body heat as a result of injured skin.
  • Hypovolemia is caused by damaged blood arteries, which cause your body to lose blood and other fluids.
  • Infections are caused by a lack of protective barriers as a result of damaged skin.
  • Scar tissue accumulation might lead to joint problems.
  • Sepsis can be caused by an infection and is a potentially fatal illness.
  • Brain Injuries on the High Seas

Head injuries are common in the maritime industry; depending on the degree of the injury, lifelong care may be required. In many circumstances, it may appear that injury could not have been avoided; yet, many brain injury accidents may have been avoided with sufficient measures. In that situation, you might be eligible to file a claim.

The following are some of the most common causes of brain injuries:

  • Faulty equipment
  • Accidents involving conveyor belts
  • Accidents involving cranes and cargo
  • Inadequate safety guidelines/training
  • Equipment that has been improperly stored
  • Inadequate safety equipment
  • Inadequate ship maintenance
  • Accidents caused by slipping and falling
  • Brain Injuries and Common Symptoms

A closed head injury or an open head injury occurs when a maritime worker has a head injury. A closed head injury occurs when the skull is not cracked, fractured, or perforated. When the skull is penetrated or shattered, this is referred to as an open head injury. Although open-head injuries appear to be more serious, closed-head injuries are more difficult to diagnose and may necessitate significant treatment.

The following are common symptoms of brain injuries:

  • Memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and paying attention are all symptoms of cognitive damage.
  • Sensory symptoms include visual loss, hearing loss, and loss of taste or smell.
  • Seizures, headaches, paralysis, insomnia, chronic discomfort, or language impairments are all examples of physical symptoms.
  • Irritability, rage, despair, and severe mood swings are some of the behavioral/emotional symptoms.

Any type of brain impairment can have a major impact on an employee’s everyday life, changing their personality and ability to work. When a brain injury occurs as a result of the negligence of an employer or coworker, it is critical for affected persons to hold at-fault parties accountable—for their own sake, the sake of other employees, and the sake of loved ones.

Amputation Injuries on the High Seas

Although not all maritime accidents are the result of negligence, amputation is frequently the case. Serious injuries can occur if an employer or vessel owner fails to maintain equipment, teach the crew, or create a safe work environment.

Some of these mishaps may be caused by the following factors:

  • Cargo that is not properly secured
  • Collisions in navigation
  • Inadequate safety and equipment training
  • Equipment that is defective or malfunctioning

It is critical to work with equipment and machinery that is properly maintained on a regular basis. It is the obligation of the employer to guarantee that staff are properly trained to utilize the equipment. If your employer failed to meet this requirement and you were injured as a result, he or she was negligent and should be held liable.

Amputation Therapy

To treat a lost limb or amputate a limb, surgery is required. After surgery, you may require intensive physical and mental treatment to help you adjust to your new reality of missing or using a prosthetic limb. These payment fees might be tough to bear for an injured maritime worker, especially if they are supporting a family. Our firm is frequently called upon to assist clients in rebuilding their financial security following expensive medical treatments. This is why it is critical to speak with a marine amputation injury lawyer as soon as possible.

What Are Some of the Most Common Causes of Maritime Injuries?

Accidents that could have been avoided are common causes of maritime injury. It is very important to note that it is the responsibility of vessel owners and employers to prevent these tragedies and protect personnel.

Maritime accidents are frequently caused by:

  • Deck conditions that are hazardous
  • Toxic exposition
  • Fires and explosions
  • Vessels that are not seaworthy
  • Sail in perilous situations
  • Inadequate safety training
  • Enclosed areas
  • Objects falling from the sky
  • Mechanical breakdowns
  • Slipping and falling

Do You Know Your Rights in the Event of a Maritime Accident?

One of the most important things you can do after an accident is to make sure all of your requirements are addressed; yet, this can be tough. As a result, it is critical to consider a few aspects that may be jeopardized.

To begin, keep in mind that you have the legal right to choose your doctor. Never feel forced to choose the doctor’s office or attending physician recommended by your employer or insurance company. You may need to attend the suggested doctor for an evaluation on occasion, but this is your only responsibility. It is up to you who you choose for therapy, and you should not be threatened by any employer or adjuster involved in your case.

Second, you have the right to medical treatment. The Jones Act protects the provision of medical benefits, so wounded workers do not have to worry about getting rewarded for their recuperation. This holds true regardless of who is to blame for the accident. Furthermore, the Jones Act protects injured seamen who may be given conflicting medical views. This means that if one doctor suggests therapy and another says it isn’t essential, the debate will be settled in favor of treatment. Unfortunately, many injured sailors were not injured for the first time. However, if a pre-existing condition is exacerbated, employers will be required to offer adequate coverage. All that will be required is an evidential statement made on your behalf by your doctor. Whether or not you sign documents presented by an insurance adjuster, you are entitled to medical benefits and financial maintenance payments. In fact, it is in your best interests to be wary of any paperwork presented to you by an insurance adjuster; they frequently do not prioritize your safety and well-being. As a result, you should be wary of signing any paperwork if medical benefits and/or maintenance payments are contingent on your signature.

Third, you are not obligated to provide a documented statement following any type of accident or injury. Of course, reporting the occurrence as soon as possible is critical; however, it is important to remember that many accidents can impair an injured person’s memory and mental ability. As a result, it is dangerous to record a statement of events that may later need to be adjusted—a complex procedure.

From the initial filing of a claim to the preparation and hearings of a court case, your rights can be jeopardized in a number of ways. Employers and insurance firms are unconcerned, if at all, about the well-being of injured workers. As a result, it is critical to seek legal counsel from a caring attorney.

What Should I Do in the Event of a Maritime Accident?

Following a marine catastrophe, there are five things you should do:

  • Get the medical help you require.
  • Notify your employer of your injury.
  • Gather any details regarding the accident, including who witnessed it and the circumstances surrounding it.
  • Don’t sign anything, don’t answer any questions, and don’t make any declarations.
  • Contact a maritime attorney.

After a marine accident, you should immediately consult with a lawyer to ensure your rights are protected. A lawyer will listen to your tale, ask you questions, and assist you in determining your alternatives at no cost. 

Why Do I Need a Houston Maritime Injury Attorney?

If you are not ready to go to court, you should still speak with an expert Texas maritime attorney about your claim. In many cases, your employer will request that you sign an agreement or release in exchange for payment of unpaid wages, maintenance, or medical benefits. It is critical that any documents you are provided are read by a professional Houston maritime injury attorney before signing so that you do not lose any of your rights to compensation.

The fact that employers and insurance companies have teams of lawyers representing them is perhaps the most significant reason you need a lawyer. Their purpose is to settle your claim for the least amount of money possible. Having an expert attorney advocate your interests with your employer or insurance provider is the only way to level the playing field. You are a newcomer to the process as an injured employee, whereas your employer, their insurer, and their attorneys deal with similar matters on a regular basis. It is vital that you have a team that handles maritime law issues on a regular basis.

Hire a Top-Rated Texas Maritime Accident Lawyer to Represent You.

An expert marine lawyer can analyze the facts of your case and advise you on your best legal alternatives.

They will accomplish this by investigating the following:

  • Your employment position at the time of the injury
  • The seaworthiness of the vessel on which you were operating
  • The deadline for filing a claim
  • All other things that may have played a role in your injury

Another advantage of employing a lawyer is that they are familiar with dealing with offshore corporations. You may believe you have no hope if you are alone. After all, you’re only one person, and your organization is most likely a large conglomerate. There is no reason why you cannot also have aggressive representation.