HOUSTON MARITIME ATTORNEY
Offshore injuries are both common and devastating. When you or a loved one has been injured offshore, it’s important for you to know what your rights are and what you are entitled to receive as compensation. When you work with Reich & Binstock, you can rest assured that you’ll be working with a maritime injury lawyer with over 30 years of experience. That automatically ensures that you’ll have a leg up in court, as almost nothing is more important than experience in a courtroom. Contact a Houston maritime attorney as soon as possible for your claim.
When an offshore injury has occurred, it is important to understand what types of compensation you may be entitled to. Offshore injuries are governed by complex and complicated state and federal laws, which govern the type of compensation you may receive. For this reason, an experienced maritime injury lawyer such as those at Reich & Binstock will help you tremendously with your case. For a free consultation, please call 713-622-7271 or fill out our online intake form.
A Brief History of Maritime and Admiralty Law
Maritime law and admiralty law are two terms that can be used interchangeably. Importantly, maritime law (also called admiralty law) is what governs offshore accidents. Maritime workers have almost always adhered to certain specific laws that govern their industry. Although much of general maritime law in the United States comes from the Constitution, there are other sources for these regulations as well. Below, we list some of the most important laws, statutes, and regulations that are crucial when it comes to maritime injury cases.
Also called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act extends the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) to injured maritime workers. Basically, it allows injured workers in the maritime industry to file personal injury claims against their employer. In order to do this, they must have been injured during the course of their job duties.
The crucial statute states the following:
“A seaman injured in the course of employment or, if the seaman dies from the injury, the personal representative of the seaman may elect to bring a civil action at law, with the right of trial by jury, against the employer. Laws of the United States regulating recovery for personal injury to, or death of, a railway employee apply to an action under this section.”
The Longshoreman and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, or LHWCA for short, provides benefits for injured maritime workers who suffer from a work-related injury or illness. Specifically, it offers benefits for those who are not already covered by the Jones Act or applicable state workers’ compensation laws. In other words, the LHWCA fills in some of the gaps that the Jones Act leaves for those not technically considered “seamen.”
The Death on the High Seas Act, or DOHSA, is yet another important maritime law that allows family members of seamen killed offshore to recover compensation for their losses. Specifically, it serves to hold maritime employers accountable for maritime accidents and wrongful deaths that occurred because of negligence in safety. It’s no secret that longshore and harbor workers, as well as other offshore workers, have very dangerous jobs. However, the safety of maritime workers often depends on the ability of their employers to maintain a safe working environment. When employers at maritime companies fail to do this and a worker suffers a severe injury, they could be held liable.
This is also an important Act for injured seamen, but not one that tends to side with them. Instead, the 1851 law aims to limit the liability of shipowners when a maritime accident happens. Specifically, it limits liability in cases where the shipowner had no knowledge of their vessel’s unseaworthiness and danger when it caused an injury to a maritime worker. Basically, the amount of financial liability that they can have is limited to the financial value of their vessel. This Act was intended to save shipowners from being financially ruined in the event of an offshore accident.
Unfortunately, modern uses of the Act mostly aim to protect corporations from liability for their negligence. Back when the law was first introduced, the maritime industry was far more dangerous for workers. Now, we have advanced technology such as weather forecasts, GPS systems, and digital communication equipment that mitigates the risks of the industry. Therefore, many maritime accidents in recent years have been caused by negligence on the part of the corporation. Although they may try to use the Limitation of Liability Act to protect themselves, an experienced maritime lawyer can fight to hold negligent corporations accountable for their negligence and poor safety measures.
Under the Jones Act, injured seamen have a right to certain benefits no matter who was at fault for their injuries. Injuries sustained by a maritime worker in the course of their job duties entitles them to benefits from their employer. We’ll go over maintenance and cure in more depth in a later section.
The Savings to Suitors Clause comes from the Judiciary Act of 1789. The Act gives federal courts full jurisdiction over maritime law cases. However, the Saving to Suitors Clause states that injured offshore workers can bring maritime claims in either state or federal court. They can also decide whether they want to have a jury or a judge trial. In complicated maritime cases such as these, it is crucial to speak with a qualified maritime law firm. Without having adequate experience in the field of maritime law, regular personal injury lawyers simply won’t cut it. You need the Houston maritime law services that Reich & Binstock has to offer.
What Is Maintenance and Cure in Maritime Law?
Two important factors in Jones Law cases are maintenance and cure. Maintenance is the compensation that your employer must provide to you while you recover from an illness or injury. The intent behind maintenance is to provide compensation for a recovering worker’s cost of living on land. However, many maritime employers try to keep these payments to a minimum. Working with experienced maritime attorneys can potentially give you a better chance at a higher maintenance payment in your case.
Cure is the medical care that your employer must provide to you after you suffer a work-related injury. It basically compensates for the treatments necessary for your recovery. While many employers don’t want you to know this, offshore workers have the right to choose their own doctor under maintenance and cure.
One crucial question remains. How long do maintenance and cure benefits last? Generally, maritime and harbor construction workers can receive these benefits until they reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is the point when your injury, illness, or condition will no longer improve. Once you reach maximum medical improvement, your employer is no longer obligated to pay for further medical bills and treatments. We highly recommend speaking with trained maritime lawyers for your case. We will ensure that all your legal rights and benefits are protected.
When Does Maritime Law Actually Apply?
It’s important to understand which offshore accident cases actually fall under the jurisdiction of maritime law. In the United States, maritime law applies in any case that arises on “navigable waters.” Navigable waters are those used for commerce, trade, or travel between multiple states or foreign countries. Any body of water that is fully contained within a single state, such as a lake, is not subject to federal maritime law.
Maritime law covers a wide array of maritime accident cases. Examples include cases involving offshore oil rigs, shipping disasters, and other injury cases. It can even come into play in cases of piracy, contract disputes, and even marine insurance issues. Because of the countless case types that fall under maritime law, you need experienced offshore injury lawyers on your side.
What Exactly Is a Maritime Lawyer?
Maritime attorneys are one of many types of personal injury lawyers. They handle maritime injury cases, boating accident cases, and even commercial maritime cases. At our Houston law office, Reich & Binstock is passionate about protecting the rights of injured maritime workers. If you’re having trouble securing compensation from your employer or an insurance company, our maritime lawyers are here for you.
We will examine the facts of your case during your free consultation, apply federal law to your claim, and outline your legal rights. It’s important for injured workers to have qualified legal representation in any personal injury case. This is especially true in more complex practice areas, such as maritime law. Contact a Houston maritime injury lawyer with Reich & Binstock to connect with a compassionate, aggressive trial lawyer for your case.
What Kinds of Accidents Need a Houston Maritime Lawyer?
As we stated previously, many different case types fall under the jurisdiction of maritime law. Our Houston maritime attorneys have handled many maritime cases, such as the following.
- Cruise ship accidents
- Cargo ship accidents
- Commercial boating and fishing accidents
- Wrongful death cases
- Oil and gas worker injuries
- Shipyard accidents
- Workers falling overboard
- Jack-up rig accidents
- Deckhand injuries
- Dredge accidents
Many of the cases handled by maritime lawyers involve devastating and catastrophic injuries. For example, if two large ships collide, the damage can be highly detrimental to both shipping companies and their vulnerable employees. Because of the high levels of damage, it’s important for victims to work with an experienced maritime lawyer from the very beginning of their case to the very end.
What Is a Maritime Injury?
In order to better understand maritime injuries and the laws surrounding them, we’ll first cover the Jones Act. This statute outlines and regulates a majority of U.S. domestic shipping.
Basically, it requires goods that are shipped between U.S. ports to be transported on vessels that are built, owned, and operated by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The Jones Act is a small yet very important section of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act. Importantly, the Jones Act not only outlines maritime commerce regulations but also provides sailors and maritime workers with certain protections. These protections include the ability to seek damages for injuries from crews, captains, or ship owners.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Maritime Injuries?
Due to the wide net of jurisdiction cast by maritime law, there are many different causes of maritime accidents and injuries. Many law firms already understand that maritime jobs tend to be inherently dangerous. However, that doesn’t mean that maritime employees aren’t owed a certain duty of care by their employers and fellow employees. Even though certain offshore accidents are unavoidable, others only occur as a result of gross negligence. Below, we list some of the most common causes of maritime accidents.
- Unavoidable and extreme weather conditions
- Long working hours and a lack of sleep
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Other forms of reckless or negligent behavior
- Inadequate training or severe inexperience
- Stressful job duties and poor decision making
- Fires and explosions
- Improperly secured cargo shifting while traveling
- Slip and fall accidents
- Colliding with the shore or with other vessels
Catastrophic Maritime Injuries in Texas
Due to the nature of maritime jobs, the possibility of catastrophic injuries is very high. In fact, the range and type of possible injuries for seamen are very broad. Below, we list some of the most common maritime injuries we see at Reich & Binstock in Houston:
- Neck or back strains from lifting heavy objects and equipment
- Toxic chemical exposure from cargo, solvents, or lead paint
- Falling object/equipment head injuries
- Paralysis or amputation due to malfunctioning equipment
- Slip and fall injuries on poorly lit or wet decks
- Diver injuries such as decompression
- Burns or electrocutions
- Medical malpractice harm from a ship’s medical crew treating injured workers
- Drowning wrongful deaths due to poor rescue techniques
Maritime Injury Statistics
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 87 fatal injuries to marine workers from 2011 to 2017. This works out to nearly six times the fatality rates of work-related injuries for all other United States workers. Also, during this same period of time, approximately 11,000 nonfatal injuries occurred to maritime workers. Again, offshore workers experience much higher rates of injury and injury-related disability than do workers in other fields.
What to Do After a Maritime Injury
After you’ve been injured in an offshore accident, you might be too stunned or in too much pain to think about what to do next. Luckily, our Houston maritime attorneys have compiled a list of steps to take after suffering a maritime injury.
- First and foremost, seek immediate medical attention. This is important for a few reasons. Primarily, it will ensure that your injuries do not worsen or go unnoticed for too long. It also closely ties your injury with the date and time of your accident by generating medical records that you can use in your case.
- Next, report the injury or incident to your employer. If you need medical attention immediately, one of your coworkers can report the accident. However, this should only be done if you yourself cannot physically report the incident. Filling out a work accident report is yet another piece of evidence that you can use in your claim.
- Contact a Houston maritime lawyer. As soon as you’re able, get in touch with a maritime lawyer with our law firm. We will help you navigate the complexities of the claims process in a maritime case.
- Gather evidence to support your claim. This is where an experienced personal injury maritime lawyer will come in handy. We’ll help support your claim by supplying evidence such as pictures, videos, witness statements, records of equipment involved, and other necessary evidence.
- Refrain from discussing the case with anyone other than your Houston maritime attorney. Don’t say anything about the case to your coworkers, your employer, or the insurance company. Also, don’t sign anything or make any statements without your maritime lawyer present.
What Is the Time Frame to Sue Your Job for Maritime Injuries Under the Jones Act?
Generally, the statute of limitations for a Jones Act claim is three years from the date of your injury. Understanding this statute of limitations is important in ensuring that you file your claim on time. Should you attempt to file a claim after the deadline passes, your claim will be denied. However, certain circumstances exist in which a person may file a claim after the deadline. The main example occurs when victims are unaware that they sustained injuries. In these cases, the statute of limitations begins when you discover the injuries.
How Do I Find a Maritime Injury Lawyer in Texas?
There are many ways in which people find the right maritime injury lawyer for their case. Sometimes, people like referrals from friends and family. Other times, they like to do their own independent research. Below, we list the necessary steps to finding the right offshore injury lawyer for your case:
- Determine your criteria. Generally, you’ll want someone with experience in the realm of maritime law. You’ll also want someone who is licensed in your state, as well as accessible to you. Figure out your other must-haves and jot them down.
- Make a list. Once you find a few lawyers or law offices that look good, put them on a list. Read through their reviews, visit their websites, and find out more about them.
- Research your top picks. Check with their state bar association for certifications. Read biographies on their website, and ask around for referrals.
- Call their office. Schedule a meeting with them if you feel they may be a good fit for your case.
- Meet with them. Jot down some interview questions and take appropriate documents with you to the meeting. Get to know the attorney and make a decision on who you think is right for your case.
- Sign the contract. Once you make your decision, let your chosen attorney get to work. A good attorney will take the weight of the case off your shoulders so that you can focus on recovery.
How to File a Maritime Injury Claim
After sustaining an offshore injury, it is important to follow certain steps. These steps will ensure that you receive adequate medical attention and that your case has the best chance of success. Below, we outline what your steps should be following a maritime injury:
- Report your accident and injuries. Let your employer know what happened, and recount the story exactly how it happened. Reporting the injury as soon as possible makes it extremely difficult to argue that you were injured somewhere other than your workplace.
- Fill out the forms. As with most workplace accidents, you’ll need to fill out some paperwork. Make sure all accounts of the accident are accurate and sign the form. If the form requires a supervisor’s signature, get that as well.
- Seek medical attention. As soon as you detect an injury, get medical help. Returning to work with an injury only delays your case. If your injury hinders your ability to work in any way, do not return to work.
- Consult an independent physician. Instead of going to the doctor your employer suggests, seek medical advice from one of your choosing. Sometimes, physicians associated with certain employers won’t want to accurately assess your injuries.
- Follow medical advice. Whatever advice your doctor gives you for your recovery, follow it closely. Ignoring medical advice for your injuries could impact your case negatively.
- Hire a maritime injury lawyer. Because these cases are often extremely complicated, it’s best to get with an experienced attorney sooner rather than later. They will have handled these cases before, and they’ll know the process. This way, you can focus on recovery while your legal team focuses on the case.
How Long Does an Offshore Injury Lawsuit Take?
Unfortunately, because every case is different in some way, there is no way to know exactly how long your case will take. However, the complexity of your case, as well as the severity of your injuries, both greatly affect the timeframe. Major accidents with severe injuries might take years to settle. Below, we give a brief outline of the process involved with personal injury cases:
- First, always receive medical treatment. Not only is this the best thing for your health, but it also helps your case by giving validity to your injuries.
- Then, get with your maritime injury lawyer to prepare for the case.
- Your attorney will then begin the investigation into your case. This step alone sometimes takes months. Remember to be patient and help your lawyer acquire the necessary documents.
- Make demands and participate in negotiations. Some claims settle before ever reaching a suit. In most cases, the demands phase will not begin until you reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). This helps to determine how much your medical expenses are worth for the demands.
- If no settlement is reached, you’ll file the suit. Then, you and your lawyer participate in discovery, mediation, and negotiation with the other side.
- Lastly, the trial happens. These trials sometimes last days, weeks, or even months. Trust in your lawyer and follow their advice as best you can.
What Can I Collect From a Maritime Injury Claim?
Maritime injury claims come with the possibility of multiple different types of compensation. A few of these can include:
- Current and future lost wages
- Current and future medical bills
- Health complications
- Mental anguish
- Long-term care costs
- Disfigurement or disability
- Loss of earning capacity
- Counseling or therapy
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Pain and suffering
- Living expenses
- Wrongful death compensation
Recovering Full Compensation After Your Maritime or Offshore Injury
Most injury victims have a better chance of obtaining a substantial settlement that covers their lost wages and medical expenses when they work with a Houston maritime lawyer. Those injured offshore often have very expensive medical bills and long recovery times. Without the ability to work, they can also face an inability to pay their bills. This leads to mountains of accident-related costs to deal with. Our offshore injury lawyers will fight for full and fair compensation for both you and your family members. We are national trial lawyers who take pride in our work and refuse to settle for lowball offers from insurance companies and employers.
What Are Your Rights After Suffering Maritime Injuries?
As we stated previously, one of the benefits of working with a Houston maritime personal injury law firm is gaining the ability to better understand your rights. We will ensure that you are well taken care of throughout the duration of your claims process. Below, we list some important rights to keep in mind as your case progresses.
- You have the ability and the right to choose your doctor for your case. A company or employer might advise you to use one of their doctors, but we often advise against this. When you’re choosing who to receive treatment from, this is entirely up to you. It’s important that you do not feel threatened or pressured by others to choose certain doctors.
- You are legally entitled to medical care for your injuries. As we stated before, the Jones Act includes a provision of maintenance and cure for maritime employees. Additionally, if two or more doctors disagree on whether or not you need treatment, the Jones Act rules in favor of receiving treatment.
- You are not legally required to give an official statement about the incident. This is true with any kind of accident. Even though you should report the accident as soon as possible, your employer cannot force you to give a definitive statement about what happened.
How Long Can You Stay Out With An Injury Under Maritime Law?
Under Maintenance and Cure provisions, you receive compensation and stay out until you reach the point of Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). MMI occurs when further medical care no longer improves your condition. Basically, your benefits and time off stop at this point. The same three-year statute of limitations applies to this instance as it does with filing your claim.
Do I Need a Maritime Lawyer in Houston?
It is not a requirement to have help from a personal injury lawyer for your case. However, a Texas personal injury lawyer can help you in a number of ways. For instance, we will protect you against signing away your rights to compensation. We will also review your evidence and documentation before you file a formal claim. Additionally, insurance companies and maritime corporations often have not just one attorney but whole teams of attorneys on their side. Trying to argue your case without experienced legal counsel will be extremely difficult.
Experienced Houston Maritime Injury Lawyer
If you or your loved one has been hurt in an offshore accident, you may be entitled to compensation. To find out if you or your loved one is entitled to compensation, contact an experienced maritime injury lawyer today. With our extensive experience, we are confident we will be able to help you navigate this complex area of law and help you get the compensation you deserve. To protect your rights, call us at 713-622-7271 or complete our confidential online form for a free case evaluation. When you establish an attorney-client relationship with us, any sensitive information you disclose will remain confidential.
There is a never a fee unless we recover on your behalf.